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At the time of European settlement, a large proportion of the landscapes around the chosen site of Melbourne comprised permanent wetlands. Initially avoided as places of little economic value or, worse, the sources of diseases, over succeeding decades these swampy areas came to be considered as potential sites for infrastructure and industry and were progressively reclaimed. Close to the city, the imperative for such action was a need for central transport facilities such as docks and wharfage areas, as well as the demand for adjacent sites for use by related industries. Wetlands away from the city also were subject to reclamation, to provide land for urban development and food production, to house and feed an expanding population. This remaking of Melbourne’s landscapes was a major undertaking, requiring the creation of government infrastructure; considerable planning; and significant expenditure. The physical process of draining the wetlands was effected by a variety of hydraulic techniques, and drew on a range of industries. Chief among the strategies deployed was the use of state-of-the-art dredging equipment. A couple of dredges were commissioned from shipyards in the United Kingdom; but at least one was a product of the local manufacturing industry — built by Langland’s Foundry in conjunction with Pye Byers and Campbell of South Melbourne in 1889. This paper will focus on reclamation of Melbourne’s wetlands as dependant on specific manufacturing industries but also as a necessary precursor to the development of a range of other industries and infrastructures.

Publication Details
Source title:
Proceedings of the 14th Australasian Urban History Planning History Conference 2018
Publication Year: