‘More for Paris than Melbourne’: Opposition scathing over lack of CBD revival cash

Key points

  • No new money was allocated to Melbourne’s CBD recover in this year’s state budget. 
  • Last year’s budget provided $107 million for city centre rejuvenation.
  • The state government has allocated $14.8 million to support trade programs including a trade and investment office in Paris.

The opposition and the Property Council have criticised the lack of spending on Melbourne’s CBD recovery in this year’s state government budget.

Last year, $107 million was provided for city centre rejuvenation but no new money was set aside in Tuesday’s budget. Previous state government funding was used for initiatives such as the popular Melbourne Midweek Money scheme, which gave a boost to city restaurants and cafes.

City traders continue to struggle with empty shopfronts and office occupancy rates were 32 per cent in March, but no assistance was provided for them in the budget, nor was there cash for incentive programs.

Instead, the government has allocated $14.8 million to support trade programs, including a trade and investment office in Paris.

The government said the Victorian Government Trade and Investment Office in Paris would strengthen the state’s engagement with members of the European Union, one of the world’s largest trading blocs.

With two-way trade valued at $16.3 billion in 2020-21, the government said the EU represented a significant opportunity for Victorian exporters, particularly in sectors such as health and life sciences and professional services.

The government hasn’t allocated any more recovery cash for Melbourne’s CBD in this year’s budget.Credit:Chris Hopkins

Opposition Leader Matthew Guy said it was insulting that there was no new funding for the CBD recovery in this year’s budget.

“It’s kind of bizarre that there’s more money in it for Paris than Melbourne,” Guy said.

“The CBD needs action, it needs help, all those traders need the government to be on their side.”

In September 2020, the Victorian government and the City of Melbourne established a $100 million Melbourne City Recovery Fund to “reactivate the central city” following lockdowns, and a $200 million Melbourne City Revitalisation Fund was launched in May 2021.

Opposition Leader Matthew Guy said the lack of cash for CBD recovery in the budget was insulting and bizarre.Credit:Simon Schluter

A spokesperson for the government pointed to the Recovery Fund and Revitalisation Fund as being partly funded through this year’s budget.

Some of the pandemic recovery funding is still to be spent.

Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry boss Paul Guerra backed the government’s plans, saying he had not expected any funding for CBD recovery in the budget and establishing a trade and investment office in Paris would benefit Melbourne businesses.

“That’s a good investment into Paris because it strengthens the global Victoria reach, which in turn will have a dual benefit of businesses being able to export into that part of the world, but importantly, and we’ve seen this work well, that office to be able to attract businesses which come to Victoria,” he said. “Ultimately they’ll land either in the CBD or close to the CBD.”

Property Council of Australia Victorian head Danni Hunter said she was concerned about the lack of focus on the city centre.

“We can’t afford to take our eye off the CBD,” she said. “The reality is that our office occupancy and foot traffic from nine to five Monday to Friday, especially on Mondays and Fridays, it’s still really low. Without that anchor cohort coming to the city every day for work or at least a few days a week for work, many of the businesses that rely on the people being there are still struggling to maintain a solid revenue stream and customer base.”

Asked about the lack of CBD recovery funds, Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp said: “Our ongoing partnership with the state government to deliver the Melbourne City Revitalisation Fund continues to build city confidence,” she said.

“The incredibly successful Melbourne Money discount dining program has had a flow-on effect of more than $100 million for our city economy.”

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