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Are these Australia’s worst planning decisions?


Article by ADR contributor Sara Kirby. Above image: Fishermans Bend in Melbourne, where former planning minister Matthew Guy has approved three new high-rise apartments. But what of the surrounding infrastructure?

Melbourne’s former planning minister Matthew Guy – aptly dubbed ‘Mr Skyscraper’ – approved some debatable planning decisions for the city. Once a relatively open area, the addition, and planned addition, of various skyscrapers threatens to leave Melbourne a shadowy maze of wind tunnels. While tall towers provide easy housing solutions, reduce urban sprawl, and have a small environmental footprint, they also block light and contribute to congestion. The development and approval of poorly planned high-rises have caused a variety of issues in not only Melbourne, but also Australia-wide. 

Fishermans Bend

This year, three high-rise apartment buildings worth $570 million were approved for construction at Fishermans Bend, Melbourne. The developments are to be bigger than the entire CBD and will host 1,958 apartments, bringing a wave of new residents closer to the city. The plans however failed to account for infrastructure required to support the residents, with no schools, childcare, or open spaces nearby, and the closest train station a 12 minute drive away. Read more on the folly of Fishermans Bend on ADR.

Queensbridge Tower 

Just under a kilometre down the road, in Southbank, plans are underway to construct the 84-storey Queensbridge Tower.  The building is to host apartments, a hotel, a sky-lounge, and a footbridge that will cross into Crown Casino. When plans were released in 2012, they revealed that the building would be erected just 10 metres from the adjacent Freshwater Place. Those living in Freshwater face concern that their views, light, and most importantly their privacy, will be compromised by construction of the tower.

Melb apartment fire

It is not just privacy that is compromised by the pressure to house many at a profit, but also safety. In 2014, a balcony fire that quickly escalated into a blaze ravaged Melbourne’s Lacrosse Apartments, causing over $2 million in damage. MFB’s report of the fire found that the tower’s cladding had failed to be tested to comply with combustibility standards for Australian high-rises and contributed to the severity of the damage.  Read more about this story and the dangers of non-compliance here.


Pushes for development caused outrage when the Palace Theatre on Bourke Street was set for demolition to make way for a seven-storey “boutique” hotel and apartment complex in 2012. A treasured live music venue, the century-old building’s heritage status was still under review when construction workers began demolishing it reportedly without a permit.

Port Headland

Last year, the West Australian Government left citizens frustrated when half of a housing development it contracted was left unoccupied. A private investor was paid to build and operate 293 units in South Hedland back in 2012, when demand for worker accommodation was high. Yet, with the houses unfilled, the government was left to fork out $610,000 per month to manage the complex.

Sydney height limits

The New South Wales Government was also met with criticism when it removed previous height restrictions to allow for the construction of a 336m tower in Parramatta. The 90-storey Aspire Tower will house apartments, a hotel, and retail space. Desire for the loosening of height restrictions continue, with the Parramatta Council pushing for a new height limit of 500m and the introduction of a controversial “no-fly zone” over Sydney’s CBD. Read more about Rethinking height limits in Sydney here on ADR.


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