Melbourne is Australia’s most habitable city, but other state capitals have been knocked down the list

Written by Javed Iqbal

Australian cities have fallen down the global rankings for viability, largely thanks to the wave of COVID-19 infections and shutdowns in 2021.

The Austrian capital, Vienna, topped the rankings for the first time since 2019, with Melbourne in 10th place – the highest-ranked Australian city – and just ahead of Osaka.

Adelaide – which was in second place in last year’s index – has fallen to 30th place, Perth has fallen 26 places to 32nd and Brisbane has fallen 17 places to 27th place.

Melbourne had topped the list from 2011 to 2017 before being overtaken by Vienna.

The Victorian capital rated highly for education and infrastructure, but was far behind other cities in the top 10 when it came to healthcare.

Published by the Economist Intelligence Unit [EIU]The list’s researchers assessed more than 170 cities across the categories of stability, health care, culture and the environment, education and infrastructure.

Vienna returned to the top of the rankings after the removal of most COVID-19 restrictions.(Pedro Szekely)

In its latest report, the EIU said the pandemic continued to drive the largest movements up and down the viability index.

It said Western European cities, which had removed most of their COVID-19 restrictions, had made significant increases up the rankings.

“In Australia, some states have been slower to lift restrictions than others. As a result, Perth and Adelaide have lost ground since last year,” the report said.

The impact of the 2021 COVID-19 wave hit New Zealand cities more seriously on the rankings, with Auckland falling from first place in last year’s index to 34.

Wellington dropped 46 seats to 50.

The EIU said Australia and New Zealand benefited in early 2021, “when COVID vaccines were scarce: their closed borders kept matters down and kept viability high”.

But because of the COVID-19 wave that hit both countries in late 2021, they “no longer have a COVID advantage over well-vaccinated European and Canadian cities,” the report said.

Prominent professor Billie Giles-Corti of RMIT’s Center for Urban Research said Melbourne’s health assessment was “a bit of nonsense”.

“Austria has only about eight million people, Australia has 25 [million] and they have had 20,000 deaths [from COVID-19]we have had 9,000 deaths, “she said.

“If COVID is a factor contributing to our lower ranking in healthcare, our numbers are so much better.”

Professor Giles-Corti said there were areas where Vienna was clearly ahead of Melbourne.

“I think one of the things that is really missing in this index is how sustainable cities are and Vienna’s ecological footprint is much lower than Melbourne’s because it has more public transport,” she said.

“We have people living on the outskirts of our city without amenities, for me it’s more important than this index.”

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