By Asa Wahlquist, Glebe Society representative, Bulletin 7/2023, September

New Sydney Fish Market under constructiom
A recent drone photo of construction at the new Sydney Fish Market. (Image: Multiplex)

The Community Consultative Committee (CCC) achieved its biggest win this year, successfully objecting to raising Bridge Road by up to 1.2 metres in front of the new Sydney Fish Market (SFM). Members of the CCC, including the Glebe Society’s representative Asa Wahlquist, argued that raising Bridge Road would result in months of traffic disruption as the road rebuilding reduced to two lanes from four; that it could result in worse flooding at the Wentworth Park Road and Bridge Road intersections; and objected to trimming the heritage-listed fig trees in Wentworth Park. 

The only rationale presented for the work was that it would enable people to step off a bus onto a footpath at the same level as the Fish Market. This ridiculous argument was overturned when Infrastructure NSW responded to the objections and abandoned raising Bridge Road. In fact, it was revealed that raising the road could result in passengers stepping off a bus onto the footpath and into the path of a bicycle. The footpath, against the objections of the Glebe Society, will be shared by cyclists and pedestrians.

Now the road will remain at its current level, the shared footpath will be raised and visitors will walk up steps or a walkway to the footpath and the front doors of the Fish Market. There will still be some disruption on Bridge Road as services are relocated. Officially the change – to retain Bridge Road at its current level – is still being considered by the Department of Planning and Environment. It is expected it will be accepted.

Cost savings were not mentioned, but they are no doubt a factor. The cost of raising Bridge Road was included in the overall estimate for building the Fish Market, most recently estimated to be $750 million in 2019. A spokesperson for Multiplex said the project remains on budget. It is likely four years of inflation, the pandemic, increased materials cost, and the usual increase in the cost of constructing public infrastructure will blow that figure out. 

The Glebe Society objected strongly, and on multiple grounds, to the development of the new Fish Market on Bridge Road. We argued it should be redeveloped on the current site. The decision to build over Blackwattle Bay has incurred a massive expense, a cost the State Government hopes to recoup by over-developing the current Fish Market site. (The final building will be suspended about one metre above the seabed).

The CCC regularly deals with complaints from locals about excessive noise and vibrations, heavy transport movements, and out-of-hours activity. One of the frustrations for the CCC is that its brief is limited to the work Multiplex is undertaking on the building plan that was approved several years ago. Changing the proposed height of Bridge Road is the only case where, in the face of objections from CCC, the original plan was changed. This also means that many of the issues members of the CCC would like to address – local transport, the availability of public transport, parking in nearby streets and stormwater management — are outside the purview of the CCC.

One piece of good news for Glebe and Forest Lodge residents is that the heavy banging that has echoed through the suburbs over the past year, caused by huge piles being hammered into the seabed, has ended. There will be some less noisy pile driving on the foreshore. During the year, Glebe residents along Bridge Road had to endure months of noise and some disruption when the road was dug up to install power lines to the new Fish Market. That work finished in May.

The footprint of the new Fish Market is now becoming clear. To get to this stage, Multiplex had to first build a cofferdam and pump out the water around the site to enable the construction to begin.

The new building will have a height equivalent to three storeys at one end and four at the other. The height can be gauged by the tower cranes currently on the site. The roof will sit several metres below the cabins of the cranes.

Multiplex has worked to develop good relations with the neighbouring Sydney Secondary College. It halted noisy operations during HSC examination times and participated in the College’s Career Expo. Sixteen girls from the College participated in their JumpStart program which encourages girls to enter the construction industry. Multiplex has also worked with local groups to diversify its workforce. 

Five seabins have been installed in Blackwattle Bay, including two directly in front of the Fish Market and two near the Glebe Rowing Club. The bins, which essentially filter seawater, have been working hard since their installation in December 2021. In the three months to the end of May 2023 the seabins have filtered more than 342.5 million litres of water. They removed more than 149,051 plastic items including over 80,000 microplastics such as pellets and foam. The seabins are sponsored by the Sydney Fish Market and Multiplex.

Construction of the new Sydney Fish Market is expected to be completed by the end of 2024.