‘Fast 5’ with Somma Sourivong – General Manager VIC

Somma Sourivong is the General Manager of Victoria and has over 18 years’ experience in the Planning and property advisory sector. Somma has worked in Local and State Government (both Australia and the UK) including working at the Port of Melbourne undertaking short and long term infrastructure planning to accommodate current and future trade forecast to pass through the port. Before re-joining MacroPlan, Somma was the Grampians Regional Planning Manager at the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, a role he has been doing for the past 4 years. This role had provided him with a diverse understanding of the workings of Government.

What are some of the biggest planning challenges facing Victoria for 2017?

Accommodating population and employment growth, housing affordability, transport connections within Melbourne and between regional Victoria, investment in infrastructure to match rate of growth and how to support regional and rural Victoria for example the La Trobe Valley transition from the closure of the Hazelwood power Plant are some major key planning challenges facing Victoria. Victoria is in a good position to deal with these challenges going forward. The finalisation of the Plan Melbourne Refresh and Regional Growth Plans will provide a strong strategic framework for accommodating population and employment growth in Melbourne and throughout regional Victoria. The challenge from this perspective will be how quickly these areas can be rezoned to provide supply to match forecast rate of growth. Key transport projects, such as Metro Rail and Regional Rail Link are currently under construction or have been completed with future planned duplication to Ballarat and other regional centres budgeted for in the 2016 State Budget.

What upcoming development do you think will have the biggest impact on Melbourne as A city?

From an infrastructure perspective, the Metro Rail Project will have a major impact on Melbourne’s rail network. This project will increase capacity in the network and improve the travel experience for melburnians. The level crossing removal project will also have major benefits in improving congestions on major roads. The level crossing removal may also facilitate the delivery of Transit Orientated Developments at large station sites. Other projects that are currently in planning, such as Fishermens Bend and the National Employment and Innovation Clusters when finalised will have major impact on how Melbourne functions as a city. Fishermens Bend itself, is the largest urban renewal project in Australia and is expected to be home to approximately 80,000 residents and provide employment for up to 60,000 people by 2050.

What technology has had the biggest impact on urban planning?

In the 18 years that I have been involved in the planning industry, I have seen the increased use of the internet, GIS and tools such as google maps by both practioners and developers to inform their respective decision making process. Planning information is now readily available and you can virtually stand outside any property via street view without having to leave the comfort of your home/office. The use of social media in planning is also being used as a tool for community consultation and as a platform the community to voice their views. The increased use of social media has also brought planning into focus with greater media coverage.

In your view, what will Australian Cities look like in 50 years?

In my view, the footprint and density of Australian cities, in particular Melbourne may grow slightly, but not substantially as the population growth and development are focused within major urban renewal areas such as Fishermens Bend, Arden, the National Employment and Innovation Clusters and regional cities such Ballarat, Bendigo, Geelong and the La Trobe Valley. It is hoped that with current infrastructure investment capital cities will be better connected to regional centres.

Melbourne has consistently been named the world’s most liveable city. From an urban planning perspective, what do you think that Melbourne has that separates itself from other cities?

Melbourne has a number of key fundamentals going for it, such as:

  • Has relatively good supply of housing and employment to match population growth,
  • Has the biggest container port in Australia so from that perspective a key maritime route for trade,
  • The arts and culture
  • Sporting mecca of Australia,
  • Great schools and universities,
  • Is a relatively safe city with low crime rates by world standards, and
  • A great lifestyle by the bay in close proximity to the Great Ocean Road, Dandenong Ranges, Yarra Valley and Mornington Peninsula regions.

Successive governments have also been proactive developing metropolitan strategies to guide growth and facilitate infrastructure and services required to support this growth. The challenge, going forward for Melbourne in maintaining its place as the world’s most liveable city is for governments to continue to be proactive and invest in infrastructure to match population growth.

Contact Somma Sourivong today:
03 9600 0500


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