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5,000 new plants in Docklands

On 23 July, Lord Mayor Sally Capp opened an ambitious urban greening project on the Marvel Stadium concourse in Docklands.

Damp in Docklands. Lord Mayor Sally Capp opens the Victoria Point landscaping project

Bili Nursery in Williamstown Rd, Port Melbourne grew the 5,000 locally indigenous plants in the curved beds designed by ASPECT Studios.

Landscapers DBG relished tackling the many challenges in constructing the large planter beds. Waterproof sealing of the underground carpark needed to be renewed. Sufficient soil depth was required for the trees to thrive. The weight, and distribution of it, had to be carefully calibrated to the load bearing capacity of the carpark roof.

The impetus and drive for the project came from Dr Janette Corcoran, chair of the Victoria Point Owners’ Corporation. They secured $500k in funding from the City of Melbourne Urban Forest Fund as well as contributions from Development Victoria for the $1.2m project.

Docklands Stadium opened on 9 March 2000 with a game between Essendon and Port Adelaide. Michael Long kicked the first goal. The stadium preceded all residential development. Its purpose was to kick start development in Docklands. The stadium was designed by a Populous joint venture – Bligh Lobb Sports Architecture and Daryl Jackson Pty Ltd. The project centred on creating a flexible, multi-purpose venue with a retractable roof.

The site for a stadium image: Marvel Stadium

The concourse, the public realm, received less attention.

The concourse is bleak. Hot in summer, cold in winter, windy in all seasons. Women feel unsafe there, as identified in a Women’s Safety Walk conducted in 2018, and their experience has fed into the design. The City of Melbourne has identified the concourse as hot spot in heat mapping of the city. During COVID many of the small shops facing onto the concourse closed. The planted olive bed was neglected and weedy.

In July 2023, our preoccupations are different. July is anticipated to be the hottest month in earth’s history. Prolonged extreme heat and wildfires in Northern Europe and the US confront us with the reality of climate change. We face our own coming summer season with apprehension and foreboding.

Cooling the city with plants is not just a ‘nice to have’. Anticipating the hotter climate, the City of Melbourne has appointed Heat Officers Krista Milne and Tiffany Crawford whose role is to prepare for extreme heat in collaboration with others.

Appropriately, The Kick, the statue of Carlton’s Tayla Harris has found a permanent home here.

Tayla Harris experienced appalling online trolling following the publication of Michael Willson’s photograph of her kick on goal in the match between the Western Bulldogs in the 2019 season. She responded with the strength, courage and leadership that is symbolised in the sculpture by Terrance Plowright. Its powerful presence will be a focal point in the precinct.

In the words of historian Clare Wright OAM “Who we put on a pedestal matters …  We know statues symbolise power.  That’s why we deface them and pull them down.

The power to take up space.

The power to leave a permanent record of achievement and enterprise”.1

The Kick will be formally re-launched in its new permanent home at the end of the AFLW season.

Tayla Harris is at home outside Marvel Stadium

Lord Mayor Sally Capp found it easy to speak warmly about the Victoria Point podium project since it ‘ticked all the boxes’: cooling the concourse, creating a safer environment, offering a front yard for the residents of Victoria Point and providing welcome seating.

Since the Owners’ Corporation initiated the project, and have seen the complex project through to completion, they will keep an eye on it, for sure! The plants will need the support of the watering system and ongoing care in that harsh environment but already a magpie lark was scratching around.

The project adds to the network of biodiversity patches in Docklands which has often been criticised for its lack of green space.

1 Clare Wright OAM’s speech at the opening of the statue of Zelda d’Aprano. Clare Wright is Professor of History and Professor of Public Engagement at La Trobe University.

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