Fisherman’s Bend – where exactly is that? The Mouth of the Yarra River? The junction with the Maribyrnong River? Webb Dock? South Bank? Well in reference to the area earmarked and approved for development it’s all of the above. It’s an area that covers 480 hectares (equal to the CBD district of Melbourne) and it will be the biggest single development in Melbourne ever. It is planned that over 80,000 people will live here with a further 80,000 employed and working in the new precinct. The plan is that the development of Fisherman’s Bend will link Melbourne’s CBD via the river and connect it to Port Phillip Bay.
For now the project is on hold. It would appear there is much to be done before any real construction and development begins. Please read this report from Architecture AU written by Patrick Hunn.
Tower timeout: 26 Fishermans Bend developments halted
The Victorian government has “called in” 26 live development applications for towers in Melbourne’s Fishermans Bend, which it says were inappropriately dense.
State planning minister Richard Wynne criticized the decision of his predecessor, former planning minister and current leader of the opposition Matthew Guy, to rezone the formerly industrial area adjacent to the CBD “overnight,” without a plan for development.
The former planning minister’s decision sparked a spate of high-rise development applications and led to soaring property prices, which meant the government was forced to buy back land at highly inflated prices for community infrastructure such as schools and parks.
“What Matthew Guy did at Fishermans Bend stinks,” he said. “We make no apology for putting a stop to this development free-for-all – we’ll get the planning right and give Victorian families a community they can be proud of.”
Albert Park MP Martin Foley said, “Matthew Guy’s planning mess left us with a soulless Fishermans Bend where unplanned high rises were let loose on the community, and the interests of local residents were ignored. We’re fixing that mess.”
The affected applications will be referred to an independent advisory committee and “won’t be approved unless they have the community’s interests at heart.”
Opposition planning spokesperson David Davis said, “We need the additional [residential] capacity and now [Victorian premier] Daniel Andrews is causing delay, confusion and uncertainty by this unprecedented announcement,” according to a report from the ABC.
The Australian Institute of Architects praised the government’s decision. Recently appointed Victorian chapter president Amy Muir said, “Fishermans Bend is a significant site that will shape and define our future as a city and as a growing community.
“The rezoning of Fishermans Bend prior to the implementation of planning controls or a holistic masterplan sets a dangerous precedent for providing imbalanced developments and ill-conceived built environments leading to long-term detrimental effects upon immediate and surrounding communities.”
She said a plan for the development of the area should not be rushed. “It is imperative that we have processes in place in order for the best design outcomes to be implemented.
“This is not about quick fix solutions but rather considered, holistic design solutions that acknowledge the significance and legacy of the project.”
In October 2017 the state government published its Fishermans Bend Draft Framework, which noted that parts of the area could have population densities of 1,300 people per hectare, and that the government should “introduce density and built form controls that support the creation of a clear centre in each precinct and support increased economic activity.”
The plan also projected that the area would be home to more than 80,000 people by 2050.
Muir said, “Moving forward we strongly support and recommend the engagement of a design review panel represented by the Australian Institute of Architects, the Planning Institute of Australia, the Urban Design Institute of Australia and the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects.
“The Institute supports a rigorous consultation process with experts in the field in order to provide balanced design advice from an urban planning, urban form and landscape perspective.
“We are very aware of the commercial endeavours that these projects hold. However we also understand that there needs to be a balance between commercial intent and the quality of the design outcome.”
On Twitter, Planning Institute of Australia (Victoria) president Laura Murray said, “If Fisherman’s Bend had been properly strategically planned in the first place, we would not be in this mess.
“I look forward to reading the outcomes of the upcoming panel report.”
The area has always been somewhat forgotten by Melburnians. Not surprising as to a large extent, the area was cut off from the rest of Melbourne. Reserved as Crown Land for decades after Emerald Hill, Port Melbourne and the town of Melbourne were developed, it was a watery, sandy, scrub ridden wasteland in the eyes of the British and European settlers.
Home to fishing communities living on the beach in shacks it provided the perfect location to develop extractive and ‘dirty’ industry at first then aircraft production and General Motors Holden all leading the way after World War II. Prior to World War II, Cement Works, soap factories, tanneries, abattoirs and the like filled the eastern end of the precinct. During the 1960s and early 1970s the old Fisherman’s Bend Airstrip (RAAF) was used as Melbourne’s first drag racing strip. Then with the building of the West Gate Bridge and the expansion of the facilities at Webb Dock, the area became a wasteland until the development (mainly via volunteers) of the Westgate Park added some civility to the area.
In 1839 an early settler wrote thus.
“The row up the Yarra I shall never forget. The Yarra’s waters were as clear as crystal, wild fowl rose in numbers from the river’s bends as the sounds of our oars disturbed them. Here and there the stream was overarched by the growth on either side.”
Fast forward to 2018. What is the vision for the future? According to the latest assessments, there has been little forward planning on transport, amenities such as schools and parks, and the massive relocation of huge numbers of people and industry to the area in a relatively short period. General Motors Holden has left the area except for a minor presence. As it stands Williamstown Road (named as it terminated at the river ferry depot) leads to a large empty space on the south side of the Westgate Bridge, earmarked for residential multi-storey apartments. To the east of the bridge heading back to the CBD along Lorimer St are disused docks, factories and vacant land.
The State Government has ‘called in’ 26 ‘live’ development high rise applications within the precinct, which it says are inappropriately dense.
Land prices have risen astronomically and the Government must pay a premium now for sites required for schools, parks and playgrounds.
In short, where is the ‘plan’? if this is to be the showpiece Melbourne’s Gateway deserves, it will require careful planning in architecture, public transport, recreational parkland and facilities, and infrastructure such as schools, community centres and sporting facilities.
Let’s take a breath – and create something superb – a vision for the future – perhaps that even considers that original settler’s first impressions. Is it possible? It is if we plan for it. What’s your opinion?