Monday Melbourne: CLXXIII, February 2009
Russell Degnan

The new Children's Hospital and Park, both Royal. Taken February 2009

Melbourne Town 25th February, 2009 14:28:41   [#] [0 comments] 

Data semantics at thirty paces
Russell Degnan

Disputes over the value of Melbourne 2030 are always interesting, some people claim it is effective and producing bad outcomes, some that it is ineffective and not stopping bad outcomes, and some, notably many of the authors printed in People and Place, strike a middle ground that claims it is ineffective at producing things they like, but effective at doing things they don't. By contrast, the government has generally claimed that Melbourne 2030 is doing more or less exactly what they expected, which just happens to be not very much.

The differences in opinion, lie in the interpretation of the actual nature of Melbourne 2030, and its claims, and the expected changes to the urban form in the absence of any plan.

Because dwellings are built almost exclusively by the private sector, Melbourne 2030 is not a facilitator of anything. Even when the legal planning framework is twisted around to claim that no developer should expect to be able to develop without local approval, the developer is still the deciding factor in whether a development goes ahead. The planners and the community can only block it.

This doesn't stop their being claims that Melbourne 2030 has failed, because it hasn't facilitated the sorts of infill development that the planners envisaged, or prevented the sort of infill development (outside of activity centres) that local residents dislike (and Melbourne 2030 claims to discourage). Nor should anyone expect there to be, in the absence of any substantive changes to the planning framework to raise the costs of development in poor locations, and lower them in others.

It is somewhat specious however, to claim, as The Age did this morning, that the impact of Melbourne 2030 in the city of Monash is nothing. Not because it isn't nothing (it may be), but because the article in question (by Peterson, Phan and Chandra, "Urban infill: extent and implications in the City of Monash.", People and Place v16,i4) does a poor job of showing that to be the case. They claim, in essence, that because only a low percentage infill development occurred in activity centers (4.65% within 400m, 20.30% to 800m) or around railway stations (7.2% to 400m, 35.7% to 800m) Melbourne 2030 is failing to concentrate development.

The government response, that they didn't expect more than the 26.1% activity centre share, up to 2005, is equally difficult to parse. The problem lies in the interpretation of expectations, of what a low figure is, and of where that development would occur anyway.

By not providing comparative figures for the percentage of residential land area captured by the 400/800m zones around activity centres and stations, Peterson et al, leave me clueless as to whether 7.2% is a significant percentage (which it might be if only 1% of all land was near a railway station), or worse than random (if around 10% of land was). Similarly, it is probably ludicrous to expect no infill development outside of activity centres, so the comparison should be the level of infill relative to different areas. By neither showing, nor even defining what level of increased activity is expected, the government leaves no basis for making that comparison, and the authors have no way of determining if Melbourne 2030 has failed.

Finally, it is reasonable to deduce that developers would prefer to be near railway stations, all things being equal, so the real question regarding the effectiveness of Melbourne 2030 is whether it has been successful at driving development towards activity centres, above and beyond the expressed preferences of developers, or, whether it has been successful at enabling infill in line with developer and planning preferences. Most likely, as the article concludes, land is in such short supply that development is being driven by 'opportunism', and the expressed preferences of Melbourne 2030 are largely irrelevant to the operation of the infill market.

But That doesn't mean Melbourne 2030 has "failed". In order to fail, someone would need to define what level of housing infill would constitute a success.

Sterner Matters 24th February, 2009 16:27:44   [#] [2 comments] 

Monday Melbourne: CLXXII, February 2009
Russell Degnan

Docklands Bridge, early Sunday morning. Taken January 2009

Melbourne Town 5th February, 2009 22:08:31   [#] [0 comments] 

Ratings - February 2009
Russell Degnan

Another minor adjustment to the ratings, which carries the protected form over a longer period. The effect is to both smooth the ratings out and accentuate changes. Intuitively, South Africa went to the top after the Melbourne test. Update:New Zealand-India test series added, the summaries of the others will follow that contest.

Forthcoming Series

4 TestsWest IndiesvEngland
Expected MarginEngland by 36 runs

A side slowly inching their way back up, versus one slowly moving backwards. For the past half decade this should have been an easy victory for England, but perhaps not. Whether England's own internal turmoil will affect their performance is unknown. What is known is that the players that, only three years ago presaged a bright future, are struggling to live up to that potential. Outside of Pietersen, Strauss and Flintoff, the batsmen too rarely make good runs when they need to, nor the bowlers wickets. While they have given a good account of themselves at times - even in India - their struggles last year against New Zealand are probably a better guide to this series.

Unfortunately for the West Indies they are no different, and probably worse. Outside of Chanderpaul, the batting is either terrible, or frustratingly inconsistent (Sarwan an Gayle). A collapse always seems to loom, and the bowling, while occasionally threatening, is mediocre and too quick to concede runs. The West Indies have had some very good days at home over the past few seasons, but they've never strung enough together to win matches, and series. On that alone, England should win this, but old school fans of West Indies cricket can still hope that this is the series where it all clicks.

3 TestsSouth AfricavAustralia
Expected MarginSouth Africa by 61 runs

An unusual feeling for Australia, being the first series since 1994/95 that Australia aren't expected to win. South Africa are in the enviable position of having too many players to play, with Duminy and Prince needing to slot in, and possibly McKenzie to miss out. Their bowling is equally well placed after a storming one-day victory, and they go in as firm favourites. Nevertheless, they weren't completely dominant in the series in Australia, and will need to keep winning crucial moments to get up.

Australia, having won the final game, and shorn of experienced but woefully out of form "passengers" in Lee, Hayden and Symonds, should be more dangerous than their current one-day form suggests. Much rests on the performances of the young and unknown: Hughes, slotted straight into the top of the order; McDonald or North at six; Siddle, Bollinger and Hilfenhaus (choose two) with the ball; and 36 year old Bryce McGain attempting to exploit old frailties with leg-spin. Hauritz may yet play as well, but with a bowling attack as inexperienced as any to play in the past two decades, Australia will continue to struggle to win key passages of play in the field. The new era in Australian cricket effectively starts now, and this series promises much as a contest, as entertainment, and as fodder for journalists.

2 TestsPakistanvSri Lanka
Expected MarginPakistan by 33 runs

The ratings may indicate a Pakistani triumph. However, in their first test series in over a year, missing a number of key players, and playing against a side that defeated them handily in the one-day series, Pakistan should be slight under-dogs. Conversely, Sri Lanka are not a deep side, and have consistently failed away from home in recent years. It is, in other words, a series between two evenly matched and flawed teams. In a better world it would last more than a fortnight.

3 TestsNew ZealandvIndia
Expected MarginIndia by 55 runs

A series being given surprising importance by India, who, by rights, should win easily, but, on record, could turn out to be embarrassing. New Zealand have a young side, but one that is starting to come together, with several batsmen showing the grit and technique needed to succeed. The bowling is still weak, but at home, and given the carnage they wrecked in Brisbane against Australia, India's batting will need to be watchful. Much will depend on two things: the Indian top order, with Gambhir, Dravid and Tendulkar the technicians capable of consistently playing New Zealand out of any game; and the weather, which may contrive to prevent any play, and any result. It is very hard to see New Zealand playing consistently enough across five days to win games, nor bat long enough to draw them without the weather intervening, but unlike the recent past, they'll put up a fight.

Rankings at 4th February 2009
1.South Africa1221.46
4.Sri Lanka1100.49
7.New Zealand948.99
8.West Indies918.24

Idle Summers 5th February, 2009 12:03:49   [#] [2 comments]