The Victorian government has released a draft framework for what is to become Australia’s largest urban renewal project, Fishermans Bend.

Covering approximately 480 hectares of central Melbourne – more than twice the size of the current Melbourne CBD – Fishermans Bend will consist of five precincts across two existing municipalities: the City of Melbourne and the City of Port Philip. In addition to providing a gateway between Melbourne CBD and the bay, Fishermans Bend is expected to accommodate up to 80,000 residents by 2050.

The draft framework released this week by the Victorian government places sustainability, open space and pedestrian amenity at its core. A walk score of 90 is being targeted for all residential developments in the area, and transport infrastructure proposals demonstrate a strong focus on cycleways.

“This government has worked hard to reorientate the trajectory of Fishermans Bend to ensure it is sustainable, liveable, well-planned and well-executed,” says Victorian planning minister, Richard Wynne.

“If we do it right, we can make Fishermans Bend a global benchmark for smart, sustainable development and integrated communities where people both live and work.”

The Fishermans Bend area started as a tidal estuary, following the flooding of Port Phillip Bay from sea level rise. Historically, the area provided an important habitat for plant life and animals, supported by the Indigenous population. From the 1840s, however, a series of “noxious” industries set up shop in the area, including abattoirs, fell mongers, chemical works, soap and candle makers. By the 1990s, Fishermans Bend had become a “light industrial district, with the aircraft factories shifting to international commercial projects, old noxious trades eradicated, and modern new plants such as Boeing and the Herald Sun printing works added”.

Currently, Fishermans Bend is the site of much residual low-density industrial and warehouse stock. The draft framework outlines the government’s plan to transform the area into a network of mixed-use, medium- and high-density neighbourhoods over the coming decades. This will be conducted across the five “precincts” of Fishermans Bend: Montague, Lorimer, Sandridge, Wirraway, and the jobs-focused Employment Precinct.

Despite an extensive re-characterisation of the area, the draft framework outlines how this will be done with “positive support for the retention of existing character to inform place and identity”, pointing out the “desire for local history to be recognised and carried forward”.

Eight sustainability goals have been outlined in the framework, created in correspondence with the Green Star – Communities approach. These goals have been broadly identified as:

  • A connected and liveable community
  • A prosperous community
  • An inclusive and healthy community
  • A climate adept community
  • A water sensitive community
  • A bio-diverse community
  • A low-carbon community
  • A low-waste community

Flooding, land and groundwater contamination, and geotechnical conditions have all been identified as environmental challenges faced by the Fishermans Bend urban renewal project. According to the government framework, the goal is to transform the district into “a benchmark for sustainable and resilient urban transformation... [The site] is planned to be Australia’s largest urban renewal Green Star – Community.

“New and improved connections will link Fishermans Bend to the CBD and Melbourne’s transport network, and leverage its strategic location between Port Philip Bay, the Yarra River and the CBD. It will boast unprecedented levels of walking, cycling and public transport connectivity that will set a new benchmark for Melbourne.

“Heritage and culture will be celebrated and are integral to generating a collection of diverse, mixed-use places. Fishermans Bend will provide high-quality open space, community services, schools, medical facilities, as well as retail, cultural and entertainment options to build on Melbourne’s acclaimed liveability.”

Over the next two months, the Victorian government will be hosting a series of public consultations. Feedback is also being sought on the Draft Fishermans Bend Framework, which can be accessed here.