Melbourne, Australia

Photo by David Hannah

The power of plants and natural ecosystems to deliver benefits

How is the initiative shaped by scientific evidence of the potential for plants and natural ecosystems to deliver benefits?

Whilst the City of Melbourne’s Grey to Green initiative of incremental adaption of the City’s underutilised infrastructure and road space was initiated in the mid 1980’s, it was immediately linked with greening and has evolved to be central to the city’s strategic response to the Climate and Biodiversity emergency, enhancing community access to open space and promoting a walkable city. Over time it has grown, working in tandem with other strategies and plans as the city continues to adapt.

A research based and design led program, its delivery recognises well documented evidence of the benefits of access to open green space, plants and natural eco systems. The Urban Forest and Nature in the City Strategies outline the roles of planting to reduce impacts of Urban Heat Island Effect, flooding, and biodiversity loss. The Grey to Green projects is a primary avenue through which these strategies and their benefits are being realised.

The significant suite of projects realised since 2018 demonstrate the variety of scales and typologies involved in this approach to city adaptation including:

  • Victoria and Exhibition Street – Princes Theatre road closure – Slip lane removal
  • Southbank Boulevard, Market Street Park, Elizabeth Street South – Footpath expansions
  • Clowse Street –  Streetscape biodiversity corridor
  • Hawke and Adderley, Clayton Reserve –  Local park expansion
  • University Square, Gardiners Reserve, Lincoln Square – Neighbourhood Park expansion
  • Boyd Park – Infrastructure conversion
How has the city exploited the potential of plants and associated ecosystems to deliver more than one benefit?

Across the program the potential of plants has been exploited for multiple strategic benefits. These are noted further in the supporting documents.

Removing pavement to minimise urban heat island effects is a consistent across all the projects. Converting roads to green space, each site are considered for potential water harvesting, flood detention or passive irrigation.

Melbourne has numerous iconic public gardens and a tradition of horticultural excellence.  Ornamental planting is important to the city’s urban landscape, providing diverse structural and seasonal displays that contributes to community wellbeing and sense of place. Expansion of Victoria and Exhibition Street reserve includes rich horticulture that provides visual connections to the World Heritage listed Carlton Gardens opposite.

Informed by the city’s research into urban fauna, plant selection and artificial habitats, landscape architects and ecologists have worked together to provide resources and nesting for a range of species. Lincoln Square hosts ground nesting native bees whilst at University Square, the possum population required management for tree succession, preserving habitat and minimising grazing on the new gardens.

Connection with nature is a fundamental component of healthy childhood development. At Hawke and Adderley Reserve the native plant pallet extends into the play space with plants that are safe and robust whilst providing interest and resources for play.

In densely populated Southbank there is little access for residents to private open space, or for balcony areas to grow food. At Boyd Park the conversion of the grounds to a community park has included a communal vegetable garden.