The Montague Precinct at Fishermans Bend

Fishermans Bend is Victoria’s massive new development adjacent to the CBD, with a scale to rival Docklands next door and Barangaroo in Sydney. But in contrast to the competitive green agendas of these precincts the Victorian government has sidelined sustainability and almost invited developers to do what they please. The local council – City of Port Philip – has been silenced, height limits, community space and affordable housing quotas have fallen off the agenda. The Green Building Council says the government has missed an opportunity. But the reality could be far worse.

The final master plan and design guidelines for the Fishermans Bend urban renewal area was released by Victorian Planning Minister Matthew Guy this week.

The government expects the area, which links the CBD to Port Phillip Bay, will be home to at least 80,000 residents and support 40,000 jobs.

Most of the area comprises low-rise industrial and commercial buildings, with only 800 current full-time residents. Bordered by the Yarra River and Westgate Freeway to the north and interfacing with Southbank to the east, the western and southern areas lie adjacent to low and medium rise residential and commercial areas of South Melbourne and Port Melbourne.

“Development of Fishermans Bend is a 40-year project but I have approved a limited number of permit applications that will allow some construction to start in the near future,” Mr Guy said.

“Fishermans Bend will be served by excellent transport links, serviced by cycling and pedestrian links, roads, trams and rail via the new Melbourne Rail Link. The new rail link will include a new underground station at Montague precinct, which will provide a high volume of peak services early in the development of the area.

Three projects have approval to start and and many more, with towers that range from 20 to 54 storeys submitted for planning approval.

Port Phillip sustainability goals watered down

Austpac’s proposed Montague Street development currently before the Minister.

Ninety per cent of the 250-hectare area falls within the City of Port Phillip, which had drawn up draft design guidelines for development that mandated surpassing the building code in relation to sustainability.

Measures the council proposed include a preference for cogeneration, solar power and grey water recycling; a requirement all developments of more than 20 dwellings to utilise rooftop space for gardens or recreation areas; and a guideline that minimises car park provision to 0.5 spaces per two-bedroom dwelling and generally none for one-bedroom dwellings, while increasing the amount of bicycle parking.

But as the project is now designated Capital City Zone and subject to planning approval at a state government level by the Metropolitan Planning Authority, the City of Port Phillip no longer has any power to ensure its preferences are adhered to.

Whatever you like fellas

Under the state government’s new Fishermans Bend Urban Redevelopment Authority design guidelines, sustainability aspects beyond the bare minimum required under the Building Code are “encouraged”, rather than required, and the guidelines also clearly state at the outset that “prescriptive” measures will be avoided.

This includes variance on building heights, with the new plan opening the skies to the very high rise buildings across about two-thirds of the area.

Targets set by the council around affordable housing have also been converted from firm goals into optional outcomes, and the model council proposed of using developer contributions to support financing of affordable housing has been abandoned.

City of Port Phillip Mayor Amanda Stevens said she was pleased that the councils’ proposal for lower building heights around sensitive areas had been retained and that the council would be able to make decisions on these areas.

However, she expressed disappointment the Fishermans Bend Strategic Framework Plan did not include key measures the City of Port Phillip regarded as fundamental to the local community, including a maximum height in the Montague Precinct of 18 storeys. The state government had also not endorsed the city’s proposal for funding certainty on the purchase of open space and early delivery of community infrastructure; nor on the targets it had set for affordable housing and sustainability.

Ms Stevens said the development presented opportunities and challenges, and the council would continue to advocate on behalf of the community and the future Fishermans Bend community.

The design by Rothelowman for a tower on Thistlethwaite Street.

The Green Building Council of Australia called on the Victorian State Government to grasp the opportunity to enshrine best-practice sustainability in the planning framework for Fishermans bend.

“How we plan, design and build a precinct of this size – one that will double the size of central Melbourne – will have an enormous impact on more than the Victorian economy. It will also have an enormous impact on the environment and on people’s lives, health and wellbeing,” GBCA’s chief operating officer Robin Mellon said.

“Other significant urban renewal projects around Australia such as Barangaroo South and the Parramatta Square in Sydney, Caloundra South and Ecco Ripley in Queensland, Bowden and Tonsley in Adelaide, and Alkimos Beach and Waterbank in Perth, not to mention the University of Melbourne’s Parkland Campus in Melbourne, are applying the Green Star – Communities rating tool to ensure they meet best practice benchmarks for governance, design, environment, liveability, financial prosperity and innovation.

“Meeting these benchmarks does not need to cost more, but will deliver massive long-term benefits. How will the people of Victoria know that their community – one that will one day be home to 80,000 residents – meets Australian benchmarks for sustainability, leadership, transparency and efficiency?

“The Victorian government has the opportunity to lead the way in setting world-leading social, economic and environmental benchmarks at Fishermans Bend – it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that we cannot afford to waste.”

Ms Stevens said, “Council will hold this and future governments to account for the high aspirations we have for Fishermans Bend. We want this to be a liveable, lively place where our community will have access right from the beginning to schools, open space and job-creating public transport.

“We are very serious about making sure we have the best practice urban renewal in the world and have put considerable resources towards that goal.”

In June of this year, the council recommended rejection of six of the planning applications for towers currently before the planning minister as they exceeded height guidelines. The government is expected to determine these applications soon, now the plan has been released.

At the time the final content of the SFP was unknown, so thecouncil considered the seven applications against the Draft Vision and hoped its comments would be considered as part of the minister’s evaluation process.

Ms Stevens said the council remained firmly committed to its “top 10” non-negotiable success factors for Fishermans Bend.

Council’s “top 10 ” non-negotiable success factors for Fishermans Bend are:

  1. A Fantastic Public Domain – Vibrant living streets, quality open space, active building frontages with a human scale. A distinctive place with character and soul.
  2. Sustainability Goals & Target – Delivering ‘best practice’ environmentally sustainable urban development.
  3. Affordable Housing Targets – Development incentives (DCP exemption) to deliver community diversity.
  4. Our Heritage – Protection of our wonderful heritage buildings and artefacts.
  5. New Commercial Development and Jobs –Planning incentives to encourage new commercial development and jobs located close to the proposed metro station and key tram stops, with a focus on retaining and growing our creative industries.
  6. Sensitive Interfaces – Height limits around sensitive residential interfaces, key public open spaces and special character areas.
  7. Quality Design – A focus on high quality design built-form outcomes with the establishment of a design review panel, comprising the Metropolitan Planning Authority, the Office of the Victorian Government Architect, City of Port Phillip and City of Melbourne, to assess all applications against the Fishermans Bend Design Guidelines.
  8. City of Port Phillip is the Responsible Authority – Responsible Authority status for the City of Port Phillip for all developments up to 25,000 square metres.
  9. Development Contributions –Signed DCP Agreements to pay for all community infrastructure and open space.
  10. Funded Infrastructure Commitments for the early roll-out of essential community facilities, open space and public transport services over the next five years (2014-2018), including:
  • A new park in Montague
  • Education, community and health facilities in Montague
  • A dedicated separated strategic cycling corridor – Bay Street to Southern Cross station via Buckhurst Street
  • A new park in Sandridge
  • The Collins Street tram extended from Docklands into a civic spine in Plummer Street – a new central city boulevard for Melbourne

One reply on “Fishermans Bend – state government takes sustainability off the agenda”

  1. Austpac website lists this venture as a ‘future’ and ‘completed’ project and not ‘current’. It’s really at planning stage – a bit scary, just like the presentation images!……’evolution of a sustainable and energised living, working and planning precinct of world class standard’. Gree(n)d indeed!. Business as usual in Vic.?

    Where’s the reward for the collective efforts in transforming the
    built environment in Melbourne to a sustainable and certifiable standard when measured against this latest ad-hoc approach?.

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