Port Phillip council in “fight” for future of Fishermans Bend amid “abandoned” plans
The City of Port Phillip (CoPP) has accused the Victorian Government of “abandoning” its plans for Fishermans Bend as it ramps up a new campaign to “fight for a bright future” for the urban renewal project.
In what marks some of the strongest language to date from any authority overseeing the renewal of Fishermans Bend, the CoPP has openly stated that it’s “frustrated” by the lack of progress from the state government in delivering on its master plan.
“We are frustrated by the lack of progress, as is our community. The Victorian Government has abandoned the plan for Fishermans Bend, and it is time they now honour it,” a statement from the CoPP said.
“Our council has taken our role as a key partner seriously and done its best to ensure the master plan is delivered, yet our repeated requests for meetings, engagement and consultation with the state [government] are not being heard and this raises grave concerns as to why.”
Fishermans Bend – Australia’s largest ever urban renewal project spanning a peninsula two-and-a-half times the size of Melbourne’s CBD – is locally governed by the City of Melbourne (north of the Westgate Freeway) and the CoPP to the south.
The area is made up of five precincts, of which three (Montague, Sandridge and Wirraway) are a part of the Port Phillip municipality, with the remaining two, Lorimer and the Employment Precinct, the responsibility of the City of Melbourne.
While the state government forecasts 80,000 residents and 80,000 jobs for the area by 2050, the project is currently the subject of an investigation by the Victorian Office of the Auditor General to establish whether responsible agencies are effectively delivering the Fishermans Bend Framework.
The investigation follows a controversial rezoning of the precinct as “capital city” by former Liberal Minister for Planning Matthew Guy in 2012 and nearly a decade of reset planning by the current Andrews Labor Government.
While development in the Montague precinct, which is serviced by two existing tram lines, is proceeding as forecast, the remainder of Fishermans Bend still awaits announcements on vital tram and train infrastructure.
The community also continues to wait for detailed precinct plans for all five precincts to be released by the state government for community consultation.
In response to a question from Cr Marcus Pearl in July regarding the delay to Montague Precinct Plans, the CoPP’s manager of city planning and sustainability John Bartel said the council had been awaiting their release “for the last three years”.
The CoPP has recently launched a campaign to fight for a “bright future for Fishermans Bend” as it calls on community members to write to the minister responsible for the precinct, Deputy Premier Jacinta Allan, to demand action.
“Fishermans Bend is an exciting opportunity for our city and community but it risks being a lost opportunity. Every delay by the Victorian Government pushes back the chances of making this a world-class place to live, work and play,” the council said.
“Our community must not be left without the services they need for a growing area,” adding that an investment in open space was urgently required to meet demand from the community and local sporting organisations.
The campaign comes after what City of Port Phillip Mayor Heather Cunsolo described as an “absurd” situation that was unfolding between the council and the state government regarding the acquisition of the Australia Post site on Williamstown Rd.
In a letter to Member for Albert Park Nina Taylor, Cr Cunsolo requested intervention “to resolve a very difficult situation” with the state government seeking to purchase the site for a new school, despite open space having been earmarked for the site by the council.
“As you are aware council is seeking to purchase the Australia Post site, ideally in partnership with the state, and to convert the site into open space as provided in the state government’s Fishermans Bend Framework and the planning scheme,” Cr Cunsolo wrote to Ms Taylor.
Unfortunately, without engaging with councillors, the state government is considering locating a school on the site.
“The location of the school on a space allocated for open space occurs at a time when there is significant demand for the limited open space in Fishermans Bend. Our sporting grounds are bursting at the seams,” adding that the council was “struggling to maintain quality playing surfaces.”
“We need to act now,” Cr Cunsolo wrote.
“If the state government is the other bidder – which we suspect, it is for an education facility – I am very concerned that have the state government and council using scarce resources to compete against each other. This would be an absurd outcome.”
The Fishermans Bend Business Forum echoed the sentiment from the City of Port Phillip, stating that it “shares the frustrations of our community and continue to be committed to this cause”.
The report by the Victorian Office of the Auditor General into the current delivery of the Fishermans Bend Framework is due to be released this financial year.
A Victorian Government spokesperson said it continued to work with the community and industry to activate the precinct, and stressed its commitment to opening a new primary school in 2026.
“We will be opening a new primary school in Fishermans Bend in 2026 - building on our existing investments to deliver great local services for the growing population in the Fishermans Bend precinct,” the spokesperson said.
“We are continuing to work closely with stakeholders including the CoPP as we refine plans for Fishermans Bend, including infrastructure, to ensure we can meet the needs of the community for decades to come.” •