As Melbourne was once again ‘awarded’ the world’s most liveable city by the Economist Intelligence Unit, the discussion reignites about how relevant the index really is.

Sure it’s an excellent tourism angle, ‘one-ups’ us to our northern neighbours (see, you don’t need sunshine to be liveable!), and it certainly fuels the self-congratulation of Melbourne’s planners, bureaucrats and politicians.

With some of the world’s best education, healthcare, sporting, cultural facilities, there’s no denying that Melbourne has some amazing assets. In 2011 CNN’s travel team outlined ‘50 reasons Melbourne is the world's most livable city’, highlighting the coffee, the football, the shopping and the live music. And tourists flock by the millions to participate in this unique city.

But what about actually living here?

What about getting public transport from Kensington to Fitzroy? The 5km journey will take you more than 30 minutes using a train/tram combination, and much longer after 7pm.

And what about buying a beer, or renting an apartment?

The Economist Intelligence Unit also puts out a bi-annual Worldwide Cost of Living Survey, which Melbourne ranked as the 6th most expensive city in the world. Clearly the liveability and cost of living surveys are not cross-referenced.

Urban Gateway recently questioned if the index was ‘biased and racist’, noting that the top ten most liveable cities largely white British Commonwealth countries: Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary, Adelaide, Sydney, Perth and Auckland. Only Vienna in Austria and Helsinki in Iceland are not former British colonies and they, too, are white.

In their discussion of last year's EIU survey, the author from Future CapeTown quoted Paul James, the Director of the Global Cities Institute (and a resident of Melbourne), on the EIU ranking which placed this city at number one last year as well:
“Melbourne by any measure is a bloated, sprawling, congested and completely unsustainable city. On sustainability measures such as urban footprint we rank as badly as London and worse than New York. For every person in the city, we own almost one petrol-consuming vehicle, and that figure includes all the babies who do not yet have a licence and all the elderly who have stopped driving.”
But of course this debate about what it means to be liveable ultimately adds value to the concept, and it certainly helps to sell magazines.

What do you think? Is Melbourne’s re-crowning warranted? And does it help or hinder our domestic planning and design challenges?

Banner image source:


Popular Posts