Fishermans Bend: Australia's largest urban renewal project

Please note: Images in this article were taken before current COVID-19 safety measures were in place.

About 80,000 jobs and 80,000 homes are targeted to be created by 2050 at Fishermans Bend.

Did you know Australia's largest urban renewal project is taking shape right on the doorstep of Melbourne’s central business district? It’s called Fishermans Bend and it’s a name you’ll be hearing a lot more of in the coming years.  

But for starters, where exactly is it?  

Meredith Sussex portrait shot"When you’re driving from Geelong over the West Gate Bridge, Fishermans Bend is 485 hectares of mostly industrial land to the left and right of the bridge – between one and five kilometres from the central business district and extending close to Port Phillip Bay," says Meredith Sussex AM, who chairs the Fishermans Bend Development Board.  

Meredith and the Board are guiding planning and development of this landmark project with additional support from the Fishermans Bend Taskforce, made up of members from the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions, the City of Melbourne, and the City of Port Phillip.

"That level of land use reshaping – 485 hectares – isn’t available in many cities around the world, so Fishermans Bend is a huge opportunity for Melbourne, and indeed, Australia."

While the land has historically been used as a thriving industrial hub – home to Boeing, General Motors Holden, Siemens, Bega and Toyota, for instance – there are even more ambitious plans to enable the area to accommodate our future population growth over the next three decades in what’s being called Melbourne’s ‘fourth industrial revolution’.  

Focusing on jobs and innovation for all levels of society (we’re talking start-ups, established high-value businesses, researchers and service providers), Fishermans Bend plans to keep Melbourne globally competitive in innovation in this age of digital change.  

"The reason Fishermans Bend is so exciting," says Meredith, "is that it’s planning to deliver 80,000 jobs – significantly in design, engineering and manufacturing – and to create housing for 80,000 residents (including six per cent affordable housing for new developments) by 2050."

The precinct’s industrial roots will still be honoured, though. "There’s history with the Vegemite, Holden, Unilever and Coca-Cola factories – manufacturing’s in the DNA of Fishermans Bend,” Meredith enthuses. “It’s a really proud heritage and one we want to retain."

Co-location amongst world industry leaders in design, engineering and technology will enable seamless, intellectual collaboration between students, academics and industry practitionersBeyond the industrial framework, the precinct aims to provide a community hospital, four primary schools, a public secondary school and multi-purpose health, arts, sports and community hubs. Parks and shops will be a 10-minute walk away and public transport will be within 400 metres of dwellings and workplaces. Also, in 2023, the University of Melbourne’s billion-dollar engineering campus will open, too.  

All in all, the precinct is something of a global game changer, according to Meredith. "I don’t think there are other places that have successfully redeveloped an area predominantly privately owned. Fishermans Bend, which has about 320 private owners, is a model where you can build a quality urban environment that’s sustainable, mixed-use and walkable. That’s one of the things other cities around the world are most interested in."

Where the precinct also punches above its weight is in its sustainability focus. Setting the national gold standard for sustainable urban renewal, by 2050 it aims to have zero net greenhouse gas emissions and will be home to a world leading water recycling plant, which will keep drinking water costs down, aiming to future-proof water supply to support landscaping in the precinct.

That’s particularly important as Fishermans Bend is on a peninsula and has been subject to flooding in the past, given its proximity to the Yarra River and Port Phillip Bay. "The water table is quite high in the area, so we needed to plan for that, and for the impact of climate change," Meredith notes.  

Find out more on the Fishermans Bend website.