By 2030 Melbourne will be a city of 5 million. The 620 000 extra households will occupy the same area as today. If current trends continue and the Melbourne 2030 plan is realised, the city will have over 100 high density activity centres serving the needs of an older, single person and childless population living in apartments rather than houses. All this forms part of the State government’s objective of “Planning for Sustainable Growth”.
But what does sustainability mean in this context and what are the assumptions which underpin the plan? This paper will locate Melbourne 2030 within a much longer and pervasive history of antipathy towards the particular suburban form which emerged at the end of the 19th century in Melbourne and Australia. It will argue that the artistic representations of suburban life and environments over the 20th century are now central to the national political and planning agenda. The transitional phase is the 1970s when artistic antagonism to the suburbs moved to sociological, economic and ecological fact. Politically the result was Gough Whitlam and DURD’s massive agenda for equalising social amenity in the suburbs. Since then the agenda to transform the suburbs has become one to create more compact, higher density cities as Better Cities joined Green Street, Vic Code, Res Code and now Melbourne 2030 to facilitate urban consolidation.
After first considering this history of suburban representations, I will consider the veracity of arguments in favour of urban consolidation over suburban expansion, clarify what sustainability might mean in this context and then take a critical look at Melbourne 2030 Planning for Sustainable Growth as it relates to the eastern and western corridor of Melbourne.