New strategy and planning controls for Fishermans Bend “innovation” precinct

New strategy and planning controls for Fishermans Bend “innovation” precinct

By Sean Car

The state government has reaffirmed its commitment to delivering a “world-class” design, engineering and advanced manufacturing precinct in the heart of Fishermans Bend through the release of a new plan this month.

Minister for Business Precincts Martin Pakula launched the Advancing Manufacturing – the Fishermans Bend opportunity statement on September 1, outlining five key priorities for the Fishermans Bend National Employment and Innovation Cluster (NEIC).

The Employment Precinct is located within the City of Melbourne and is bound by Lorimer St and the Westgate Freeway. In 2016, the state government purchased the former General Motors Holden (GMH) site on Salmon St for what it hopes will form the nucleus of the NEIC.

To facilitate its vision, which “supported by major investments and planning approvals” that the government expects will attract key investors and major partners to the precinct, new interim planning controls to guide development were also announced on September 1.

The NEIC is expected to be home to at least 40,000 jobs and more than 20,000 students by 2050 across key industries including aerospace, transport, defence, creative industries and clean energy.

With the University of Melbourne having already purchased a portion of the GMH site for its new engineering and design campus, which is expected to open in 2025, Mr Pakula said Fishermans Bend presented a “one-in-a-generation” opportunity.

“Powered by new technologies and world-leading engineering and design, Fishermans Bend presents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to build a precinct that creates jobs for Victorians and produces solutions for the world,” he said.

The precinct is already home to large companies and organisations including Boeing, Siemens, Australian Road Research Board (ARRB), Black Magic Design, the Port of Melbourne and the Australian Government’s Defence Science and Technology Group.

The Fishermans Bend Development Board chair Meredith Sussex said partnerships within the precinct would form “critical steps” in realising the ambition of what she described as a “global opportunity”.

Supported by a $179.4 million investment in the 2021/22 Victorian Budget, the plan announced this month prioritises a “bringing to life” of the “catalyst” GMH site, while its other four key priorities focus on connectivity, a “green network”, civic boulevards and urban design.

With Fishermans Bend’s road network originally designed with freight in mind, connecting the precinct to the CBD and surrounds through active means of transport continues to prove a major hurdle in maximising the area’s potential.

While the government has yet to make any firm funding commitments towards creating a tram link to the CBD, its latest plan again references a proposed tram bridge over the Yarra River through Docklands, which is still understood to be its preferred route.

A “potential” underground passenger train service, known as Melbourne Metro 2, is also included, so too is a low freight alignment running parallel with the Bolte Bridge to connect the disparate Webb Dock with the Port of Melbourne.

Mr Pakula said the “new Fishermans Bend” was taking shape in other ways with a pilot project for a green spine and cycle connection corridor along Turner St to be delivered in partnership with the City of Melbourne during the next year.

With the University of Melbourne one of the precinct’s major tenants, Minister for Planning Richard Wynne also announced the approval of the proposal for a new Engineering and Design innovation campus on September 1.

It’s been long understood that RMIT University is also in talks with the state government about investing in the GMH site but its plan hinge on the delivery of public transport, namely the new tram link.

The state government’s latest strategy said it was also its “intention is to engage with key stakeholders, including the City of Melbourne to find a more suitable name” for the Employment Precinct in the “near future”.

Local communities within and surrounding Fishermans Bend still continue to await the release of detailed precinct plans for the four mixed-use precincts of Montague, Wirraway, Sandridge and Lorimer.

Community representatives of the Montague Precinct, which has seen a rapid escalation of development in recent years due to its proximity to the CBD, Southbank and Port Melbourne, have been calling for detailed plans to be released for more than a year.

Montague Community Alliance convener Trisha Avery said last month that the plans were essential for the growing community’s understanding of the precinct’s future. Former City of Port Phillip Mayor Bernadene Voss told Southbank News in July last year that the plans had been completed and were ready for public consultation, but a state government spokesperson has since confirmed plans were still yet to be finalised •

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