Albert Park: Finding Fishermans Bend

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Albert Park: Finding Fishermans Bend

Albert Park real estate agent Michael Taylor specialises in Fishermans Bend precinct Photo Credit: Yavuz Yilmazoglu

Albert Park real estate agent Michael Taylor specialises in Fishermans Bend precinct Photo Credit: Yavuz Yilmazoglu

Albert Park real estate agent Michael Taylor specialises in Fishermans Bend precinct Photo Credit: Yavuz Yilmazoglu

Albert Park real estate agent Michael Taylor specialises in Fishermans Bend precinct Photo Credit: Yavuz Yilmazoglu

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An old woman opens the sliding door of the Fishermans Bend Community Centre. Circus music plays in the background and in the distance a few elderly couples dance in the main hall.

“Are you here for the event?” she asks.

I explain the purpose of my visit, to gather some insights from the local residents about the developments in the Fishermans Bend precinct. “We are not from here,” she says. “We hire the place but we come from South Melbourne.”

“There is no one here who would know the developments. The shopkeepers opposite the centre may help.”

I want to find answers because Fishermans Bend has become Australia’s biggest urban renewal project. It is expected to host 80,000 residents and to provide 80,000 jobs. It will expand Melbourne’s CBD by 4.8 square km.

Despite its importance, it is still relatively unknown by most Melbournians although it is likely to be a major election issue in the local electorate of Albert Park.

It takes a long time to walk to Fishermans Bend from one of Melbourne’s most popular precincts, South Melbourne. After a 45-minute walk going past the Garden City Reserve, you reach the Fishermans Community Centre where there are a few shops, cafes and a post office.

When I walk into Australia Post branch right opposite the community centre and introduce myself, the gentleman, in his 60s, behind the counter didn’t seem happy to talk “I don’t live here,” he says. He pointed towards the South, “The developments are down there.”

I preferred to get there on foot to capture some good photos along the way. But, there were mostly lorries heading to West Gate Bridge and the cars along Todd Road through to Lorimer Street.

In February this year, 26 projects have been put on hold and the recent government announcement mobilised the developers. Those projects will be re-assessed by an independent commission in accordance with the new rules and regulations. 

It doesn’t seem that the news has affected this community, yet. But it will, eventually.

Martin Foley, the Minister for Housing in the Andrews Government and holds the seat of Albert Park.  Foley slams the Opposition Leader Matthew Guy for the rushed planning of Fishermans Bend in the former Liberal government. 

“If we go back to 2012 when Matthew Guy without the consultation, as then, the Minister for Planning rezoned entire area,” Foley says.

“With no planning, with no overlays for public transport or for public open space, for schools for amenity issues for a kind of infrastructure that you need to build communities.”

Michael Taylor is an Albert Park real estate agent and he is specialised in Fishermans Bend. He has a huge map of the precinct in his office. Taylor is confident that the new announcement will boost investment in the area “It is right beside today’s Melbourne CBD and soon will be part of it.” Taylor says. “It won’t fail”

Foley emphasises the importance of the precinct to Melbourne. “We committed to fix it in a way that would sustain the project for the future.

“In the way that Matthew Guy is incapable of doing.

“We consulted widely with local government, with the community, with the community sector, with the existing businesses and with developers,” Foley says.

“One of the key components of that was the minister for planning having set in place an interim planning framework to fix up the mess.”

the separate precincts within Fishermans Bend. Photo: The Fishermans Bend Framework

Fishermans Bend compromises five linked precincts; Montague, Lorimer, Sandridge, Wirraway are the names of the local areas and the fifth is called the Employment Precinct. The new framework replaces the old plans and introduces new controls on the density and height of buildings.

It also includes “Social Housing Uplift” controls, which enable developers to construct an additional eight dwellings for private sale for every social housing transferred to a registered housing association.

The social housing requests are expected to remain within the height regulations which create limitations as the new framework allows mainly low and mid-rise buildings in Fishermans Bend.

It is too soon to estimate how the developers of those 26 projects react to the Victorian government announcement. Martin Foley is firm about the proposed solution. “It is important to get it right now; so, we don’t have the kind of mess that Matthew Guy left for us.”

The Liberal candidate Andrew Bond tweeted that there wasn’t sufficient evidence for how the public transport would be resolved in Fishermans Bend in the new plans. According to Bond until the tram and train solutions are confirmed, the plan is “inconsequential”.

The Greens candidate to Albert Park, Ogy Simic, who said to a local paper in August that he was “unimpressed” with the way the state government has been operating the Fishermans Bend project, hasn’t made a public comment about the new plans.

My Fishermans Bend expedition ends by catching the Bus 237 to City on Lorimer Street. This huge, flat precinct will soon be packed with houses, shops, cafes and people from all walks of life in the future. It will remain to be a significant topic for Victoria in the upcoming elections and beyond.