Fishermans Bend

Imagine an inner urban precinct that reconnects productivity with people and the environment.

Located less than three kilometres from Melbourne’s CBD, the proposed renewal of the Fishermans Bend precinct has to be one of the most exciting development projects in Australian history.

The Victorian Government has outlined a Draft Vision for the redevelopment of four key precinct areas – Montague, Sandridge, Lorimer and Wirraway – as an extension of Melbourne’s CBD to the southwest. The vision for the proposed redevelopment layouts a blueprint for the conversion of low intensity industrial land into a thriving network of inner urban villages between the CBD and the bay over the next 30 to 50 years.

To put it in perspective the renewal of 250 hectares in Fishermans Bend makes the redevelopment of other key Melbourne precincts such as E-Gate, the Docklands and Southbank seem small by comparison. It will also dwarf the 22-hectare redevelopment of Sydney’s iconic Barangaroo Precinct.

The plan, linked to the proposed Metro Plan for Greater Melbourne, has identified environmental sustainability as a key component for the renewal of the precinct. Unfortunately the state government’s ambition is to only redevelop about half of the existing industrial and commercial area.

The key driver for the project is to help stimulate economic growth for the Victorian economy, while enhancing Melbourne’s status as the most liveable city in the world. By 2050 it is expected to provide accommodation for over 80,000 people and up to 40,000 new jobs.

But are we missing a trick by not incorporating the existing industrial precinct located to the north of the West Gate Freeway as part of the master-planning process?

A working group, put together by the Australian Conservation Foundation, has plans that are bigger than the four key precincts proposed for renewal. The working group, which consists of key landowners and tenants, leading manufacturing companies, representatives from both the City of Port Phillip and the City of Melbourne, as well as experts from Co-Design Studio and BioRegional Australia, believes that an integrated approach to the whole of the Fishermans Bend Precinct is required.

The vision created by the group applies the principles of One Planet Living – a global initiative based on the concept of thriving regional economies where most needs are met from local, renewable and waste resources, enabling people to live a high quality of life using minimal amounts of the earth’s resources. In this crucial planning phase, now is the perfect time to re-envisage Fishermans Bend as a working industrial area that reconnects productivity with people and the environment.

The Property Council identified key concerns in their response to the state governments Draft Vision. Acting on behalf of their members the PCA identified a range of key issues that should be addressed and identified a few recommendations – these included:

  • revise the design guidelines to allow more flexibility to accommodate greater opportunity for innovation
  • develop an employment creation strategy that will attract investment to the precinct
  • research the potential of implementing cluster strategies to attract innovative industries to the area
  • research the viability of precinct-wide sustainability initiatives
  • establish sustainable stakeholder partnerships to deliver sustainability outcomes more effectively

The team at the ACF has started conversations with some of Australia’s leading manufacturing companies, whose operations lie within the Fishermans Bend precinct, about applying the concept of industrial ecology to their operations.

The concept looks at how consumption cycles between compatible businesses can be efficiently integrated to minimise waste and maximise productivity – one company’s waste becomes another company’s product.

Imagine a closed loop system, similar to that envisioned by the team that came up with Z-Squared in London, that draws upon the ambitious environmental commitments of the Port of Melbourne, Boeing and News Corp, and redefines the way they do business so they can better mimic natural ecological systems.

Interface carpeting nicely illustrates the effective implementation of industrial ecology processes. As a leading manufacturer of modular carpets they saw a dramatic increase in financial return while tackling their environmental footprint. Since the 1990s, while increasing its production, the company cut waste to landfill by two-thirds, reduced energy use by half and water intake by 71 per cent.

Scale these results up to an entire industrial site and suddenly Melbourne could have the world’s first “future industry precinct”, right on the doorstep of the CBD. By retrofitting existing buildings and spaces and incorporating a number of eco-initiatives, such as green roofs, permeable pavements and solar heating, we could begin to see rapidly improved outcomes for environmental, financial and human wellbeing.

Fail to take up the opportunity and we may well find ourselves being left behind, not only losing Melbourne’s status as the world’s most liveable city, but seeing a direct impact on productivity and our ability to attract investment to the state.

Landmark projects around the world are already expanding the envelope of possibilities for technology, and design for sustainability and human wellbeing. Masdar City has highlighted the benefits of combining world leading research and development (through the Masdar University and its Renewables Institute – a clean cluster approach), with links to companies that convert these breakthroughs into commercially viable products, while being located in close proximity to one of the most sustainable urban places to live in the world.

Victoria has the knowledge, the technology and the experience to be a world leader in the future of industrial development with the Fishermans Bend precinct. If the opportunity eventuates this project could provide a prototype for sustainable urban living throughout the world, help attract investment to the state of Victoria and enhance Melbourne’s reputation as one of the world’s most liveable cities.

Ed Cotter is head of BioRegional Australia, an organisation tasked with establishing the One Planet Living framework and program throughout Australia.

This article originally appeared on the BioRegional Australia site.