Melbourne: A booming population sees contentious projects grow

The area covered by the state electorate of Melbourne was, for many years, considered traditionally working-class and a Labor party heartland. From 1908 it was continuously held by the Labor party until 2014 when the Green’s Ellen Sandell won the seat from Labor’s Jennifer Kanis.

(Photo: William Ton)

Melbourne was one of the inaugural districts contested in the first Victorian election in 1856 but was abolished and split into two new seats, East Melbourne and West Melbourne, in 1859. The central metropolitan district re-emerged in 1889 and has been contested at every state election since.

The district covers 27 square kilometres, covering:

  • Carlton
  • Carlton North
  • East Melbourne
  • West Melbourne
  • Kensington
  • North Melbourne
  • Melbourne CBD
  • Princes Hill

It also covers parts of Docklands, Flemington and Parkville.

Major landmarks in this seat include the University of Melbourne, RMIT University, Flemington Racecourse, Federation Square, Queen Victoria Market, Royal Children’s Hospital and the MCG.

A large portion of the electorate of Melbourne overlaps with the federal seat of Melbourne, held by Greens MP, Adam Bandt.

This leads to thequestion at this election: With the encroachment of the Greens in this area in the local, state and federal spheres, will the Greens retain power, or will Labor return with a vengeance?

The Greens’ Ellen Sandell will contest the seat this year, as will former Labor member Jennifer Kanis. The Liberals are yet to unveil their candidate for this seat but early reports say they will not run this year. The Reason Party (Formerly the Sex Party) has put up Leo Close as a candidate and the Animal Justice Party’s Lawrence Pope will also run.

The district of Melbourne is an intersection point for many important issues in the state, from immigration to development, and transport.

Population growth has become a topical issue in the district in recent times. Melbourne is Australia’s fastest growing city with the population reaching five million people in September this year. The City of Melbourne’s population is projected to reach eight million people by 2050 according to Deloitte Access Economics.

Data from the Bureau of Statistics shows a sharp increase in the number of building approvals for apartments, townhouses and units in the CBD with approvals more than doubling between 2016-17 and 2017-18. While North Melbourne came in third for the number of apartment, townhouse and unit building approvals over the 2017-18 period.

Melbourne’s population boom has also made transport infrastructure and congestion a massive talking point for voters living in and around the CBD.

Labor has attempted to combat transport congestion with their Metro Rail project, promises of upgrades to trains and 10 new E-class trams to woo back voters in the city. While the Greens have called for 300 new E-Class trams to be built over a decade to ease tram overcrowding as well as calling for high-capacity signalling and building more high-capacity trains.

With an increasing population, large scale developments are also on the rise in the city and surrounding suburbs.

The Labor government has moved forward with plans to tear down the Koori Heritage building in Federation Square to make way for an Apple Store, with opposition from the Greens and Liberal parties. The city will also get the southern hemisphere’s tallest skyscraper after the government approved the Green Spine building.

As a Greens held seat in a crucial part of the city, an area key to so many of the state Labor party’s plans for transport and development, Labor will need to fight fiercely to regain the district.