Minister Pallas launches EcoCity Exhibition

Major Projects Minister Tim Pallas launched the Eco-City Melbourne Exhibition at Docklands on Wednesday 25 February 2009, saying that the E-Gate site is “ripe with possibility… it is one of the last remaining, large, brown-field areas in inner Melbourne that is currently without a long-term strategic plan in place.” The Government stressed it had no firm plans for the site and the ideas were part of a range of views being canvassed.

The speech follows in full:

“As you can see, the E-Gate site is ripe with possibility.  It is one of the last remaining large brown field areas in inner Melbourne without a long-term strategic plan in place.  The potential of the site for redevelopment, so close to Melbourne’s central activity district and well served by public transport, is obvious.  For our part the Government has been looking at ways to realise E Gate’s potential while maintaining the essential transport infrastructure currently in and around the site.  Victrack has been working Major Projects Victoria on the possibilities for the site and, while this work continues, the results have been promising so far.  We are now at a stage where it may be possible to rationalise the site’s existing uses and open up around 20 hectares of land for development.

The question is what could be done with this new land?

This is where projects such Eco City have great value. All good strategic planning begins with a discussion and I, for one, believe that this dialogue is always improved by the number of intelligent voices involved.  In this case we have a brains trust of students and academics from four leading universities as well local and international experts generating some very exciting ideas.  We have designs for how to develop the site generally and also for how people might live on it in a more sustainable manner. We have a range of proposals from use of bio-remediation to clean up the site as part of its preparation down to a very clever idea to share vacuum cleaners.A little known fact about the humble vacuum cleaner is that they are only used for around two per cent of their life, the rest of the time they are shut in cupboards.  This is hardly an efficient use of the resource and so one of the students here has proposed a communal vacuum cleaner system using another innovation – the static electricity powered vacuum cleaner.  I have to admit vacuum cleaner sharing is not something that the Government has considered and yet when you think about it, the idea is incredibly sensible, especially in high density developments.

So Eco City is a comprehensive look at how this site and its future resident’s lives can be more sustainable.  And although planning for E Gate is at an early stage I can assure you that some of these ideas will have a real influence on the site’s future.

The fact is the sorts of ideas on display here tonight do filter through.  To illustrate, as some of you may know the Government is currently looking at options for the Jolimont rail yard site on the other side of the city.  Last year Sean Sweeney from Major Projects Victoria was involved in a design project also looking at sustainable development options for the Jolimont site.  The South East City Edge project asked design students from Melbourne University to come up with new ideas for to create a second Federation Square and better integrate the city’s Hoddle grid with the River and sports precinct.  This work is now being used to inform the Government’s own planning for the Jolimont site and, if nothing else, has reinforced that whatever is done must be a leading example of environmental sustainability.

This is why the Government values institutions like Victorian Eco Innovation Lab and why we support it through the Victorian Sustainability Fund and through sponsorships such as this exhibition. We are a Government that believes in ecologically sustainable development (ESD).

ESD is no longer considered an optional extra, but a necessity.  Beyond their obvious environmental benefits we believe that ESD ‘future-proofs’ our State’s assets and ensures their long term viability.  We are proud of our achievements in this area. Buildings such as the new Six Green Star rated Melbourne Convention Centre and the Melbourne Rectangular Stadium lead the way as large scale, public buildings incorporating the ideals of ESD.  The Parkville Gardens housing project on the Commonwealth Games Village site is another example where we have tried to minimise the ecological footprint and lead the way on practices that will hopefully become the benchmark for future residential development.  On other projects such as the Melbourne Markets relocation we are working with the Green Building Council on a new pilot rating scheme for industrial buildings that will again set benchmarks and raise future standards.

The thing about ESD for Government is that you are rarely judged on your decisions at the time you make them – it is for future generations to look back and say ‘did they do enough?’ This is why it is important to always push the envelope on sustainable design as the exhibitors here tonight have.  Even the most sober commentators agree that time is short in terms of climate change and so the idea of a zero carbon city is extremely appealing if not vital to our future.

Victoria has the potential to lead the country, if not the world, on sustainable development, but to do this we must keep looking forward, keep thinking and keep coming up with new ideas on how to live better but consume less.

On that note it is with great pleasure to declare this exhibition open.”