Gasworks gone: ‘contaminated’ park to be razed

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By: Zoe Tovey

The popular Gasworks Arts Park in Albert Park will be razed to the ground and rebuilt on the orders of the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), which has found the site is severely contaminated.

Port Phillip Council has voted to accept a report recommending all lighting, seats, irrigation, trees and vegetation at the site be removed and a 50cm layer of clean soil deposited across the park. EPA tests revealed that soil at the site is contaminated with heavy metals and hydrocarbons, the legacy of its former use as a gasworks plant. The contamination runs at least 20cm deep across the site, meaning no section of it can be declared completely safe.

However, responding to a question from Cr Bernadine Voss, the Acting Manager of Parks and Open Spaces, Chris White, said there was no immediate danger to park visitors.

“The EPA has given approval that the park is safe now, and part of that is because there was a capping done many years ago that gives about a 200mm [layer], but it’s variable across the site through the testing that we’ve done, and there’s also a site management plan in place that ensures ongoing auditing and routine maintenance such as grass repair works, mulching works to ensure that there is cover across the site, and therefore it is suitable. It doesn’t address the long-term certainty that the current regulations are not met with the current capping.”

Cr Anita Horvath wanted to know if some of the park’s significant trees could be spared the demolition. However, Ms White stressed that given the depth of soil disturbance required to remediate the site, the trees would be unlikely to survive even if efforts were made to preserve them.

“When you have such disturbance around a tree, often it’s a slow death for a tree, so they don’t often die within a short period, but within a five-to-ten year period they often do decline in health, and what that leaves you with is a spot where everything else has been decontaminated and then you’re left with the issue of trying to address that ‘hot spot’.

“So to ensure the long-term certainty that the entire site has been remediated, and to enable the long-standing issue of many of the aging assets to be remediated, like the lights to be replaced, the irrigation to be replaced, this would enable all those works to occur in one seamless go over the 12-month period.”

As well as being a popular recreation site for locals, dog owners and families with young children, Gasworks Arts Park is host to a number of artists’ studios, a monthly farmers’ market, art exhibitions, a theatre, a cafe and an outdoor cinema.

Council has released a Draft Gasworks Arts Park Plan, which was put together after consultation with park users, online surveys and a community reference committee.

Council anticipates the decontamination and rebuilding of the park will take 2 ½ years, during which time the park will be closed to the public. A new playground will be built, along with a barbeque and picnic area.

Council has applied for $1 million from the State Government to pay for the remediation works, while the City of Port Phillip will pay for rebuilding the park itself.

“Simply, the site is contaminated, and it needs to be remediated, full stop,” said Cr Anita Horvath.

“So there will be some pain, but when this job is done, and all the T’s have been crossed and the I’s dotted, you’ll have a really great park that will flourish over time, and there’ll be considerable gain to the community.”

The draft plan for the new park is available on the council’s Have Your Say website (, where members of the public can fill in a survey and leave feedback until 23 May. Council is also holding a consultation session at the park on Saturday 17 May from 9am to 1pm.

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