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Greenline master plan finalised, but completion pushed back to 2030

Greenline master plan finalised, but completion pushed back to 2030
David Schout

The four-kilometre Northbank renewal won’t be finished by 2028 as had been hoped.

The City of Melbourne’s Greenline project won’t be finished until at least 2030, a finalised master plan has revealed.

Since first releasing plans in May 2021 for the $316 million path, which will run for four kilometres along the Yarra River’s north bank from Birrarung Marr to the Bolte Bridge, the council had calculated a 2028 completion.

However, forecasts have been pushed back, and could be delayed further due to “available funding, annual budget and service delivery priorities”.

Councillors were expected to endorse the final blueprint for Greenline at the December 5 Future Melbourne Committee meeting.

Shovels will first hit the ground for Greenline in April 2024, when “site one” works commence at Birrarung Marr’s river promenade.

However, from there works won’t proceed in a linear, east-to-west fashion on Greenline’s five precincts: (from east) Birrarung Marr, The Falls, River Park, Maritime, and Salt Water Wharf.

It is anticipated that the next works, from late 2025, will take place at River Park (including Batman Park) before works jump back and recommence on the Birrarung Marr precinct, at Federation Wharf and Flinders Walk, from late 2026.

Southbank News has previously reported concerns on the future of floating bar Afloat (by Arbory Bar & Eatery) at Flinders Walk, with artist’s impressions depicting a raised footpath which, if implemented, would impact the floating bar’s ability to operate.

The master plan’s timeline then indicated that the Docklands section of Greenline, the Maritime and Salt Water Wharf precincts, from Spencer Street Bridge to the Bolte, won’t begin until around 2028.

Greenline remains broadly popular with the wider community, and 70 per cent of respondents in recent engagement rated four or above (out of five) the master plan’s vision for a revitalisation of the Yarra River’s north bank.

The master plan paints a bleak picture of the river’s northern side from the CBD to Docklands, and why the project is needed for Melbourne.

“Currently, the north bank suffers from disjointed and limited pedestrian and active transport navigation, with narrow and poorly connected paths, steep slopes, uneven pavements and inadequate amenities,” it states.

“It lacks cultural diversity, ecological value and sustained social and civic engagement.”

The master plan reiterates the “woven line” concept for the project and having five precincts of “interconnected spaces”.

Significant questions remain, however, on how the council plans to fund Greenline.

Two years since releasing “game-changing” plans that Lord Mayor Sally Capp likened to the renewal of Federation Square and Southbank Promenade, funding support (or indications of future support) has been scant.

The council is relying on substantial help from the state and federal governments to fund the $316 million project and wants a $100 million contribution from both.

However, it is yet to receive a cent of funding on top of the $97 million itself has budgeted until 2027.

 

The state government to date has refused to comment on whether it would support Greenline, and did not allocate the project any funding in its May budget.

 

At the federal election, Labor pledged $20 million to the project as part of a “Priority Community Infrastructure” grant program, which was “currently undergoing the required processes prior to funding being confirmed” according to the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts.

Even when this funding lands as expected, the council will have only received 10 per cent of the $200 million it needs from upper levels of government.

Economic analysis by consultancy group Ernst & Young revealed in September 2022 showed that Greenline would more than pay for itself and would deliver more than $3 of value for every dollar spent.

The business case predicted the project would create $740 million worth of economic and community benefits, and at the time Cr Capp said the analysis would be essential to securing crucial additional funding.

“[It] helps set us all up for success, as we continue to work with key stakeholders on the delivery of Greenline, particularly in relation to our discussions with state and federal governments,” she said.

However, this was yet to arrive.

The fragmentation of controlling authorities and land owners along the river, including VicTrack, the Victorian Government, CityLink, the Melbourne Arts Precinct Corporation and Development Victoria, meant Greenline had to jump through a significant number of hoops before it gets off the ground.

“We’re continuing to progress our visionary Greenline project, achieving a major milestone with the delivery of our master plan,” Acting Lord Mayor Nicholas Reece said prior to the December 5 meeting.

“The master plan will guide our work to transform the north bank of the Yarra River-Birrarung, which will become an iconic meeting place for all Melburnians, deliver thousands of jobs, attract visitors, and generate millions of dollars in economic benefits.”

“I want to thank every community member and stakeholder who took time to provide feedback on our draft master plan. Your views are integral to help us embrace all opportunities that the Greenline project presents for Melbourne, now and into the future.” •

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