The grim reality for Melbourne: Our much-loved city must change

 Premier Daniel Andrews, Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton & Lord Mayor Robert Doyle to doorstop on Bourke Street incident. 21 January 2017. The Age News. Photo: Eddie Jim.
Premier Daniel Andrews, Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton & Lord Mayor Robert Doyle to doorstop on Bourke Street incident. 21 January 2017. The Age News. Photo: Eddie Jim.

I was about to deliver the keynote address at the 2017 Global Security Expo in London when I learned that our security agencies had disrupted an alleged plot to go on a shooting rampage at Federation Square this New Year's Eve.

I cannot praise our security agencies ??? Victoria Police, the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) ??? enough for their constant diligent efforts to protect our community and thwart "catastrophic" terror plots.

In recent years, our security agencies have disrupted several plots in and around the city and responded courageously and swiftly to the Brighton siege, during which an innocent life was lost in an evil plan to ambush police.

And of course there was the horrific vehicular attack on Swanston and Bourke streets which resulted in the deaths of six people, including a baby and young girl, and injuries to many more. Our city lost some of its innocence on January 20, 2017.

Necessary safety improvements will change the design, look and feel of the city we love forever, although the security improvements now completed in the Bourke Street Mall are effective without being intimidating.

Before I opened the global security expo and participated in the roundtable with high level security delegates from cities around the world that have experienced terrorism, London, Barcelona, Berlin, Paris and Brussels among them, I reflected on how saddened I was that these collaborations are now pertinent to our safety.

On one hand all our cities were united by shared experience, but on the other hand that experience is a tragic and evil one.

It's often said that smart cities steal good ideas and I couldn't agree more. The best ideas ??? whether they be in the field of sustainability, urban design or safety ??? are scalable, transferable and measurable.

In this time of global unrest and uncertainty, it is imperative that we offer support, share ideas and learn from each other's experiences.

After Bourke Street, we, as a city, knew we had to up the security ante. The state government allocated $10 million in funding for security upgrades including permanent safety measures to nine sites in Melbourne's CBD to be implemented by the City of Melbourne on advice from Victoria Police.

Of course Bourke Street Mall was our first priority. The installation of permanent bollards, planter boxes and flag poles on the four corners of the mall is now complete and I think you will agree that this solution is much more attractive than the concrete blocks. The planter boxes are now sporting a Christmas theme.

With 720 tram movements and up to 75,000 pedestrian movements per day, as well as necessary access for emergency vehicles and deliveries, a "ring of steel" configuration would not have been possible at Bourke Street Mall. The emphasis is on creating comprehensive safe zones in the incidence of vehicular attack.

No one can guarantee against attacks, but we have been working very hard and very closely with the state government and Victoria Police since January 20 to do all we can to protect the safety of Melburnians and visitors to our city.

Work is progressing well on designs of the remaining eight sites. Plans will be tailored to each separate location based on their use, geographic location, existing structures and highest risk areas.

As we head into the busy Christmas and New Year period, I'd like to reiterate the message from Victoria Police and the AFP: they are working 24/7 to keep us safe and people should go about their everyday lives and enjoy this special time with family and friends.

Once again, I say thank you to our security agencies and police for their work.

Melbourne lord mayor Robert Doyle is a regular Domain columnist. His writer's fee for this article will be donated to the Royal Melbourne Hospital Foundation, of which he is the chair of the board of directors.

This story The grim reality for Melbourne: Our much-loved city must change first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.