Weighing in on Southbank Promenade

Weighing in on Southbank Promenade
Tony Penna

As mentioned in my October column, I’d like to discuss Southbank Promenade this month. 

In early 2020 at a City of Melbourne Future Melbourne Committee (FMC) meeting, a resolution was passed for refurbishment of a portion of Southbank Promenade.

Stage one began in April 2022 and was “supposedly” completed in July 2023.

The council has made a number of announcements spruiking that this stage of the renewal is now complete. However, Southbank Residents’ Association (SRA) is somewhat bewildered with what was proposed versus what has been delivered.

While some significant works have been incorporated, notably the eastern end alongside Hamer Hall and adjoining Evan Walker Bridge, many key features have somehow been overlooked.

The plans outlined the removal of the bluestone retainer walls and realigning the stairs to run east-west thereby improving sightlines to the river and opening up the space. These works have not been incorporated.

As for lighting upgrades, nearly all of the old lighting still remains apart from five new lights along Hamer Hall. The only new seating provided is in the refurbished areas alongside Hamer Hall and Evan Walker Bridge, yet the plans proposed new seating along the entirety which were to be a key feature for interrupting the ride path of cyclists to encourage alertness and slower speeds.

The balustrades were considered non-compliant and a special council meeting was convened to consider the heritage concerns with which these contributed to, however, in light of the significant community feedback regarding this issue, it was deemed a non-issue and the refurbishment should continue as originally proposed.

And, perhaps most significantly, new bluestone paving along the promenade; there is only a splash of new bluestone at the revamped Hamer Hall end and near Evan Walker Bridge.


However, at the Southbank FMC meeting last month I raised the issue of the bluestone paving and the Lord Mayor conceded the council media release announcing the completion of stage one was a “misstatement” and agreed the paving hadn’t been completed along the length of the promenade.


While I was relieved this had finally been realised, I was gob-smacked that such an oversight could have been conveyed in their community messaging considering the number of hands/departments public statements need to pass through before they are released.

I couldn’t help but feel this highlighted that many of the council officers were out of touch with what was actually happening on the ground with their projects and merely assumed the promulgated plans were actually delivered – far from it in this case.

In the community pedestrian and road safety survey run by council earlier this year a significant area of concern, with many comments, was the promenade. A key component of the refurbishment promulgated by council was the opportunity to address these well-known safety concerns. Widening the promenade at Hamer Hall by four metres certainly doesn’t address this. In fact, by offering more space it will potentially only exacerbate it. The solutions proposed by council have thus far not been incorporated or discussed further.

According to council, the remaining stages up to and including Queensbridge Square are postponed until the completion of the proposed Southgate development. I am at a loss to understand the impacts the Southgate development will have on the promenade from Evan Walker Bridge to Queensbridge Square. It is quite some distance from Southgate.

At this stage there is no confirmed Southgate development start date, so what happens if it never starts? How long do we need to wait for the upgrade of the promenade?

The promenade is tired and out-dated. Compared to the waterfronts of other major cities, Melbourne is left behind. Yet this is a high tourist area, probably the busiest in the city, and it is left looking shoddy and poorly maintained. The ouncil needs to keep to what they proposed and get on with upgrading and maintaining this important part of our community.

The SRA committee would like to wish our entire community a very happy festive season and we look forward to engaging with you in 2024 which will be a big and exciting year for us as we create a new milestone with the launch of our community app. •

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