Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Celebrating Brand Melbourne

I've never been to Vancouver and the great news is that now I don't have to because I'm already living in the "World's Most Liveable City". Yep, we finally knocked the Canadians off their pedestal.

The problem is that the title is bestowed by the Economist Intelligence Unit which, to me contains an oxymoron given the performance of economists in getting things right lately. One thing's for sure though, economists have clearly emerged as a collective of sports lovers and culture vultures, because these are two of the criteria that helped get Melbourne over the line in the comparison of about 140 cities.

I put Melbourne's success down to that funky logo we developed for ourselves a few years back - the cubist one influenced by our architecturally renowned Federation Square. Another contributor was our former 'can do' State Premier, Jeff Kennett's decision to rename Flinders Park, which became Melbourne Park to highlight to international audiences where the Australian Open Tennis Championship is played. The EIU may never have known this otherwise.

And then,of course, there's the controversial Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park, which is drifting from a daytime event to being held under lights to align it with European TV viewing time and increase Bernie Eccleston's ability to increase broadcast revenues accordingly.

By international standards, Melbourne is not a cheap place to live, thanks to a booming Australian Dollar and zany real estate prices that are putting the dream of home ownership out of reach of many Gen Ys. Just ask them who they blame for this and they'll quickly point to the Boomers who, thanks to the tax benefits of negative gearing have bought property like there's no tomorrow. Bottom line is that many Gen Ys will enter the real estate market through inheritance rather than saving.

When I moved from Brisbane to Melbourne in 1981, the city was still to identify the advantages of Port Phillip Bay. Suburbs like St Kilda and Williamstown were down at heel places, full of 'character' and all that goes with that. Now they're highly sought after, trendy locales, with house prices to match.

The city's infrastructure has improved to transport people more effectively around it's horseshoe plan, wrapped around the top of the bay. Much to the chagrin of public transport advocates, we have dramatically improved freeway links, opening up the Mornington Peninsula as a commutable proposition.

I think this is one of those rare occasions when the economists have got it absolutely right. But then, I'm biased. I live here, am employed, own my home and like sport. I even use the toll roads to get around more quickly. Like anywhere, life's good when you able to take advantage of the things your city offers.

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