Mass immigration booster decries loss of Melbourne amenity

By Leith van Onselen

The City of Melbourne’s planning chairman, Nick Reece, complains that Melbourne’s appearance has been harmed by poor architecture and building design in recent times as the city’s population and construction has ballooned:

They are some of Melbourne’s biggest design eyesores: buildings that shot up over the past decade, during the central city’s biggest ever construction boom.

That boom coincided with successive planning ministers loosening regulations, allowing developers to build many urban spaces the city council says simply don’t work.

“We have let too much crap be built,” Melbourne City Council’s planning chair Nick Reece says.

Now, the council wants current Planning Minister Richard Wynne to help it raise the bar: by giving city planners new rules to discourage developers turning streets into unpleasant places to be.

It wants Mr Wynne to hand them more power to negotiate with architects and developers over how their buildings impact on city streets…

“We want to see more buildings that give back to the public realm,” says Cr Reece, who argues that while Melbourne is by far Australia’s most attractive and interesting city, it has been degraded by recent bad architecture and design…

“We are seeing low-quality design outcomes”…

Recently retired planning academic Michael Buxton is a vocal critic of Melbourne’s recently built skyscrapers and has lambasted successive planning ministers for not standing up to developers.

He said the city council’s new design rules were “minor window dressing” that would help if approved.

“But the really big issues – height and bulk and apartment size – the state government just isn’t interested in,” Professor Buxton says.

Talk about hypocrisy. Nick Reece is an avid supporter of mass immigration and a ‘Big Australia’, arguing the following last year on his Politics HQ program:

“Countries that don’t have strong immigration programs often get themselves into trouble. And probably the best example of this is Japan, where because of such strong public opinion against immigration, and there’s been a drop in their birth rate, they now have this sort of demographic timebomb which is ticking, which has seen them lose 20-years of good economic growth. So, a properly managed big immigration program surely is a good thing for our economy”.

Reece has also lobbied strongly against policies to lower immigration, such as tighter English language proficiency, the introduction of a four-year waiting period for citizenship, and restrictions of 457 visas, arguing they “risk hobbling the economy”.

Blind Freddy can see that the key driver behind the proliferation of ugly high-rises across Melbourne is force-fed immigration, which has driven an insane 1.2 million (33%) increase in the city’s population over the past 13 years:

And is projected to expand Melbourne’s population to more than 8 million people mid-century:

Obviously, if you want to add 100,000 people to Melbourne every year, then you will need a lot of buildings and fast. All these millions of extra people inundating Melbourne will need somewhere to live. And this will necessarily involve a combination of further urban sprawl, increased density through high-rises, and overall smaller and more expensive housing.

This is why Infrastructure Australia projects that Melbourne’s liveability will deteriorate further through worsening traffic congestion and less access to jobs, schools, hospitals and green space, under every build-out scenario:

Nick Reece needs to face the fact that it is the mass immigration ‘Big Australia’ policy that he supports that is primarily responsible for the over-development across Melbourne and the loss of amenity.

And unless immigration is drastically curbed, Reece’s proposed new development rules is merely fiddling at the edges while Melbourne’s liveability burns.

You can’t love mass immigration and then complain about excessive development, Nick Reece.

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Unconventional Economist
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    • But lets be honest, Melbourne has never been a looker… if you want scenery, you would move to Sydney!

      When I pop in now and then, its the new buildings that actually break up the blandness of the place. Only good for coffee.

      • As long as I can remember, so long as you turned your back on city, Sydney was great. Perfect for a postcard and enjoyable for a day out. The city has always been crap, and that’s my memory going back to the early ’90s. As for the Cross – all I remember was helping a fella from a dysfunctional family trying to rescue his sister from that place. It was, let’s say, an interesting experience tracking her down through Sydney’s more interesting side.

        Melbourne had a great urban look and feel that came from the Victorian and Edwardian era architecture of the city, with great magnificent wide, tree lined streets and boulevards, but interlaced with intriguing arcades and laneways going back to the raucous boomtime Victorian era of Marvellous Melbourne (pre the 1890s depression), interlaced with some of the greatest city parks and gardens you’d see anywhere in the world. It was a place to walk, where you’d see something different and surprising around each corner, a real human place with magnificent, ever changing skies, and real seasons, all six of them and often on the same day. Oh yes, the river is brown – if flows upside down with the mud on top and is full of eels. We love it. it suits our sense of humour.

      • Brunswick Street granted – for food. But staying at St Kilda, finding the next morning needles, where people had been shooting up that night outside my bedroom window!!!

        In all the years I lived in Sydney, I avoided the Cross like the plague (great French restaurant – run by a husband wife team).

        Melbourne is ugly by comparison, not enough rugby, not enough ocean views, and a Sydney winter 10x better than those Melbourne wind tunnels, miserable. Miserable people, who think AFL is a something…

        • “not enough rugby”. You lost the argument right there.

          Personally, I hate both Sydney and Melbourne, but I hate Sydney a little more. I want to move to SEQ, but unfortunately I am locked into Melbourne through family.

      • You talk about what is not Sydney – ocean views. This is typical of Sydney. I couldn’t give a toss about AFL and belted enough pissed football heads who tried to stand over me when I was a cabbie to never want a part of it forever and a day and there’s a hell of a lot of us. Anyway, I was talking in the past tense, it’s becoming an anonymous, beggar filled Blade Runner city now.

        • I’m up here now and come here every winter. It’s paradise compared to Melbourne. Laid back, great climate, great infrastructure, cheap. It also has better coffee now. None of that luke warm hipster crap that Melbourne dishes out.

          I dread coming home to Melbourne. I hate what it has become.

      • HadronCollision

        @ UE. All my immediate family are in Frankston, Woodend, Malmsbury and Bayside Melbourne. Did not stop me upping stumps from delightful Bayside Mel and moving to NNSW 7 years ago. That included with beloved grandfather. Don’t know your circumstances and know it’s a big move but you won’t look back.

        At least you can grow avos and mangos and not have to pay robber baron prices.

      • I grew up in Hellbourne (it wasn’t hell back then), and live in Sydney now. I actually think Adelaide is like Melbourne in the 1980s now. I actually quite like it, but probably my pick of places to be would be Newcastle… Or even further North towards Byron Bay all along the NSW coast is beautiful and great weather.

        Melbourne can be as miserable as Dublin in bad weather.. Sydney winters are mild. Things I hate about being back in Melbourne are the weather and the non-stop banging on about the AFL (you only notice it once you’ve left).

        I actually think the nicer parts of Melbourne are now outside of it in areas like Eltham, Yarra Valley etc.. (Western Melbourne it utterly depressing). My sister has a house in Keilor, thinks it’s great. To me it’s hell on earth and $700k for the privilege. By far the worst part of Melbourne has gotta be Laverton…

        It doesn’t improve out that way until you get to Geelong and past it…

        Never been to Perth or Freemantle. Would like to visit.

  1. Meanwhile in Sydney, tech companies are enjoying a new boost of tech talent from a new visa, the GTS. Now you can pay your slaves in share options, according to the AFR.

    The GTS is a 12-month trial established to allay concerns from the tech industry that the 457 and 482 TSS were far too limitied, notably that it would “significantly condense” the occupation list used for 457s, tighten English language requirements, and, under the short-term stream, allow just one onshore visa renewal.

    Crucially, it axes the list of occupations covered in the 457 and 482 entirely.

    The visas have a lower salary threshold ($53,000), the ability to use equity and other benefits to reach that salary and a path to permanent residency.

    Companies such as Atlassian have as much as a 25% of their workforce on 457 temporary migration visas.

    • Because this incentive to boost equity worked so well for the C-suite…. and then some call it a ponzi bigger crypto… sigh…

    • reusachtigeMEMBER

      The 53k threshold is way too high IMO. There should be no threshold. Corporations should be able to offer newly imported human capital as low an offer as they will accept so as to help boost profits. Being able to offer shares instead of actual payment is a great idea though. It will encourage workers to actually achieve greater things in the workplace so that they may get a dividend at the end of the year so as to pay off some migration related debts and food loans.

    • What’s mind boggling about the 457 visa is the statistic of applicants granted vs used. It’s either they are too cheap, or the turnover is too high.

  2. Ronin8317MEMBER

    Double Think : holding two contradictory idea in your head and believing both of them. This happens when a person is indoctrinated to an ideology.

    A properly managed immigration program will limit the number of people, rather than let the private sector dictate the numbers.

  3. reusachtigeMEMBER

    Good on him. The sole problem here is that we just aren’t building enough amenities. The fault lays with nimbys who need to be removed so that we can progress.

  4. “And unless immigration is drastically curbed, Reece’s proposed new development rules is merely fiddling at the edges while Melbourne’s liveability burns.”

    I read on this interesting site that overbuilding cities was due to constricted city boundaries so developers had to build -IN rather than build -OUT.
    Ask any developer if they prefer greenfield over redevelopement…

    Not that the excess immigration is not a contributing factor, but not a direct cause either.

  5. Nick Reece is a wanker. Token lefty on the Sky News commentariat and former Gillard staffer.

    So in other words, complete loser all around.

    • I watch PM Live last night. It was sickening hearing Chris Kenny talking about 100m+ Australian Population, and then Paul Murray with his brain fart about forcing young Australia to work in a different city to where they were born. The same people that constantly complain about Greens “wanting to destroy the concept of a family” and then they come with this individualism extreme.

  6. Hang on. So city planners don’t have much say into… planning of the city?? So what do these guys do?

  7. Nick Reece is complaining about design architecture. It isn’t a contradiction to want high migration AND handsome buildings; achieving both simultaneously is probably impossible.

    Melbourne is now festooned by giant reinforced concrete structures with built-in concrete cancer that are impossible to change and are suitable only for social housing. Holders will lose a lot of money as these monstrosities are de-priced by buyers recognising small size, poor design and eye-watering body corporate fees.

    Melbourne now has a serious problem. Thank you, Matthew Guy.

    • Matthew Guy has a lot to answer for, but so does Richard Wynne. Could have come in on day one and rectified it.

      Complaining about design architecture is like complaining about the deck chair colours on the Titanic. If you want to have 140,000 warm bodies coming to city each year, then you will need a lot of buildings and fast. Sadly, this means a lot of buildings are bulldozed and apartments make way in minimal time. The issue is the rate of immigration.

    • Bingo! The fact that all these structures are concrete cancer ticking time bombs is the sleeper issue with all apartment buildings. In 50-100 years time when those buildings are condemned due to the effects of concrete cancer it is the owners who will have to stump up the cash to re-build. There is no way that the owners are going to be able to stump up $200k each in today’s money to rebuild.
      The only way the owners can afford to rebuilt is if they rebuild at higher densities to fund the cost of their rebuild – and around and around it will go. Monstrous high density is destined to become even more monstrous.

      It’s also very rich for Buxton to complain about high density when throughout his academic career he was an avid fan of urban consolidation and wrote spurious academic papers about how the urban growth boundary in Melbourne had no impact on land prices.

      • blacktwin997MEMBER

        50-100 years? I reckon you’re a decimal point out given what we know so far about Melbourne, Chinese dried napalm cladding, lowest cost providers, jobsite rice cookers, AirBnB etc.

  8. Nick Reece was an advisor to Gillard. Must have been top notch advice. Such as, refuse to build high speed rail and hopefully a future LNP government will not waste the money on 12 submarines. Believe the lies peddled by Santos and refuse to have domestic gas reservation. Refuse to stretch the time it takes to get citizenship to 8 years. Keep giving negative gearing handouts to the rich. Give out 457 visas for $0 each instead of $52k each. Put in a carbon tax of $23/tonne when it was $10/tonne in Europe and refuse to rebate residential electricity bills by even $50 let alone $250 per non-rich voter per quarter.

  9. I believe that his is really just a diversion conversation. “Hey look, that building doesn’t look that good”. Before I moved suburbs earlier this year, in my former suburb some long time locals were shocked at how quickly their suburb changed. The local primary school doubled enrolments in a mere five years, the lack of available parking and clogged streets (largely one way with parked cars). Yet, the apartments keep being built and nothing from the elite (local member went into hiding). Whilst people like Nicholas Reece gets worked up about how buildings look, 74% of the population is getting worked up about travel times, housing affordability, decreasing services and green space. As far as I am concerned, he doesn’t deserve any airtime.

  10. PantoneMEMBER

    Risking the economy? The economy doesn’t exist, you can’t put it at risk.

  11. Always missing from the ‘big growth’ proponents is any mention of the environment and environmental amenity. It is a genuine blind spot in our system, and in their own personal value system. The policy makers are always ambitious politico/business folk that rank work, career and ambition above simple pleasures that rely on environmental amenity like sailing, riding, trail running/riding/walking, ocean swimming etc.

    If the environment does factor into their thinking, it is generally at a theoretical and esoteric level associated with some place other than where they live. Stop Adani, but let Port Phillip bay turn to muck…

    The supercharged environmental degradation that correlates with their supercharged economic growth/migration is alway swept under the carpet.

    • Stop Adani gives them virtue signalling points. Given that your average progressive has no skills, or does what is known as a bullshit-job, how else are they going to move up whatever ladder they are on?

      Happily, this means the majority of institutions today are running on momentum alone. Their leadership, executive ranks, and line managers can no longer execute on organisational responsibilities. Hence, corruption. Also, disruption is easier than ever, because the incumbents can no longer tell the difference between fixing a problem and extend and pretend.

      Its a beautiful sight to see – the utter helplessness of the system as it flails around in death throes. Unfortunately, before this process is complete, port phillip will be lost. Not sure there is anyone who can do anything to stop this now.

  12. It’s a bit rich trying to scare Aussies by pointing at Japan when the supposedly geriatric Japanese somehow manage to dominate the Aussie auto market, especially given that Australia’s own auto industry has collapsed. Similarly South Korea with its low birth rate and negligible third world immigration somehow manages to produce world beating companies like Samsung. And we’re supposed to believe that Japan and Korea would be more competitive if they only had more third world immigrants?

  13. matthew hoodMEMBER

    In Melbourne now, wow!!!! Staying across the river from the Crown and the roads I can see from the 16th floor are just a sea of brake lights from 5ish onwards. Not for me.

  14. Big parts of the Melbourne CBD has become some sort of ugly Chinese-Western hybrid.

  15. Reece always has that ratty beard.

    To shave it off would reveal, how much of a chinless wonder, he really is.