In this guest post, contributor Wes Fleming discusses why private/public partnerships could hold the key towards future-proofing our suburbs while securing more green space in the municipalities which need them most.

Whenever I drive around some of Melbourne’s oldest inner-suburban pockets, I am astounded by the number of derelict street corners, disused urban blocks and forgotten concrete buildings that stare back at me.

Some may call it ‘character’, others call it an eyesore, but me – I call it opportunity. An opportunity to deliver urban design outcomes that will re-inject life back into these forgotten streetscapes and bring softness to some of our most popular suburban areas.

One of the best ways we can achieve this is via working collaboratively with council to identify areas in need of repair and put together a plan that allows a council to achieve key community objectives while also delivering improved public amenity for residents.

I believe private/public partnerships may be the future of urban planning, as they not only provide government with the opportunity to be progressive while sharing the risk with private entities, but they also provide private companies with the chance to have a say in integral projects that will help deliver long term benefits to our suburbs.

Take Fleming’s Nurseries for example. We are one of the largest wholesale nurseries and holistic landscape service providers in Australia. As a leader in our field with over 90 years of experience in horticulture, neither we, nor any other horticultural entity, have any say in matters of planning and policy around green space and urban design…yet we should have.

So working collaboratively with councils on small urban revitalisation projects that we are able to use as case studies, we are hoping to develop a wider strategy to deliver a program to reactivate communities around the country, and at the same time become an important representative of the horticulture industry – at the table as policy advisors.

Putting this theory into action, Fleming’s is currently working with Darebin City Council to revitalise a number of areas within the municipality, after an external open space audit of the city identified between 1 – 2 hectares of underutilised space.

The result will deliver improved public amenity for local residents, more opportunities for people to enjoy healthier lifestyles, and the chance to deliver carbon offsets thanks to the addition of trees and greenery.

It’s no secret that communities offering improved public open spaces with a sense of soft landscape and functional hardscape materials, lead to healthier urban environments with vast psychological, social, health and economic benefits for residents. That’s a win for council, its residents and for the local entities which can provide these services to improve the facilities.

Imagine what we could do if this business model was replicated across town centres, train stations and transport hubs, business shop-fronts and roadways?

Imagine the benefits of private entities working together with government across all three levels to achieve a common goal.

It’s powerful food for thought and a discourse that I hope we can initiate with all sectors of government and the private entities that service them.

For more information on Transforming Darebin or Fleming’s Nurseries please visit

About Wes Fleming
A third generation nurseryman and nine-time Chelsea Flower Show veteran, Wes Fleming was ‘born and bred’ growing trees. In 2013 Wes achieved a lifelong dream when he led his Australian team to win a coveted ‘Best in Show’ award at the world-famous Chelsea Flower Show – the first time this honour had ever been presented to an Australian garden in the show’s 100 year history. Now that Wes has hung up his Chelsea boots, he is actively involved in lobbying Government across all three levels to not only improve access to parks and gardens but also to raise the bar for amenity and functionality, so that Australians can reap the health and social benefits for years to come. Wes is also an ambassador for Planet Ark’s National Tree Day initiative. View all posts by this author »