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Fishermans Bend Public Conversation – an account

A panel of industry experts made their pitch on a vision for Fishermans Bend to the audience in a highly interactive session held at Zinc in Federation Square on 30 June. It’s all part of the renewed commitment to engage with the wider Melbourne community on the future of Fishermans Bend. Planning Minister Wynne introduced the session and stayed to the end.

I was won over when the evening kicked off with some Fishermans Bend history trivia. Up There Cazaly revved up the audience.  The first poll question was to identify the smell  that wafted over the Fishermans Bend Migrant Hostel. If you want some Fishermans Bend smell conjuring, click here.

Each of the ten speakers crammed their life’s passion and expertise into their allocated five minutes. It led to the session having a speedy quality that left me feeling like I’d run for the tram.

Chris Riddell, futurist, opened the conversation. Fair enough. His pacy TED style presentation was dizzying with technological possibility. He imagined Fishermans Bend as an enabling place for entrepreneurs. He showed lots of slides of garages, the now familiar place incubators of Apple and Hewlett Packard. However, it was a kitchen rather than a garage that was the incubator for young entrepreneur of the year 2013, Sheryl Thai. Losing her job in IT during the GFC, she pursued her passion into cupcakes – founding Cupcake Central. She would like to see more co-working arrangements where entrepreneurs could support one another.

Karl Braganza from the Bureau of Meteorology provided the context of climate change flooding projections. They are available on the coastal risk website. This is a good reminder to check out that website if you haven’t already.

FB public conversation 2

A possibility for Fishermans Bend in 2050?

A few (of the very many) points raised by speakers:

  • the importance of dense, truly mixed use areas. A revealing slide showed the intensity of uses in the Hoddle Grid compared to their sparse distribution in Southbank and Docklands.  (Rob Adams: City of Melbourne)
  • the need for commercial and industrial land supply, and drawing on the history of manufacturing in the precinct. (Anneka Thompson: Colliers International)
  • ambitious targets for active transport  (which are achievable in that they have been achieved in other places) supported by a low speed environment  (Adjunct Professor John Stanley: University of Sydney)

The event included interactive twitter feeds on speakers questions which elicited the themes of greatest interest to those present who typically supported

  • mixed use and diverse built form
  • an integrated transport plan and delivery programme
  • infrastructure investment early on
  • best practice sustainability outcomes
  • new economy employment base as well as industry and commercial landuse – call from property sector as the CBD land supply is expect to run out within 15 years
  • need for early government regulation and funding models

Only Professor Michael Tudgeon from VEIL (Victorian Eco Innovation Lab) asked questions explicitly about what kind of society we want Fishermans Bend to be, and how the methods we choose to get there will contribute to, or undermine, that.  The focus on entrepreneurs, data, technology and individuals left me feeling a little uneasy. I wondered whether there might also be quiet, reflective places in Fishermans Bend. Urban nature was not among the highest priorities for the panelists.

All seemed potential, all possibility. But that possibility is in tension with a Port Melbourne resident’s observation that ‘For sale signs are popping up like daisies’ and that ‘while we talk, things are happening.’

People left stimulated, if not satisfied that the mechanisms for realising all this potential were in place.

The best part was the conversations that continued on tram journeys home.

Thanks to Gerry McLoughlin for her notes which informed this piece.



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