After Docklands: – where to next?

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While CEO of Committee for Melbourne, we promoted the view that Fisherman’s Bend district of Melbourne should become a new residential area. The following article was first published in The Age in 2010, with a  change in Government Policy along the lines outlined soon following.

After Docklands: – where to next? What is the next big ‘Vision’.

In recent debates many people have argued that Melbourne will have a larger population. These discussions have become bogged down in a debate about numbers. The truth is that the number isn’t the debate nor is the time frame. The debate is about the Vision.
The Committee for Melbourne believes that one day Melbourne will have eight million inhabitants and that Melbourne could be a better place, or a worse place, as a result of the growth – depending on how well that increased population is planned.
We estimate  that the eight million mark will be passed around 2060, as 50 years ago our population was around half that of now, and fifty years from now it should be around double. Changes in population policy may bring the date forward a bit, or set it back a bit so arguing an exact date is fruitless. Regardless of the exact time, one day in our children’s life time, the eight million mark will be reached.
When it is, how will our city look?

See below video fora  presentation on Melbourne’s density
Many issues will need to be planned and resolved if Melbourne at eight million is to maintain its status as one of the World’s Most Liveable Cities. We will need a vision for our future, much as Hoddle had a vision when he planned the CBD grid. Our vision will need to be equally as broad ranged as Hoddle’s.
One of the many questions that we face in visioning Melbourne is: Where will all these people live?
Many people have a view on Docklands, some positive and some negative, but does the Docklands development provide us some lessons in determining how we plan, and where we plan, future growth?
Take Fisherman’s Bend for example. Surely we could extend Docklands all through there?
Fisherman’s Bend, the area separating the south bank of the Yarra from Port Melbourne is, when looking only at the map, ideally placed for residential development. Tell me Web Dock would not be a great place to live, surrounded on three sides by water?
Currently it is a giant car park.
Closer to the CBD than St. Kilda, potentially more accessible than Footscray, surrounded by great suburban locations, yet Fisherman’s Bend is made up of light industrial lands.
There are reasons for this. Some industries went in back in the days when Fisherman’s Bend was to be Melbourne’s airport. Some industry is there to service the Port. Some industry is there as the Garden City area of Port Melbourne, where I did a paper round as a kid, was envisaged as a cheap dormitory area for the industrial workers. Now the prices have gone up and many of those working in Fisherman’s Bend have long commutes.
The vision of close housing and work no longer applies, due to changes in area based demographics.
However, major decisions need to be made before Fisherman’s Bend could be a great new Docklands.
Where would the Industry such as Holden go? How could we cost effectively move the different industries and employers without risking jobs and production? How would we clean up the contaminated land and who would pay for it? Where would you put the Port?
Clearly, if we take a short and a medium term vision, say five to 20 years, the cost effectiveness of a conversion of Fisherman’s Bend would not stack up. We would leave it as an industrial area and try to find other interim solutions for a growing population.
But what of the longer term vision? What of Melbourne at eight million?
When planning a major city, or the significant growth of a major city, a long term comprehensive vision is surely more likely to lead to a better city, than short term ad-hoc responses, or medium term incremental changes.
We do not argue that Fisherman’s Bend could provide the entire solution, or only solution, to a growing Melbourne. Nor does the Committee for Melbourne put forward the view that Fisherman’s Bend must become residential.
Our point is more subtle than that. Our point is that many other growth options open up, many other solutions can be found, when a long term visionary approach is taken to planning Melbourne. Short and medium term plans don’t give us exciting options for moving forward, geographically, economically, culturally and socially.
In a series of Shaping Melbourne Reports, the Committee for Melbourne this year will engage the community to look more at Density, Infrastructure , Community and Governance and will ask us all to look at the vision.
Above all our series of reports will call upon all of us Melbournians to engage in that ‘Vision thing’. If we get the vision right, we get the city right. If we don’t get the vision right then we get whatever just happens to come to pass.

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