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Who's driving the Fishermans Bend bus beyond the upcoming election?

The headline for this article references a comment by a planning aficionado last week along the lines of many people are entitled to, and do have their say, but at the end of the day "there still needs to be a bus driver." This was in reference to the malaise of municipal councils north of the Murray and the friction generated from those councils not necessarily heading in a common direction, or advancing their agendas without an overarching plan and/or vision that a body such as a State Government would provide.

Different context yes, but the rumblings of late surrounding Fishermans Bend leads me to draw some parallels with what is occurring north of the border.

As many readers are aware Fishermans Bend reached a critical juncture last week when it was announced that a handful of the dozens of towers slated for the precinct gained approval. Notable in that these towers are the first large-scale developments given a green light for the Urban Renewal Area, whereas previous approvals were of a low-rise nature.

Encircling the raft of approvals was an almost pall of commentary, bemoaning all things Fishermans Bend. Examples include:

Add to this the questionable assertions as outlined in this article entitled "A tall order as Melbourne City Council seeks to reclaim skyscraper approval powers." Current Planning Minister Matthew Guy is derided for approving too many planning applications as if he in some way is responsible for instigating the mass of current applications; last time I checked developers lodge planning applications where and when they see fit.

The metaphorical Fishermans Bend bus in the eyes of some. Image courtesy Time

So it seems all and sundry are lining up to slag Fishermans Bend prior to the commencement of works, with a multitude of opinions thrown into the public sphere. There's nothing wrong with that of course but one of the critical questions has already been answered by Labor leader Daniel Andrews should Labor triumph in the upcoming State election.

Whilst displeased with certain aspects of the Fishermans Bend planning process to date, Labor "will not ditch the master plan if it wins office." Having been ardent critics to date, Daniel Andrews' comment suggests that Labor also at a State level understands the vital nature of Fishermans Bend, particularly as an economic driver into the future.

It also gives the impression that someone will be 'driving the Fishermans Bend bus' post election, regardless of who wins.

So big picture thinking seemingly assured, what is the pertinent criticism of Fishermans Bend that puts other mediocre arguments surrounding the precinct to shame? The Urban Renewal Area absolutely needs a coherent and cohesive structure plan beyond what has already been put forward.

I consider tower height near on obsolete in the current Fishermans Bend argument; whether a tower is 20 or 40 levels is to my way of thinking near inconsequential compared to what occurs at street level which is absolutely paramount. Consider Southbank and Docklands whose common failings revolve around what occurs (or more accurately what doesn't occur) at street level. Tall or short buildings aside, if the public realm doesn't work it's almost inconceivable that anything else will.

Post election the party of the day needs to place Fishermans Bend's transport and public realm considerations at the fore. Provide clarity as to the location of light and heavy rail options, implement an area-wide ground level landscape plan, nominate specific sites for what will become necessary community infrastructure and ensure the street level activation of all buildings for the area. Granted much of this has been done to a degree, but half-arsed attempts lead to poor outcomes.

It's about getting the fundamentals right, and getting them right sooner rather than later (hello Docklands!)

Regardless of who wins the upcoming election, Fishermans Bend's structure plan, transport blueprint and urban principles need to be enshrined prior to works commencing. Is this a case of easier said than done? Once the Urban Renewal Area stops being used as a political football, I think not.

4 comments

Riccardo's picture

Everything is a political football...but the teams only play because a crowd keeps turning up to watch.

Australians are fundamentally at fault for the poor quality of their politics.

We expect Andrews to 'have something to say' about Fishermans Bend...why?

Would it not be sufficient for him to say 'I stand by my party's platform on relevant matters, and any other policies will have to wait until I am in a position as premier to receive professional briefings and advice from the bureaucracy"

But no, gotta have some gotcha moments. Gotta stir up some opposition about something.

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Mark Baljak's picture

Not sure what to take from your comments?

This is a massive project with huge implications for Melbourne, let alone the 80,000 future inhabitants.

The job of Opposition is to outline its stance on key platforms prior to an election - that's how it works. To say nothing isn't really an option.

By your theory no opinions should be offered on any topic - no crowd, no game?

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johnproctor's picture

That's his entire point.

Andrews can say something on the back of advice from his planning. Shadow. Insisted and 1-2 advisors in that office height probably have no planning expertise. Or he can wait till in power and have the advice of 1000+ staff in the department, places victoria etc to give advice and also the funds of the treasury to pay for independent advice if he so wants it.

Instead we demand fully formed policies today and get baillieus Doncaster, Rowville, airport, Avalon rail links policy which was doomed before announced (they thought at least one would be a cheap and cheerful economic success) similarly we'll be burdened with labors 50 level crossing removals many of which are not he highest priorities but will be hideously expensive given the local site cinstraints. Better to have announced "50 removed. Detail to be agreed with the full information of vicroads, ptv, and dtpli."

In same way "support redevelopment at fish bend, need tosee the numbers from council, mpa, pv, dtpli, for each individual precinct before committing to specific heights, types etc."

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Riccardo's picture

Thanks jpro. Mark's belief in the political class is naive, and if after 150 years of very poor outcomes from party politics you expect them to change, your foolish. The trend, especially under St Kevin the Good, was to depoliticise everything and to devalue the role of politicians. Julia knifed him at the cowering vanguard of a political class who wanted their jobs back after Kev told them they were unworthy.

I don,t expect Andrews to say something about Fisherman's bend. If he wanted to say 'I do not support it at all, nothing related to it will go ahead under my government' he would be foolish, but at least clear and possibly honest. Otherwise he should refer all enquiries to his party's published policies.

To ask for any more detail than that from him, or from Guy in caretaker mode, without the assistance of the professional bureaucracy, is to set both of them up to fail us in their duties.

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