water, waste, energy and place
To meet the changing needs of the west and its people a nexus of thinking and activity is required. West Melbourne needs a BIG IDEA, an idea about community and place, an idea about a better place. And if the BIG IDEA is the right idea it can:
guide a future beyond business as usual;
garner various initiatives and priorities that have already been developed by a range of forums;
resolve the challenge of rapidly expanding population and limited resource;
Central to the BIG IDEA is the form and function of the Western Treatment Plant precinct and decommissioned Melbourne Outfall Sewer. Leveraging these assets has the power to unlock transformative water, waste, energy and greening initiatives across the western region. Together they represent regionally significant opportunities for resource recovery:
collecting, processing and distributing water to a water poor catchment;
processing and repurposing waste to energy;
processing and repurposing waste to agriculture;
while also enhancing the natural and urban environment, connecting communities, and contributing to the local economy.
Regional priorities have been identified by local businesses and communities through Metropolitan Partnership assemblies. These include developing local jobs and skills, and improving transport infrastructure. With a culturally diverse population of almost 900,000 projected to grow at 12% per year, there is a focus on reducing entrenched disadvantage, supporting connected and inclusive communities, and greening the West (suburbandevelopment.vic.gov.au).
Establishing best-practice waste management services in the West was identified as by local businesses and communities as an important contributor to other priorities for the region (suburbandevelopment.vic.gov.au). Melbourne’s West is home to significant water and waste management facilities and infrastructure – a legacy of progressive city-making in the late 1800’s – that can be reimagined and revitalised to substantially contribute to delivering on identified priorities.
The BIG IDEA represents a strategic, systems-based reimagining of individual initiatives and opportunities identified through various collaborative initiatives including the Werribee & Maribyrnong catchments Integrated Water Management Forums, Waterways of the West, and Lead West / Greening the West, but goes beyond to reimagine an integrated contemporary city.
Strong government leadership and the support of business and community is needed to deliver joined-up city-making initiatives of this scale and impact. A partnership approach is required, bringing together State and local governments, government agencies, academic institutions, local businesses, not-for-profit organisations and community groups. Identifying key sponsors and appropriate partnership models for this initiative is an important first step in unlocking the potential of the nexus, starting with the Western Treatment Plant precinct and decommissioned Melbourne Outfall Sewer as the backbone to support the productivity, liveability and sustainability of Melbourne’s West.