Planning certainty for NEICs builds a strong foundation and resilient system
by Cameron Gentle, Urban Planning Associate
On returning from the recent PIA Congress in Perth, I was reflecting on the Employment and Innovation Clusters session hosted by Tim O’Loan, Technical Director from AECOM and its relevance to Hansen’s work with La Trobe University.
Melbourne’s population is set to grow to around eight million by 2050 and this will see the city experience wide ranging changes to its economy and urban form. Employment and Innovation Clusters stand to benefit from a range of opportunities that will flow from this population boom.
Whether the significant potential of clusters will be realised, however, is not a given. In planning for the future of clusters, we need to understand what a successful cluster looks like, what it needs to succeed and how to measure its success.
Recognising this need, AECOM, as part of its Brilliant City Insights program and research into Employment and Innovation Clusters, has developed an index of around 18 key performance indicators around the three key themes of: governance and collaboration; the physical cluster; and resilient systems. Its purpose is to ‘help policymakers, developers and the community understand the potential of an EIC, its evolution over time, and areas that might require support or intervention’.
Hansen has, for a number of years, provided statutory and strategic planning services to La Trobe University, which is located at the heart of the La Trobe National Employment and Innovation Cluster (NEIC) identified in Plan Melbourne. This has included submissions in support of the La Trobe NEIC during the preparation of Plan Melbourne, and contributing to the La Trobe University Vision.
The University’s Vision and Master Plan for the Melbourne campus set out long term plans for future development which are consistent with Plan Melbourne and are focused on the evolution of the campus into a ‘university town’. This will ‘position the core academic campus within a vibrant and relevant town setting – a place that supports the employment, lifestyle, housing, cultural, environmental and services needs of the University family and the region’.
This evolution, however, relies on the ability to secure capital from the private sector through partnership agreements. Such agreements are a common and increasingly necessary feature in the operation of modern day universities as they establish and foster ties with industry and the community, improve learning and research capabilities, and assist in maintaining a viable financial position.
From a policy perspective, current planning scheme provisions provide broad support for clusters in recognising their current role and future potential. The Darebin LPPF recognises La Trobe University as the largest single employer in the municipality and identifies maximising investment and employment opportunities around La Trobe University as of vital importance.
The draft La Trobe National Employment and Innovation Cluster Framework Plan prepared by the Victorian Planning Authority will provide further strategic support, promising ‘greater certainty and confidence about future development within the cluster’.
The challenges faced by La Trobe University in pursuing partnerships, however, have highlighted that despite strong policy support, statutory provisions currently provide insufficient certainty to facilitate the University’s vision. Given the importance of the university to the cluster, this also represents an obstacle to the implementation of State and local policy objectives, and to the success of the La Trobe NEIC.
The work undertaken by AECOM in this space provides a valuable reference as Hansen continues to work with La Trobe University to secure this much needed certainty and as it strives to realise its vision. In identifying measures of success, it will help identify obstacles in the planning system, and provide a strong basis to advocate for change.
Driving the next wave of jobs for Melbourne by Tim O’Loan, Cities Director, AECOM – Melbourne
For more information including the current status of the La Trobe National Employment and Innovation Cluster framework plan, please refer to the Victorian Planning Authority website.
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