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Roads to parks in Fishermans Bend and Southbank

Roads will become parks in the City of Port Phillip and the City of Melbourne in two proposals under consideration.

With anticipated population growth in Fishermans Bend and Southbank, lesser used roads will have a new life as public parks.

Johnson Street is nominated as a park in the Fishermans Bend Framework adopted in 2018.

To get your bearings – Johnson St is where you might have had a drive in Covid test. Or you may know it if you ride this way to get to Docklands. Or you may know it as being opposite R Iconic and the new Coles in Normanby Rd.

Johnson St with the area to become a park denoted by the green box

The park will be delivered by Gamuda Land as part of Canopy, a 20 level, 203 apartment development. (it was originally proposed at 40 levels.) The site was formerly part of Dunlop’s extensive operations on both sides of Normanby Rd.

Construction of Canopy is underway. The park design is by Oculus, who also created the Maritime Cove playground,

Gamuda has promoted a biophilic approach1 to the landscaping within the development which flows into the park. There is a commitment to using locally indigenous plants that will flower at different seasons, so that the landscape is ‘continually unfolding’.

In the long years of Fishermans Bend planning limbo, the City of Port Phillip and Citipower commissioned a street artwork on the much tagged electricity sub-station on Johnson St. The paste up was an unexpected moment of beauty and mystery in that isolated location. Small birds, held and protected, were hidden among the swirls and furls of the garment in the paste up created by Urban Cake Lady.

Street art paste up detail Urban Cake Lady Munro x Johnson St

Now her artwork is tagged and peeling off. The hidden nature hinted at in the artwork will soon come to life.

The Johnson St park project is on the City of Port Phillip have your say page for comment.

Across the municipal border which is the M1 freeway, the City of Melbourne has been looking for ways to increase public open space in densely populated Southbank. Southbank recorded a population of 22,631 at the 2021 census.2 Acquiring property for open space in Southbank is hugely expensive, and unlikely to yield the amount of open space required to serve the population.

Having explored many options, the Council resolved on 7 May to pursue a new public park using the southern road reserve and median of Normanby Rd between Clarendon St and the West Gate Freeway. The proposed open space would have access to sunlight, something that is difficult to achieve on smaller sites. It will also be big enough to have a playground and other facilities.

The proposed Normanby Rd park, Future Melbourne Committee 7 May 2024

The City of Melbourne has a great track record of creating high quality parks from roads. It has already completed Southbank Boulevard, and the transformation of Dodds St (between Buxton Contemporary and the Melbourne Theatre Company and Recital Centre) is nearly finished.

Public open space is critical infrastructure. Parks are an investment in public health. They are where people meet and make connections. Parks encourage physical activity. Trees in parks provide shade and cooling. Parks are assuming ever greater importance as sites for biodiversity.

Adequate provision of public open space must accompany increases in population density. Parks are the front yards for people living in apartments. Much will be expected from parks, and there needs to be enough funding to create them, add the amenities and facilities that are needed and then maintain them into the future.

Marcus Spiller of SGS Economics and Planning warns that without increasing investment, the open space available to each person will decrease in coming decades as population increases. We cannot just rely on the historic legacy of parks that have been bequeathed to us. As land becomes more expensive to acquire, greater open space contributions may need to be required of developers. He argues that an open space standard needs to be mandated.

Development in Port Melbourne over recent decades is instructive. It has been accompanied by significant investment in enhancing existing parks, adding new ones through road closures, maintaining them to a high standard and improving the connections between them.

It can and must be done in Fishermans Bend.


1 biophilia a love of life and the living world; the affinity of human beings for other life forms (

2 Port Melbourne’s population at the 2021 census was 17,633

What is Biophilia? Living Future Institute of Australia

Johnson St Park: your new green space Have your say City of Port Phillip

Public open space contributions in Victoria: a preferred approach Jo Noesgaard, Marcus Spiller

1 Comment

  • Tim Norman

    The BCNA concurs with your advocacy on the criticality of open space commensurate with population density. This is particularly critical for Fishermans Bend with the increasing number of residential developments. Building more high rises without increasing current public space will mean significantly more residents competing for a diminishing area. This is highly visible in the proposed Barak Beacon development where the residential population is proposed to quadruple but with no increase in associated public space.

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