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Fishermans Bend Development Board prepares for new transition

Fishermans Bend Development Board prepares for new transition
Brendan Rees

The Fishermans Bend Development Board has announced its dissolution, with its chair Meredith Sussex reflecting on remarkable achievements accomplished during its term.

The board has been responsible for advising the development and planning for Fishermans Bend, Australia’s largest-ever urban renewal project, spanning two-and-a-half times the size of Melbourne’s CBD.

Along with Montague, which covers 43 hectares of Southbank and South Melbourne, the area is made up of five precincts including Sandridge, Wirraway, Lorimer and the Employment Precinct, with the latter two situated with the City of Melbourne’s municipal boundaries.

The area south of the Westgate Freeway is locally governed by the City of Port Phillip.

Over the coming years, Fishermans Bend will see major housing developments, a new University of Melbourne campus and more national and international businesses.

To build towards this growth, a newly established Precincts Team in the Department of Transport and Planning (DTP) will now be tasked with the development of Fishermans Bend, which is expected to build on the foundation laid by the former board.

The Fishermans Bend Development Board term ended on December 31 with a government spokesperson saying it had “provided a valuable independent advisory role to Government providing strategic advice on the planning and development of Fishermans Bend”.

“With the support of the Department of Transport and Planning, we will continue to plan, deliver, and make key decisions to support growth and development of Fishermans Bend,” the spokesperson said.

Ms Sussex has been a driving force behind the board since its establishment in 2018 and she has received high praise for her tenacity, meticulous planning and unwavering commitment to urban planning and community engagement, and made possible through the strong support of her board members Janet Bolitho, Susan Oliver, and Cheryl Batagol.

She also chaired the state government’s Ministerial Advisory Committee on Fishermans Bend between 2014 and 2018, where she played an integral role in establishing a new planning framework for the precinct.

“The board is very proud of what has been achieved, in collaboration with our many partners, in the last five years of this critically important 30-year urban renewal opportunity,” Ms Sussex said in a LinkedIn post, which listed many key successful projects.

Among the board’s achievements is a focus on Montague to “support the growth of a new community”, which has been developing at a much faster pace than its neighbouring precincts and is already largely complete with the new South Melbourne Primary School and adjoining Kirrip Park.

Ms Sussex also noted that developments initiated since 2018 included developer-financed affordable housing and social housing with work is well under way stage one of the Innovation Precinct at the former GMH site, with University of Melbourne having “released a prospectus to business in preparation for its new design and engineering campus adjacent to the Innovation Precinct”.

While development in the Montague precinct, which is serviced by the existing 109 and 96 tram routes, the remainder of Fishermans Bend still awaits announcements on vital tram and train infrastructure.

The state government originally mooted a plan for a potential tram service between Fishermans Bend and the CBD by 2025, with options including a river crossing, and potential corridors along Turner and Plummer streets.

This line also proposed to connect to Collins St in Docklands via a new bridge across the Yarra.

Infrastructure Victoria, the state government’s independent adviser, said a tram line route north of the West Gate Freeway was “most urgent and should be delivered by 2026”.

“Residential development alone is projected to create 260,000 extra daily trips by 2050. There are only limited Yarra River crossings, existing roads cannot meet growing demand efficiently or sustainably, and other movements are impeded by the West Gate Freeway,” Infrastructure Victoria said in a statement, which also recommended a tram route south of the West Gate Freeway.

A University of Melbourne spokesperson said the first stage for its Fishermans Bend campus was not dependent on new train or tram transport links.

“These facilities are expected to be ready by 2026, should construction begin this year. They will be part of an innovation hub purpose-built for the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology and the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning, with space for industry to co-locate and collaborate,” the spokesperson said. “Moving forward, the University intends to significantly increase the numbers of students, staff, and industry partners at Fishermans Bend.”

 

The University and its government and industry partners in the precinct will need significantly improved transport links, consistent with the state’s vision for this world-class precinct. This is part of our ongoing discussions with the Victorian Government to ensure the precinct’s success.

 

Asked whether a tram line would go ahead, the state government said its 2022/23 State Budget included $750,000 to support planning processes for Fishermans Bend, including “planning for corridor protection in the precinct and further investigation of the feasibility of high-capacity transport options”.

“We’ve already improved public transport options for Fishermans Bend, delivering 1360 additional bus services across the Precinct in the past two years to provide more frequent and reliable services,” a government spokesperson said.

“We’re continuing planning work for longer term transport links, including the feasibility of high-capacity transport options to ensure we can meet the precinct’s needs for decades to come.”

In October last year an additional 460 bus services a week were created on the precinct’s two main bus services on top of the 900 extra services introduced in late 2022. •

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