By Sean Car
As a 14-year resident of the CBD, our community can rest assured that the City of Melbourne’s new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Justin Hanney has its best interests at heart.
Having started in the role in January, Mr Hanney was given the nod for the city’s top job from a field of more than 140 candidates last year. Based on his glittering CV, it’s easy to see why.
The City of Melbourne is incredibly well served with Justin at the helm. With an extensive background working in state government, his connections are sure to help get a lot of things moving for the city.
Before joining the City of Melbourne, he worked as the lead deputy secretary of the Employment, Investment and Trade Group at the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources.
Having also previously overseen the likes of Regional Development Victoria, Creative Victoria, Visit Victoria, Development Victoria, Agriculture Victoria, Trade and Investment Victoria and Small Business Victoria, there is no doubting his ability to get things done.
However, it’s his intimate knowledge of, and care for, his local neighbourhood as a long-time Flinders St resident that places him in extra good stead for what he described as “the best job in the world.”
“I love it. I wake up every day with a spring in my step,” Justin told CBD News. “I get to interact a lot with the city as a resident and the danger is now whenever I walk the streets on the weekend, if we’re going off to a restaurant or the park or a footy game you start to see a lot more.”
“If there is a bin that’s not quite right or there is a bit of graffiti on a building that shouldn’t be there you start to take a lot more notice. I find that I’m taking photos every time I go walking to put them on the system and my wife tells me that I have to stop doing that!”
While originally from Perth, Justin has spent most of his life in Victoria. Having met his now wife in Melbourne as a teenager, together they have raised four daughters here while he has worked in a range of positions across the state.
His background in local government is also extensive. He began his career as a youth worker in Collingwood, before working in senior roles at local councils in Dandenong, Bendigo and Wangaratta. He also previously served as a CEO of the City of Yarra.
Having interacted a lot with the City of Melbourne over many years in state government, he said the opportunity to make an impact at a grassroots level was largely what had attracted him to his new role.
“One of the things in state government, and I had a stint up in Canberra for 12 months as well on secondment, is that you’re really removed from what happens on the ground,” he said.
“As I used to walk in and around the city, I’d look at the number of people living on the streets. The role that I could play in a state government department versus a role in local government are chalk and cheese.”
Justin also pointed to the extraordinary amount of urban renewal areas on the fringe of the inner city, stating that, globally, it was unprecedented. With the likes of Fishermans Bend, E-Gate, West Melbourne and Arden-Macauley on the doorstep of the CBD, the opportunities to grow the city genuinely excites him.
Having played a central role to the state government’s purchasing of the Holden site in Fishermans Bend for the creation of an employment and innovation precinct, he said he was keen to use his connections to accelerate such projects. High on his agenda is getting a tram connected there as soon as possible.
“I think when you look at what could happen on that space in such close proximity really critical to that site is getting the tram into Fishermans Bend,” he said. “Without the tram it will be more challenging to get Melbourne University and RMIT to fully commit to their developments.”
“When you look at what could happen within that precinct and within Arden-Macauley it’s very exciting. Both of these sites will be game changers for Melbourne.”
As technology advances and tourism continues to grow in Melbourne, Justin’s background in growing employment and investment places the city’s economy in good stead for being ready to adapt to change.
As for the team around him, he said he had been pleasantly surprised by the quality of staff at the City of Melbourne, which he described as exemplary. He also praised his team of councillors, who he said had rebounded incredibly well in light of the governance challenges left by former Lord Mayor Robert Doyle.
“The calibre and the quality of the councillors is quite exceptional,” he said. “The way in which they work together and the quality of the governance; they really work well together.”
“The quality of the staff that the City of Melbourne attracts is why I think it’s considered the best local government in Australia. Some of them live an hour and a half away and commute each day in and out. They could easily work in their own communities, but they choose to work here because of the size of the city, what it can do and what it can represent.”
Having permanently located to the CBD 14 years ago, he said the city’s growing appeal as a place to raise a family was what had attracted he and his family to relocate from their former Malvern East home.
From its green open spaces and creative institutions to its libraries and recreational facilities, he has grown a special appreciation for everything our city has to offer. As a boating enthusiast, he said he and a friend also regularly travelled from Williamstown and moored their boat (or as he described it, their “tub!”) at Docklands; a waterfront precinct that he described as “world-class”.
Through his strong networks at State Government, he said he hoped to use his time as CEO to continue building on everything that made Melbourne one of the world’s most liveable cities.
“I have some excellent relationships with state government and that will continue,” he said. “I think it’s sometimes knowing not just where to go and not just what department to go to but more specifically who to go to.”
“I have this mantra with our staff here that we’re here to get things done and if we’re not doing things, providing great service and advancing on issues that matter than we shouldn’t be here.”
“Let’s get the basics and the service delivery exceptionally good and then let’s continue to be the exemplary city throughout the world. I want to take the baton and ensure that whoever I pass it onto next that Melbourne continues to be that exemplary city.”