LOCKDOWN SETS MELBOURNE CBD REVITALISATION BACK MONTHS

Office occupancy in Melbourne’s CBD has plummeted to its lowest level since last year’s protracted lockdown as workers again deserted the city in their droves.

A survey of building owners and managers taken during June, following the end of Victoria’s fourth lockdown, found Melbourne’s CBD occupancy slumped to 26 per cent of pre-COVID occupancy levels.

This is 41 per cent behind Sydney and 45 per cent behind Brisbane over the same period. Melbourne’s occupancy had earlier risen to 45 per cent before May’s COVID outbreak all but wiped out the city’s recovery.

The survey also found 80 per cent of respondents indicated they believed it would take at least three months or longer before there was a material increase in office occupancy levels, compared to just 18% who believed it would occur in the next one to two months.

The Property Council’s Victorian Executive Director Danni Hunter said: “The latest lockdown wiped out most of the positive gains from the first few months of this year and has sent Melbourne’s CBD back to square one.

While we are starting to see people slowing returning to the CBD, these numbers are a stark reminder of the fragility of our economic recovery. Our CBD supports thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in economic activity and we need an urgent plan to revitalise our city.”

Ms Hunter said a plan needed to include:

  • A clear timetable for the safe return to work for thousands of public and private sector workers
  • A relaxation of density quotients, caps and mask requirements in offices when it is safe to do so
  • Removing barriers to returning to the CBD including incentives to use public transport
  • A campaign to leverage upcoming events including the AFL finals, Melbourne Fashion Week and the Spring Racing Carnival

“There is no doubt that lockdowns and restrictions shake the confidence of business and the wider community alike. Businesses across the city have been devastated and we know a real sense of lockdown fatigue has set in,” Ms Hunter said.

“We’ve seen some great initiatives by the City of Melbourne working in partnership with business to get people back into the CBD and enjoying everything we have to offer. But we now need to redouble our efforts to rebuild and revitalise the CBD and a produce a clear roadmap for recovery as we head into spring and beyond.

“With the City of Melbourne delivering its largest ever budget to help reactivate and revive the CBD, we now look to the Victorian Government to show leadership and undertake the heavy lifting needed to get the CBD back on track”.

Ms Hunter called on all governments to double-down on the vaccination rollout amid ongoing COVID uncertainty.  “Vaccinations are our exit-ramp from the coronavirus pandemic. We are already seeing other places around the world open up as their populations get vaccinated.

“With more parts of Australia in lockdown than ever this year, we know what we need to do: roll up your sleeves when it is your turn.”

The Property Council of Australia’s Office Occupancy Survey provides leading analysis of Australia’s office occupancy levels. More information on the latest survey can be found at www.propertycouncil.com.au.

Office occupancy as a percentage of pre-COVID levels by CBD

Jan-21

Feb-21

Mar-21

Apr-21

May-21

June-21

Melbourne

34%

27%

39%

45%

45%

26%

Sydney

50%

54%

56%

65%

68%

67%

Brisbane

70%

72%

69%

70%

71%

71%

Canberra

76%

72%

72%

70%

71%

72%

Perth

74%

72%

79%

78%

77%

76%

Adelaide

77%

77%

79%

78%

78%

80%

Hobart

89%

84%

89%

91%

93%

89%

 

Media contact: Eric Allilomou M: 0448 291 236 E: [email protected]