Edwardes Lake Park, Reservoir,
Edwardes Lake Park, Reservoir, Australia, Photo: Tom Rumble

Melbourne’s reign as world’s most liveable city on The Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) annual poll is over.

After seven years at the top of the pack, the southern city has been displaced by perennial close contender Vienna, Austria.

While both cities have actually improved their liveability scores from last year – and are separated by less than a percentage point – Vienna’s improvement eclipsed Melbourne’s, particularly due to a stated increased in stability in Europe.

“Upwards movement in the top ranked cities is a reflection of improvements seen in stability and safety across most regions in the past year,” the Global Liveability Index 2018 says.

“Whereas in the past, cities in Europe have been affected by the spreading perceived threat of terrorism in the region, which caused heightened security measures, the past six months have seen a return to normalcy.”

Lord Mayor Sally Capp said it was a tight contest, but was glad Melbourne had improved its ranking, gaining points on culture and environment.

“I’m delighted that Melbourne has improved its liveability ranking,” Ms Capp said.

“This is the highest score in eight years, since our run at the top began.”

She offered her congratulations to Vienna, but said she planned to get Melbourne back into the top spot.

“Our competitive spirit means we want to get back to the top,” she said. “To do this we’ll need to keep investing in our city and throwing up bold ideas to meet the challenges of the future.”

Vienna has won most liveable city

Sydney also re-entered the top 10, coming in at number five – terrorism concerns saw it knocked out of the top 10 last year – while Adelaide took out the 10th spot, and Perth got knocked back from seven to 14.

The EIU said Perth had not scored lower on liveability, rather other cities had posted bigger gains.

Osaka, Japan climbed six positions to third spot, closing in on Melbourne with just a 0.7 per cent difference.

Other cities in the top ten were Tokyo, Calgary, Vancouver and Toronto.

The index ranks cities on 30 qualitative and quantitative factors over five broad categories: stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education, and infrastructure, giving a score out of 100.

Looking at past results, it’s clear that the index preferences mid-sized cities in wealthy countries, with many having a low population density. Major global centres, with the exception of Tokyo, tend to be “victims of their own success”, the EIU argued.

“The ‘big city buzz’ that they enjoy can overstretch infrastructure and cause higher crime rates,” it said.

“New York (57th), London (48th) and Paris (19th) are all prestigious hubs with a wealth of recreational activities, but all suffer from higher levels of crime, congestion and public transport problems than are deemed comfortable.”

Such indices have been critiqued in the past for failing to consider inequality of access to liveability – for example those living in the outer areas of Melbourne who have limited access to the city’s benefits.

Commentators have also questioned the index’s score calculations, with both Sydney and Melbourne achieving perfect scores for infrastructure – which includes quality of roads, public transport, housing, energy provision, water provision and telecommunications – while cities like Osaka and Tokyo score lower.

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  1. Australian cities with such poor provision for those travelling actively and sustainably – walkers and cyclists, should not feature in the top 10. The overbearing lack of safe protected cycling infrastructure is an enormous failing for liveability – your other option is drive everywhere. #fail