In brief

A recent announcement by the Victorian Government confirming the preferred route for a prospective underground rail network to Fishermans Bend has sparked conversation about the question of possible funding arrangements for the project. Our Melbourne Planning, Infrastructure & Environment team consider the proposal and the importance of providing certainty for landowners and tenants across the precinct.


 The Fishermans Bend Framework (the Framework) was endorsed by the Victorian Government in 2018 to set in motion the vision of urban renewal for Melbourne's Fishermans Bend precinct as home to 80,000 people, a source of employment for 80,000 workers, and a destination for 20,000 tertiary students by 2050.
Under the Framework, the Government aspires to achieve 80% of transport movements to and from the precinct via sustainable transport (i.e public transport, walking or cycling) by 2050. Currently, the area is serviced by two tram routes and several bus routes, with the Victorian Government recently delivering additional weekly bus services to Fishermans Bend to increase public transport coverage to the area.
Nonetheless, a key issue belabouring the major urban renewal is the lack of high capacity public transport to accommodate the expected growth in population as the precinct continues to develop. As a result, development within the precinct to date has stagnated as landowners, businesses and developers call for greater transparency and certainty as to how the Victorian Government intends to finance any supporting public infrastructure.
'Melbourne Metro 2', an underground rail network, has been flagged as a long-term objective of the Framework to deliver the necessary public infrastructure to connect the precinct to the rest of Melbourne. Seven years on and the Department of Transport and Planning has endorsed the preferred route for the rail network, which will involve the construction of a rail tunnel system and three new metro stations at Southern Cross, Sandridge, and Fishermans Bend.
Source: 'Future train route and station locations for Fishermans Bend and Docklands', Victoria State Government website.

Funding the Underground Rail Network

In our view, the delivery of this critical infrastructure is integral to improve the accessibility and liveability of Fishermans Bend. However, the prospective rail network remains in its embryonic stages as details regarding the required planning work and funding for the project are yet to be determined.
Since the creation of the Fishermans Bend Urban Renewal Area (FBURA) in July 2012, the Victorian Government has sought to establish an appropriate funding plan to ensure the delivery of essential infrastructure in the precinct. After several iterations to develop a suitable funding arrangement, in November 2023, we saw the Department of Transport and Planning (DTP) release the FBURA Draft Development Contributions Plan (DCP).
In theory, the draft DCP aims to streamline three separate funding sources to cover the charges associated with delivering infrastructure required for transport, among other things. In turn, developers will be required to make contributions, calculated at an equitable rate based on proportional 'share of usage'. However, the DCP only has regard to surface public infrastructure, in particular, widening projects to accommodate additional bus and tram routes in the area.
Accordingly, the question remains as to how the State Government intends to fund it. In the absence of further clarifying information, it remains in the hands of the State Government to deliver an ample heavy rail network to aid the precinct in its development. While confirmation of the preferred train route and station locations provides greater clarity to landowners and developers that will be affected by the eventual rail network, the project will demand substantial works and planning.

This is commentary published by Colin Biggers & Paisley for general information purposes only. This should not be relied on as specific advice. You should seek your own legal and other advice for any question, or for any specific situation or proposal, before making any final decision. The content also is subject to change. A person listed may not be admitted as a lawyer in all States and Territories. © Colin Biggers & Paisley, Australia 2024.

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