Well, some might get a workdesk in Collins St!

Mornington Peninsula Shire is about to – or has already – acquired an office in Melbourne’s CBD, primarily as a workplace for planning officers, Bandicoot believes.

Other shire staff could also find a city office workplace congenial, including governance officer Joe Spiteri, who makes the long daily return trip from Footscray to Rosebud, and chief finance officer Matt Green, also thought to be a daily martyr to the frenetic road to Rosebud.

Bandicoot believes the shire is suffering a chronic shortage of planners, especially those not enthused by the prospect of a daily two-hour-plus commute to Besgrove St rather than a 10-minute sprint to, say, Boroondara.

Shire CEO Carl Cowie may also be discovering that some candidates for the vacant chief operating officer’s position (to replace the recently departed Alison Leighton) are baulking at a long drive to work.

Bandicoot believes Mr Cowie makes a daily trip from and to Wheelers Hill, about half-way from possibly tempting workplaces in the CBD and inner suburbs.

The shire is staying schtum about the city office matter, responding to questioners by saying on 31 August: “There is nothing to report regarding a Shire office in central Melbourne. Any such decision would require Council approval.”

But six days earlier, on 25 August, Mr Cowie wrote to his Team: “[W]e have received some pricing for what could be a good first site for a Shire Planning office presence in the CBD. I will be inviting several key officers for a look at the office space on Friday 1st September.”

Bandicoot wonders what they thought of the city office space. Where, he wonders further, did they have lunch?

City office space of the size apparently being contemplated does not come cheap, especially of the sort in which shire executives would hang their suitcoats and planners would study their green wedge rulebooks. No doubt the price will be revealed when there is “something” to report regarding the office.

The space will not come cheap. The respected ‘Australian Financial Review’ newspaper reported last November that Melbourne’s office market “posted the second-highest rental growth globally in the third quarter this year, notching up a 5.7 per cent increase in its net effective rents” – to make the city’s offices among the priciest in the world.

“In Melbourne … rents for prime office space now range from $600 a square metre annually to a little above $700. Incentives still account for as much as 30 per cent of the deal on face rents, but are tightening,” the paper quoted a leasing expert as saying.

Rents “would continue to be fed by demand through tenant inquiry … over the next 18 months”, he said.

A 100 square metre “2-person suite” in Collins St (“premium office space at the heart of Melbourne CBD”) is currently advertised “from $792 per week”. The advert urges potential renters to “Save money while you strengthen your business profile…”

Add to the $41,184 annual rent for this office the cost of fitout, parking, power &c and consider the tyranny of distance from Rosebud for planners, who regularly inspect the sites for which development applications are made, and further complexities that are not easily remedied by phone conferences or the like.

Bandicoot is confident the shire would not be contemplating an office costing those who will pay the bill at anything like $60,000-plus for floorspace only.

Would such a city workplace prompt envy among currently employed planners and other staff denied a Collins St desk by dint of taking their job too soon? Would management find talented potential employees making Collins St a condition of employment? Would pressure come on from other staff for a spot in the city?

What would ratepayers feel about paying to have possibly a growing number of staff working off-site, 90 kilometres from their colleagues, with the delights of city dining and shopping five minutes away?

While possibly many shire employees enjoy the convenience of living close to their work at Rosebud, as many more a short to medium walk from public transport may well prefer to commute to the city rather than have to run a second vehicle to commute to the Besgrove St bunker.

Watch this space!