Melbourne, Australia

Photo by David Hannah

Monitoring, Maintenance, and Management

How has the initiative been designed and implemented so that long-term needs for management and maintenance are reduced and can be met?

As a council led initiative, the involvement of all teams across the organisation, including asset managers has informed the process. City of Melbourne has a comprehensive pallet of design details that have been evolved over several decades. This supports the effective maintenance of public spaces as well as ensuring their durability, quality presentation and amenity. This approach also informs new public realm that is delivered by developers for the city to meet the strategic commitments of Council.
Complexity of planting pallets and species selection are informed by input from the design team, arborists, ecologists, park maintenance and horticultural staff.  This ensures that the intent and function of the proposed planting is understood and considerations for management can inform this process.  This has enabled projects such as Clowse Street biodiversity corridor to be realised and for learnings from this to inform further enrichment to planting approaches for University Square and Lincoln Square. The knowledge of staff from across council both through technical expertise and knowledge of the city’s landscapes are an invaluable resource in informing effective outcomes that maximise public benefit whilst minimising. Many of the city’s spaces have challenging microclimates and creative

At Southbank Boulevard the planting approach has included a short-term nursery crop of fast-growing Acacia sp. to provide protection from wind to the understorey planting and people using the space until the new trees have grown tall enough to perform this function.

What protocols are in place to facilitate monitoring of results?

Strategically each development under the Grey to Green program is now executed within the framework of sustainability as laid out in the following strategic plans: Urban Forest Strategy 2012-2032; Total Watermark: City as a Catchment Strategy (2014); and Open Space Strategy (2012). In turn the program has informed the development of these strategies by leveraging the opportunities available in rethinking and reprioritising the function of streets. More specifically, converting Grey to Green spaces supports our City as Catchment Strategy by:

  • decreasing run-off
  • increasing infiltration
  • reducing stormwater volumes
  • enhancing soil moisture to supports a healthy urban forest

Similarly, converting Grey to Green spaces supports our Open Space Strategy by:

  • increasing opportunities for social connectedness
  • increasing opportunities for mental health and wellbeing
  • increasing opportunities for physical health and wellbeing
  • mitigating the urban heat island effect

Community Facilities – Grey to Green spaces, created by widening footpaths, have in many cases contributed to increased activity and safety in Melbourne’s central city. By co-locating and accommodating sidewalk cafes, fruit and food vending, flower sellers and more, service provision has been enriched, local business opportunities have been enhanced and passive surveillance, street activation and safety have been increased.

Similarly the Nature in the City Strategy has a range of initiatives to monitor species diversity, vegetation cover and connectivity across the city.  As projects are completed and plant communities establish, it will be possible to measure the ecological impact of these new green spaces.

How has the initiative been enhanced in response to monitoring of results?

Each project within the program has taken learnings from those delivered before it.  Planting pallets include a balance of reliable ‘know performers’ as well as some ‘trial’ species which allow a variety of species that may not be widely used in the city’s public spaces to be tested. 

The Nature in the City Strategy is driving greater experimentation in promoting biodiversity in the city’s open spaces. A range of experimental plantings are allowing testing of different species and opportunities for research to monitor their ecology.  Partnerships with institutions such as University of Melbourne are supporting the observation of pollinators and involving community in citizen science programs to observe the use of urban landscapes by other fauna. Feedback from the city’s park maintenance teams and reviews by the city’s landscape architects also allow the teams to continually be learning about what has been working in terms of species suitability for growing conditions and maintenance regimes.

Temporary planting at University Square is testing direct seeding of meadow planting. Market Street Park has included species mixes it the permanent planting that will be insect attractors. 

The complexity of adapting road spaces to open space has also been a continual process of refinement given the need to work with service authorities and other agencies who also have responsibilities for asset management within road reserves. Strategies for working around underground and overhead services as well as accommodating operational activities are allowing new projects to be realised that can maximise environmental outcomes within these parameters.