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Western Treatment Plant becomes seventh Melbourne Water wonder to earn spot on State Heritage Register

Cocoroc from the air

Melbourne Water’s Western Treatment Plant (WTP) has been officially recognised for its historical, archaeological and technical significance to Victoria with its addition to the Victorian Heritage Register.

Today, WTP treats more than half of Melbourne’s sewage. Built on land the size of Phillip Island, it’s also home to a world-renowned wetlands.

The Heritage Council of Victoria has endorsed the recommendation after more than a decade of community interest and support from Melbourne Water to ensure the rich history of the site is preserved.

Originally known as the Metropolitan Sewerage Farm, WTP was established in the early 1890s following a Royal Commission into the sanitary state of Melbourne.

Next year the site celebrates its 125th anniversary servicing Melbourne.

Old stables
Former stables on the old Cocoroc township that were also used as a workshop. Picture: Courtesy of David Mullins

In addition to the operations throughout the site, the remaining buildings in the town of Cocoroc, established in 1894 by the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works to house employees and families working on the farm, has also been recognised.

Melbourne Water’s Western Treatment Plant Manager Alanna Wright said WTP’s inclusion on the Heritage Register pays homage to the vital role the site has played - and continues to do so - in Melbourne’s ongoing development since the first flows in 1897.

“For more than 80 years Cocoroc was a thriving community with over 100 houses for workers and their families,” Ms Wright said.

“This recognition of inclusion on the Victorian Heritage Register is a fitting tribute to the multiple generations who lived and worked on the farm and have left their legacy on the life and liveability of Melbourne,” she said.

Heritage Victoria Executive Director Steven Avery said many Victorians would be unaware of the former township of Cocoroc inside WTP or the importance of the former Metropolitan Farm as part of the Melbourne metropolitan sewerage system.

farm equipment
Old equipment used on the former sewage farm in front of the already heritage-listed water tower that sits in the old Cocoroc town centre. Picture courtesy of David Mullins.

“Prior to the construction of the sewerage system, human waste in metropolitan Melbourne was emptied into the streets, creeks and rivers. The Former Metropolitan Farm was a major engineering achievement and led directly to dramatic improvements in sanitation and public health in Melbourne,” Mr Avery said

Heritage Council of Victoria Chair Professor Philip Goad said: “The Heritage Council’s decision to include the Former Metropolitan Farm at Cocoroc on the Victorian Heritage Register truly illustrates the variety of places and objects across Victoria that are protected for their heritage significance and importance to the State.

“The physical fabric remaining at the Farm demonstrates pivotal advances in science and engineering techniques and in the social development of the State of Victoria. Irrigation remains a central part of the Western Treatment Plant’s operation and the original carrier and channel system for the treatment of recycled water is still in use today.”

Melbourne Water has recently completed a project to restore Cocoroc’s century-old farm hall that will be used as a new education and visitor centre.

WTP now joins the list of Melbourne Water-owned assets on the Victorian Heritage Register including:

  • Spotswood Pumping Station – now the site of Scienceworks;
  • A section of the Main Outfall Sewer from Brooklyn to Western Treatment Plant (extends beyond Williams Landing);
  • The elevated water tank within the Cocoroc precinct, originally located in East Melbourne before being moved to its current location in 1892;
  • Yan Yean Water Supply System (extends beyond the reservoir);
  • Maroondah Water Supply System (extends beyond the reservoir);
  • Bear’s Castle (located inside Yan Yean Reservoir Park).

Media contact: Bradley Green, Senior Media Advisor – 0429 407 152

Main picture courtesy of David Mullins