The MFP was to have an initial population of over 100,000 and include futuristic villages containing housing, education, employment and recreation.  A modern communication system was proposed to attract high tech industry. Asian investors were targeted as the source of funds for infrastructure, with an emphasis on Japanese investors.
Several locations were put forward and in 1990, a site north of Adelaide was selected. The proposal generated considerable opposition in Australia, and many viewed the project as a virtual Japanese settlement on Australian soil. However funding for the MFP never eventuated.
The Multifunction Polis was first proposed at a Japanese / Australian ministerial meeting between Japanese Trade Minister Hajima Tamura and Australia's Senator John Button in January 1987 in Canberra. 
It was billed as "a multifunctional facility (which) would incorporate future oriented high technology and leisure facilities and could promote international exchange in the Pacific Region on new industry and lifestyle."
An early draft, produced a month after the initial meeting, described the Multifunction Polis as a "cosmopolis to become a forum for international exchange in the region and a model for new industries and new lifestyles looking ahead to the twenty-first century."
Originally proposed for the Gold Coast, the Committee For Melbourne lobbied strongly throughout 1990 for the MFP to be the centrepiece for a redevelopment of Melbourne Docklands. However the Melbourne bid fell through.
In 1990, northern Adelaide was selected. A Japanese press release said the Multifunction Polis will be "a place of providing, gathering, and reproducing information of diverse aspects, strata, and form, as well as relaxation, comfort, surprise, joy, entertainment and intellectual stimulation."
A rumor spread around Australia that 200,000 Japanese wanted to settle in the Multifunction Polis.
The Multifunction Polis project failed to attract the investment required, particularly after the bursting of the Japanese economic bubble in the early 1990s, and the Australian Federal Government withdrew funding in 1996. In 1998, the Premier of South Australia, John Olsen officially announced its demise. The cost of the failed project to the Australian taxpayer was $150 million.
Former Labor South Australian Shadow Treasurer, John Quirke, described the MFP saga as one of the most bizarre development projects in Australia's history. Denis Gastin, who headed the feasibility study into the project, said the demise of the Multifunction Polis was an embarrassment to the nation internationally.
"It's an international embarrassment that we deliberately sought and captured international attention for a project that we did not deliver," said Gastin. "South Australia had a chance to do something that would make the nation take it more seriously but what history shows is it bit off more than it could chew."
Opposition to the Multifunction Polis
Liberal Party leader, Andrew Peacock, was especially critical of the Multifunction Polis proposal, as was RSL president Brigadier Alf Garland. Peacock and Garland both argued that the Multifunction Polis would become an 'Asian enclave'. 
Eventually development did proceed on the Northern Adelaide site around the year 2000. The South Australian Government in conjunction with developer Delfin Lend Lease have developed the site along similar lines to what was proposed for the multi-function polis, although that name was dropped due to the controversy that had surrounded it.
The area is now occupied by Technology Park Adelaide and Mawson Lakes. Technology Park features mostly high-tech industrial businesses and the adjacent Mawson Lakes is a mostly residential development set around several artificial lakes. It features a mix of low and medium density housing, nearly all of modern design. There are also numerous shops, cafes, restaurants, a hotel, and office based businesses in Mawson Central (the business district of Mawson Lakes). All homes and businesses in the area feature reticulated water for use in toilets and lawn watering, and a home management system which controls lighting, air-conditioning, and security installations. The layout of Mawson Lakes and Technology Park is designed to encourage residents to cycle or walk rather than driving, and there is also a centrally located bus and train interchange. Many educational and recreational facilities exist adjacent to Mawson Lakes including a university campus and golf course.
- Hodge, Amanda (1998-01-27). "MFP failure leaves a red-faced nation". The Australian.
- Castells, Manuel; Hall, Peter. Technopoles of the World: The Making of Twenty-First-Century Industrial. Routledge. pp. 206–219. ISBN 0-415-10015-1. Retrieved 2008-01-12.
- Melbourne : multifunction polis : a concept to create a city of the future in Melbourne. Committee for Melbourne, 1990
- Hills, Ben (1997-08-16). "The city that never was". The Sydney Morning Herald.
- Jupp, James. From White Australia to Woomera: The Story of Australian Immigration. Cambridge University Press. pp. 107–219. ISBN 0-521-69789-1. Retrieved 2008-01-12.
- Hills, Ben (1992-06-27). "The $2 billion creature on a black lagoon". Sydney: Good Weekend. p. 8.