A spokesman for the government said: “The government is committed to a collaborative approach to planning for Fishermans Bend and the City of Port Phillip and City of Melbourne are key partners.”
However, a report by Port Phillip Council officers said the precinct’s success rested on the early delivery of a tram connection into the residential precincts.
“Public transport, and getting that tram into both sides of Fisherman’s Bend, is the single biggest catalytic project that will influence the roll-out like nothing else will,” mayor Bernadene Voss said at a council meeting after the report was tabled last week.
Development in Montague, which is connected to the 109 tram route, has advanced but at Wirraway and Sandridge it has stagnated.
The Victorian government committed $4.5 million in the 2019-20 budget for early planning and to develop a preliminary business case for transport connections between Fishermans Bend and the CBD, including trams.
“There have been grand conversations about tram and train connections to Fishermans Bend but these grand conversations, unfortunately, are yet to be evidenced as foreseeable capital works projects,” Councillor Dick Gross said.
“I’m sure they’ll be built, but in whose lifetime?”
Cr Voss, who is on the project’s mayoral advisory committee with Melbourne lord mayor Sally Capp and is stepping down at the October election, spoke more candidly than usual. Her position has meant she is the only councillor privy to information about the project due to a confidentiality arrangement.
She said she pushed for the release of the report so she could speak out before her departure as she felt strongly that greater transparency and more attention on the issue was needed.
“This has been an unacceptable impost and a new way has to be found before the new council,” she said at the meeting.
“The community needs and deserves to have more engagement with what’s happening in our municipality.”
Cr Voss, “dubbed Queen of the Bend by the other councillors” said the relationship between the council and government had been hindered due to a constant change in ministers and other officials.
Cr Gross said the amount of secrecy had been extraordinary.
“The mire of confidentiality … has absolutely subsumed all conversation,” he said “It’s been hard to get a conversation going with ourselves, let alone the community.”
Greens councillor Ogy Simic said he was leaving the council pessimistic about the project’s prospects and that a “huge funding gap” needed to be resolved.
Cr Gross labelled the financial situation “catastrophic”, and said the council was providing infrastructure with no certainty on where the money was coming from.
Former planning minister Matthew Guy rezoned Fishermans Bend as a capital city zone, in effect removing height limits in 2012.
He made little provision for infrastructure funding, public transport, parks or schools, a regime overturned by current Planning Minister Richard Wynne in 2015. However, uncertainty saw development grind to a halt.
Councillor David Brand blamed the current situation on a “shambolic start”.
“It’s been a game of catch up right from the beginning,” he said.
Chloe Booker is a city reporter for The Age.