Melbourne has been named by The Economist as the world's "Most Liveable City" for the fifth year in a row. This ranking measures factors such as stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education, and infrastructure. The ranking is used by major companies to assess where to post staff and what kind of allowances they may need; with this ranking, executives being posted to Melbourne ought to be paying their employers for the privilege! The major Australian cities were all highly ranked in this list: Adelaide was fifth, Sydney seventh, Perth eighth, and Brisbane eighteenth. The Lord Mayor and other civic worthies were naturally pleased and there was much commentary about what it would do for tourism.
Most foreign executives are likely to live within 10 kilometres of the city centre. This encompasses most of the nineteenth century grand infrastructure of the city, from its enviable tram system to its parks and handsome public buildings, such as the Royal Exhibition Building built in 1880. This is "marvellous Melbourne", built on the back of vast gold discoveries in central Victoria in 1851. The inner suburbs, such as Kew, South Yarra and Albert Park were filled with grand villas and broad tree-lined streets, now unaffordable to all but the rich. The city rapidly developed into one of the most prosperous in the British Empire, so much so, that its sanitation systems did not keep pace with the grandeur of the city's plan. For a long time, local residents called it "Smellbourne" until a huge sewerage project in the 1890s provided for the city's waste.
Beyond the inner city, Melbourne stretches out for almost a hundred kilometres of houses on their own plots of land. The vast outer suburbs are connected by trains and bus services, often over-crowded and sometimes slow. A constant theme of political debate in Victoria in recent years has been the neglect of public transport in the suburban sprawl. It's become a city of cars, but the cars will choke the city if more money is not allocated to public transport. There are pockets of disadvantage and areas which have poor educational and health services. Perhaps if The Economist had looked more closely at these areas, then the city wouldn't have been so highly ranked, but then executives aren't likely to want to live in the outer suburbs. Australia still remains a relatively egalitarian place but the gap between the way the rich and the poor live, is becoming greater.
So, the rankings are great for tourism promotion, they make people who live in the inner city feel self-satisfied, but for most Melbournians, there might be something of a credibility gap with their daily reality.