Commentary on Elizabeth Quay proposal

There are two self-evident problems with the Elizabeth Quay project. Firstly, the connection of the inlet to the river provides little benefit to the public, is expensive and problematic. While the inlet may look cute in the artist’s helicopter perspective, from the ground level you will not see the river from the public open space around the inlet other than a glimpse under the bridge. It will make virtually no difference to the visual aspect if the inlet is replaced with a large, shallow water feature.

This would: reduce the cost; permit the retention of Riverside Drive which resolves the intractable traffic problems (it is hard to see how Perth’s traffic system can possibly cope with the closure of Riverside drive, the traffic generated by the development of 1,700 residential apartments, 150,000 sq metres office and 39,000 sq metres retail, plus future growth; avoid using up all the traffic options for coping with future growth; and provide flexibility for the future.

Secondly, the south westerly aspect of the proposed Elizabeth Quay makes it unsuitable as Perth’s premier civic feature or entertainment precinct. The artist’s impression portrays Elizabeth Quay as a pleasant sunny site. However by ghosting in the high rise buildings, it gives a totally false impression.


In all the information published on the project, I can find no consideration of the exposure to shadow and wind. Failure by the architects and planners to take account of aspect, wind and shadow is unacceptable. The proposed quay is too exposed to harsh weather to be classed as a major civic feature. The northern end of the cove including the important Landing and Fountain areas will be very exposed to the SSW prevailing winds. Having worked on the Terrace and the Esplanade for 30 years, I can vouch for how windy it gets.


The aerial view of proposed Elizabeth Quay development shown on the MRA website suggests the shadowing that might be expected when the sun is directly over head in mid-summer. In fact, because of the high rise buildings, the development will also be in shadow for most of the year. Imagine the shadows from the 36 storey buildings on sites 4 – 8. The new BHP building already casts a shadow over a large part of the domain in the afternoon, reaching Riverside Drive.

To the best of my knowledge, due to shadows from Exchange Plaza and the wind, the large south facing lawn of the Weld Club on the north side of the Esplanade which my office overlooked, has never been used for social purposes other than under a marquee.

The Eastern States’ waterfront projects such as Southbank and Darling Harbour are not overshadowed.

Below, I show a Google Satellite Image taken 5 May, 2008, with building podium outlines and added annotations. The black line shows the approximate shadow limit mid-winter from proposed buildings.

ElizabethQ-Waterfront Goog

The photos below show the high degree of shadowing from existing buildings during the winter months.

Picture 1

Estimates of the shadow lengths for Landing and Station Street

The length of the shadows cast by a six story podium at midday on the 21 June, 21 September, 21 March and 21 December, will be 32m, 13m, 12m and 3m respectively.

The length of shadows cast in the same time periods by a 33-37 storey building, assuming a height of 135m, will be 84m 192m, 87m and 21m respectively.

The public area of the Landing stretches from approx 17m (allowing for the New Riverside Drive) to 48 m from the south side of the podiums. The northern half of the Landing will be covered by podium shadow for 100% of the time in midwinter. The southern half would be covered most of the day intermittently from both existing buildings and the new tower shadows as the sun moves round over the day.

At the equinoxes (21March and 21 September), the Landing would be subject to intermittent shadowing from the towers. In mid-summer, the Landing would receive full sun all day. Being at the north end of the inlet, it is totally exposed to wind.

The public area of Station Park area extends from 17m to 73 m south of the podium of site 4 building. It will be subject to full or intermittent shadowing all day during the six winter months. It is also very exposed to wind.


Information on sun elevations taken from Murdoch University webpage (

Information on building heights and shadow effect estimates by the writer from measurements of diagrams on the information available on the MRA Elizabeth Quay website.

Wind information

Perth is windy all year round. While the Landing and Station Park area would receive some protection in the morning, in the afternoon and evening they are subject to the prevailing south – west winds, averaging 15 – 25 kms/hr on 75% of the days. Coming off the inlet water, these winds will probably stronger than the averages recorded at the Perth Metro weather station which is located near to Mount Lawley High School.

Here are the annual average wind strength roses for Perth Metropolitan area from the Australian Weather Bureau web site.

Picture 2

Traffic flow along the new Riverside Drive

Picture 4

With the re-routing of the traffic with the cutting off of the Riverside road, drivers could be confronted with as many as eleven sets of multi-phase traffic lights at the various intersections, plus other traffic calming devices.

In the West Australian of July 11. 2012, Ken Acott wrote:

“The partial closure of Riverside Drive to accommodate the Elizabeth Quay development will reduce some inner-city traffic to a crawl and add up to 10 minutes to peak-hour travel times, according to State Government modelling.A report by transport consultants Veitch Lister says there will be a significant increase in the number of vehicles on streets around the waterfront development as Riverside Drive traffic is re-routed around the Elizabeth Quay inlet. Traffic will also increase on Manning Road, Mill Point Road, Walcott Street and Charles Street as motorists look to avoid the area.

The report says most of the 40,000 vehicles that currently use Riverside Drive will opt to use Graham Farmer Freeway, coming from Great Eastern Highway or Orrong Road. It said that adding an extra lane to the Graham Farmer Freeway tunnel would help the system cope with the additional traffic ‘in the next few years’. However, the tunnel was already close to capacity in peak periods and increasing its capacity would have been needed ‘irrespective of the Riverside Drive closure’. Westbound traffic that continued to use the Causeway and Riverside Drive would deviate around the Quay by taking a variety of routes through West Perth.

The report said peak-period congestion along William Street would have an impact on other city intersections and ‘traffic is likely to crawl along all approaches’. The impact on travel times for motorists seeking to bypass the area was “likely to be in the range of six to 10 minutes during peak periods.

Shadow transport minister Ken Travers said the modelling made it clear that the bad decision to close Riverside Drive would add to congestion in the city and beyond. ‘The impact on traffic is going to be felt over a much bigger area than the Barnett Government would have us think, he said. ‘We are going to see rat runs spring up all over the city and in neighbouring suburbs.’ ”

Vincent Mayor Alannah MacTiernan says that a second city tunnel is ‘inevitable’. However she says that one of the problems of a tunnel along Riverside Drive was the potentially large, ugly area where on and off-ramps would be located.

I think the project promoters have misled both the public and parliament through exaggerating the benefits and overlooking the problems. There has been no proper scrutiny of this project.

Given the current economic uncertainties, this is a time to be cautious. I question whether the project as currently conceived is a wise use of tax payer monies and scarce land. Net WA state debt is forecast to grow from $3.6 billion in 2008 to $24 billion by 2015. The economic outlook is uncertain.

I urge the public to consider carefully the proposed design of this project, which as an engineer, banker and citizen, I find hard to justify. Notwithstanding the impression engineered by the Government, I understand that it is not too late to halt the project. The reason why the development of this area has not proceeded in the past is because these problems have proved intractable. What has changed?

Chris Wiggins, 50 John Street, Cottesloe. Tel: 9384 7063 Email:

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