After the storms come the raingardens as Fishermans Bend evolves

4 July 2023

Look for the secretly scientific raingardens amid the vast industry of Fishermans Bend. They’re part of our plan for a water-sensitive city.

It was a case of BYO gumboots and cookies on a stormy weekday recently, when volunteers met to install the award-winning Remix Raingardens on an unassuming verge in Fishermans Bend.

Shovel in hand, project lead Amira Moshinsky was on site with the team, after eight months of researching and prototyping recycled materials, native plants and data-driven planter boxes at the University of Melbourne.

“It was a shocking day,” Amira said with a smile.

“The rain was pouring down, but it was all really fun and exciting.”

The concept for Remix Raingardens, pitched by Amira at last year’s Fishermans Bend Innovation Challenge, was a plan to use local waste to help clean the city’s stormwater with native plants. It won the competition.

Since then Amira has lived and breathed the project with a multidisciplinary team while she completes a Master of Environmental Engineering.

The team donned raincoats to mix and measure truckloads of repurposed soil and biochar, combining it with sand and street sweepings, crushed brick and concrete aggregate. Even coffee grounds, in search of the perfect blend.

“We have many abundant waste streams that are not repurposed into anything productive or beneficial,” Amira said.

A person recording another person speaking on their phone.
Project lead Amira Moshinsky

Remix Raingardens are also fitted with sensors to gather data on the performance of each layer of recycled material.

Raingardens such as Remix will help inform future stormwater management projects. This is particularly important as Fishermans Bend transforms into a major urban renewal precinct.

The raingardens are now brimming with sedges, purple daisies and yellow buttons that are native to this area.

Each hardy species has earned its place in the raingarden. Supplied by local Westgate biodiversity nursery Bili, the plants have been chosen for their performance in bioretention systems.

They’re watered several times a week with stormwater harvested from City of Melbourne parks.

“Raingardens will play a role in making Fishermans Bend liveable and sustainable into the future.”

“They will add value to community in terms of climate resilience, biodiversity and ecosystem health,” Amira said.

Small purple daisies on a bed of rocks.
Native daisies prove their value in a raingarden

Major urban renewal precinct

What happens next will inform the City of Melbourne’s plan for water-sensitive urban design in Fishermans Bend.

For thousands of years, seasonal lakes in the area were resplendent with bird and plant life, and cared for by Traditional Owners, the Bunurong Boon Wurrung peoples of the Eastern Kulin.

Over the past century, the area has evolved into the city’s industrial heartland, playing host variously to sprawling factories and iconic employers such as Holden, Vegemite and aeronautical innovators Boeing.

By 2050, Fishermans Bend will be home to more than 80,000 people as part of a major urban renewal project that will create five precincts across two local government areas.

Two precincts will be found on City of Melbourne land, including an innovation precinct.

An artists impression showing the Fishermans Bend area revitalised with modern buildings and parklands.
Artist’s impression: Fishermans Bend innovation precinct

A further 80,000 workers will honour the area’s legacy of innovation, attracting cutting-edge minds and businesses from sectors such as advanced manufacturing, engineering and design.

Partnerships will be key to realising the bold vision for Fishermans Bend, according to the chair of the Fishermans Bend Development Board, Meredith Sussex AM.

“Remix Raingardens is a fantastic demonstration of the Fishermans Bend Water Sensitive City Strategy,” Meredith said.

“Here is a great example of how multi-generational urban renewal projects like Fishermans Bend can offer opportunities to partner with bright young minds to innovate and solve some of the world’s big challenges.”

To support the vision for Fishermans Bend and deliver a city that is both water sensitive and flood resilient, we are working with the Victorian Government in partnership with Melbourne Water, the City of Port Phillip and South-East Water.

Redesigning a better city

Fishermans Bend offers an opportunity to redesign a better city from the ground up.

We’re advocating to the Victorian Government for public transport to Fishermans Bend, tram connections, planning for a rail tunnel and to protect the land required for construction.

We have a chance to respond to the local conditions. Traditional solutions to stormwater management, for example, may not be viable in Fishermans Bend.

It’s something Amira noted while researching the project.

“The area is low-lying and surrounded by waterways, so it is particularly vulnerable to flooding.”

Fishermans Bend Water Sensitive City. Supplied Victorian Government

Building blocks of a water-sensitive city

As the Fishermans Bend precinct grows, new buildings are expected to feature green roofs, green walls and rain gardens that will absorb, filter and clean the stormwater.

Private rainwater tanks will be connected to Bureau of Meteorology weather forecasts. Ahead of significant storms, they will be activated to release water so they can absorb stormwater to take the pressure off low-lying streets.

Key streets, parkland and other open space areas will be designed to irrigate, green the landscape and reduce the urban heat island effect. They will also be equipped to temporarily store runoff during extreme storms.

A discrete levee – masquerading as roads, public open space and buildings – will be raised to protect against the Birrarung (Yarra River) when the waters rise.

Underground pipes and flap gates spring into action during inclement weather, controlling stormwater flow and steering it away from residents and buildings.

Raised garden beds with Melbourne-themed artworks on the outside.
Remix Raingardens illustrations by Emma Ismawi

All this infrastructure is good news to residents

Jenny Leyva de Loryn has lived in nearby Yarra’s Edge in Docklands for 16 years.

“It’s interesting hearing from City of Melbourne that we’re on a floodplain. And learning how raingardens like Remix are helping to mitigate the chance of flooding,” Jenny said.

“Now that we know what the raingardens are doing and where they are, I like them even more!”

“When there’s a high tide, we get cut off from South Wharf. It’s great to know that the rain gardens are in place to mitigate rising waters, but not only that, they also help cleanse the water and take out the impurities.”

Local business owner and Yarra’s Edge resident Andrew Ligdopoulos has lived in the area for two decades, and runs Eighteen Pence Lane, a speciality coffee shop in nearby Docklands.

“I didn’t think the area was that low, but when we have heavy rains you can see the buildup,” Andrew said.

“I always assumed it was a wetlands as you cross over Webb Bridge. It’s almost like creek set-up. Artists have even created artwork to symbolise the waterways. I’m told it’s always been like that here.”

“It’s very good to see raingardens scattered throughout our precinct,” Andrew said.

You can follow the Remix Raingardens pilot on Instagram. And find out more about why we love Fishermans Bend.

A neighbourhood Future Melbourne Committee meeting was held in Fishermans Bend in July 2023. Watch on demand.

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