Construction of community garden beds on Melbourne Water land

A new online application from Melbourne Water
K Naylor
Publication Date (Web): 3 November 2016

Did you know that physical inactivity is responsible for 8,000 deaths a year in Australia and directly costs the health system at least $400 million annually? Or that mental illness costs Australia $20 billion per year when you include the cost of lost productivity and labour?

Attractive, accessible green space encourages greater levels of physical activity, while contact with nature can lower levels of stress, anxiety and depression. However, the type of environment that supports wellbeing is becoming increasingly more precious in a rapidly densifying Melbourne.

Melbourne Water is the largest land owner in Victoria after the crown, and our land is now available for projects that benefit the wider community. Big or small, short- or long-term, we are interested in a wide variety of projects that can benefit the local community and enhance the liveability of our city. Projects could include playgrounds and parks, shared pathways, community gardens, vegetation plantings and murals.

To make the process easier, we have developed a new online application called Our Space. Your Place, which gives details of the availability, size and potential use of Melbourne Water's many hectares of land. Available land is colour coded, making it easy to find and understand how it can be used. Users can then express interest in using the land directly through the app. A list of available funding grants has also been provided.

This is a great opportunity for councils, organisations or communities to explore options for using Melbourne Water land and turn our spaces into ‘your places’. 

Since releasing the application publicly, Melbourne Water has received a number of expressions of interest across a broad variety of uses, including education programs through various school and community groups, a fishing competition, tree planting and revegetation projects, a community performance stage and community gardens.

This application has complemented the range of projects we are already working on to achieve more community benefit from our land. It allows us to connect with more diverse stakeholders and make smaller, quicker changes as desired by local communities.

It has helped to increase engagement in a liveability-focused approach across the organisation, with the development of multiple land use policies, structured referral systems and collaboration between a number of teams, which has seen Melbourne Water able to use many tracts of land for multiple benefits, rather than just being managed for a single asset requirement. 

It has also allowed Melbourne Water to be more open and transparent with data sharing, and increase collaboration with other agencies with regards to land availability to improve joint decision-making and the delivery of shared services. 

This, in turn, has allowed Melbourne Water’s land to support broader community outcomes, as per our liveability pillars of supporting increases in opportunities for active transport, recreation, urban cooling, a sense of place and a sense of community. 

Over and above our traditional role to ensure public health and safety through water, sewerage and drainage systems, Melbourne Water land is now directly contributing to improving physical and mental wellbeing for communities in a rapidly densifying Melbourne. This is occurring via changes to the physical environment such as creating more accessible, attractive places and increasing greening and contact with nature, as well as opportunities for social connection within local communities. 

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