A special report ranking the “liveability” of the city’s suburbs – the third commissioned by The Age since 2005 – confirms Melbourne is in the middle of a big realignment. We have prepared a bit of summary for all our readers.
While the old favourites aren’t in immediate danger, the city is shuffling its weight from the south side of the river to the north. Turning its gaze from the leafy east towards the funky west
The Liveable Melbourne study, by Deloitte Access Economics and planners Tract Consultants, ranks each of the city’s 321 suburbs according to 15 criteria including crime, transport, access to schools, shops, cafes, parks, and – for the first time – mobile and internet access.
In a city gripped by a property frenzy, there is a view that Melbourne’s historical “south of the river” preference might be unwinding. We certainly are seeing that here at Solid.
Overall, and particularly in the past, the suburbs that are equally appealing to live in tend to be cheaper north of the Yarra, says Tract’s Adam Terrill, a town planner. “This survey suggests Melbourne’s liveability is rebalancing.”
We are focusing on Brunswick, Collingwood, North Melbourne, West Melbourne, Moonee Ponds and Essendon. Our old favourites of East Melbourne, Richmond, Hawthorn, Camberwell, Malvern, South Yarra, Windsor, Prahran, St. Kilda, Port Melbourne and like suburbs within the donut.
There certainly has been a rebalancing of suburbs over the past two decades. Port Melbourne, when we were all much younger, wasn’t anywhere near as fashionable as it is today and other suburbs such as Altona offer one of the most spectacular beach frontages in all of Australia.
However, let’s not overstate the shift. Altona is ranked only at 102 on the Liveable Melbourne list, albeit up almost 100 places on a decade ago.
It languishes far behind this year’s top three – East Melbourne, South Yarra and Toorak.
East Melbourne, now deemed the most liveable suburb in the world’s most liveable city, is a thing of beauty; its wide, heritage-listed streets brim with mature trees and immaculate terraces. Somewhat scant cafes and restaurants, with the exception of the likes of Laurent and George’s, however as Melbournians we simply cannot resist heritage buildings with tree lined streets.
But a high ranking comes with a high price: East Melbourne’s median, according to Domain, is $1.7 million. That compares to $420,000 in the suburb deemed the city’s least liveable – Skye, in the city’s south-east.
South Yarra ranks as the city’s second most liveable suburb. The winner of Deloitte and Tract’s previous two studies, it dropped to second chiefly on a technicality. A boundary change shifted the glorious Royal Botanical Gardens into the suburb of Melbourne so the Chapel Street crew couldn’t claim it for their own.
While it fell, others rose: North Melbourne (from 56 in 2011 to 10 this year), West Melbourne (172 to 61), Princes Hill (92 to 16, thanks chiefly to its NBN connection), Elsternwick (24 to 6) and Ivanhoe (32 to 8).
The rapid rise of Melbourne’s city centre from 26 to 5 highlighted the importance of improvements in tree cover, schools and parks. The city has invested in all three. “It highlights that population growth and high liveability aren’t mutually exclusive,” says Tract’s Adam Terrill.
Docklands rose too. Ten years ago, it ranked 207. This year it ranked at 88 with improved trams, telecommunications and shopping. “Docklands has attracted a lot of criticism, but it’s improving,” says Deloitte Access Economics director Daniel Terrill, a co-author of the report (and brother of Tract’s Adam Terrill).
And while most of Melbourne’s lower-ranked neighbourhoods can be found on the city’s fringes, a cluster in the Dandenongs bucked the trend: Belgrave, Olinda, Kallista and Tecoma did well largely due to their generous parklands, lush tree cover, hills and low crime.
The authors cautioned that many big jumps up or down the ranks followed Bureau of Statistics’ boundary changes. Strathmore, for instance, rocketed from 239 to 87 after it was split from Essendon Airport. We have certainly seen evidence of this.
Rankings suburbs via the slippery concept of “liveability”, is, of course, the result of subjective choices – which is why The Age created, for the first time, a special online calculator. It allows you to check your suburb’s rank – according to both the criteria used for the study, and to rank what’s important to you to find your ideal suburb. You can also set house prices.
The elevation of the west and north were thanks to better bus services, more cultural facilities, lower crime and new schools. Which is lucky, given that, according to the state government, nearly 1 million people will move here by 2031, compared with around 680,000 in the city’s south and east.
Drive 61 kilometres from Altona to the south-eastern suburb deemed Melbourne’s least liveable and it’s a gloomier story. Skye fell to the bottom of the list despite its excellent access to the beaches of neighbouring Frankston. It lacks services and infrastructure. The public transport is lousy; there are few parks, few restaurants, and inadequate roads for its growing population, leading to congestion.
But cities change. Twenty years hence, Skye too might be racing up the list. In the mid-nineties Altona was known not for its refinement but its refinery. Maybe someday hipsters will appear in Skye too.
As a self confessed Melbournian devotee, I love nothing more than riding my bike through our beautiful streets, breathing our fresh air surrounded by beautiful gardens, with heaps of amenity dotted across our suburbs.
Thanks to Clay Lucas – 7th November 2015
Edited by Lynne Wilton
Source: The Age
Image credits By Diliff (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons