Multifunction Polis

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Multifunction Polis
 • Total100,000-250,000

Coordinates: 34°49′14″S 138°30′48″E / 34.8206489°S 138.5133724°E / -34.8206489; 138.5133724

The Multifunction Polis (MFP) was a controversial scheme for a planned community in Australia proposed in 1987 and abandoned in 1998. From the Greek word "polis", meaning "city", it was imagined as a place where work and leisure, lifetime education and intercultural exchange, research and manufacturing would be uniquely integrated.[1]

The MFP was intended to have an initial population of 100,000, though some modelling was done on the assumption of a population up to 250,000. Futuristic infrastructure and modern communications were expected to help attract high-tech industries. [2] Asian investors were targeted as an important source of funds, with an emphasis on Japanese investors.[3]

Several possible locations were put forward and in 1990 a site at Gillman, north of Adelaide, was selected. The proposal generated noisy opposition in Australia, with some critics claiming it would open the way for a Japanese settlement on Australian soil.[3] The MFP, at least as originally envisaged, never eventuated.


The Multifunction Polis was first proposed at the ninth Australia-Japan Ministerial Committee meeting in Canberra in January 1987 by the Japanese Minister for International Trade and Industry (MITI) Hajime Tamura.[4][5]

A concept paper produced by MITI a month later said the Multifunction Polis would "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." More than 100 Australian and Japanese companies signed up to the MFP Joint Feasibility Study. [6]

Site proposals were received from New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and the A.C.T. In 1990 the MFP Joint Steering Committee (whose co-chairman was ANZ Bank chief executive Will Bailey) initially awarded the project to the Gold Coast in Queensland, but after the state's premier Wayne Goss declined to consolidate the land under a public corporation the Joint Steering Committee switched its choice to Gillman, near Adelaide in South Australia.[7]

By this time, however, some potential Japanese investors had lost interest because of the negative publicity in Australia and repeated delays with the feasibility study. The choice of little-known Gillman for the site, rather than a location with strong appeal as a resort, discouraged others.[8]

The Multifunction Polis project failed to attract the required investment, particularly after the bursting of the Japanese economic bubble in the early 1990s, and Australia's Federal Government withdrew funding in 1996. In 1998, the Premier of South Australia, John Olsen, officially announced the MFP's demise.[2] The cost of the failed project to the Australian taxpayer was said to be $150 million.[9]

Denis Gastin, chief executive of the MFP Joint Secretariat, said the loss of the project was an embarrassment to the nation: "It's an international embarrassment that we deliberately sought and captured international attention for a project that we did not deliver. 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."[2]

Opposition to the Multifunction Polis[edit]

The MFP proposal was attacked in Australia by critics on the Left, who likened it to Japan's colonial experiment in Manchuria, and critics on the Right, who saw it creating an exclusive Japanese enclave.[3]

The controversy boiled over during the Federal Election campaign of March 1990. Liberal Party leader, Andrew Peacock, declared that a future Coalition Government would abandon the project.[10] Peacock shared the "enclave" fears of RSL president Brigadier Alf Garland and others. [11] Australian Labor Party leader Bob Hawke accused Peacock of delivering a "massive, full-on insult" to Japan. The ALP went on to win the election.[12]

Current status[edit]

Development eventually did proceed several kilometres further east at another northern Adelaide suburb, formerly called The Levels, where a pre-existing campus of the University of South Australia was located. The South Australian Government in conjunction with developer Delfin Lend Lease proceeded along similar lines to what had been proposed for the MFP, although that name was dropped due to the controversy that had surrounded it.

The area is now occupied by Technology Park Adelaide and the suburb of Mawson Lakes.[13] 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 recycled 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 campus of the University of South Australia and a golf course.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hamilton, Walter (Walter Stuart); Hamilton, Walter; Australian Broadcasting Corporation; ABC Enterprises (1991), Serendipity city : Australia, Japan and the multifunction polis, ABC Books, ISBN 978-0-7333-0087-5
  2. ^ a b c Hodge, Amanda (27 January 1998). "MFP failure leaves a red-faced nation". The Australian.
  3. ^ a b c Hawke/Keating Government believed Multi Function Polis needed different name, Cabinet papers reveal The Advertiser, 1 January 2014. Retrieved 15 February 2016.
  4. ^ Hamilton, "Serendipity City", pp. 8-10.
  5. ^ Castells, Manuel; Hall, Peter. Technopoles of the World: The Making of Twenty-First-Century Industrial Complexes. Routledge. pp. 206–219. ISBN 0-415-10015-1. Retrieved 12 January 2008.
  6. ^ Hamilton, "Serendipity City", p. 30, 56-61.
  7. ^ Hamilton, "Serendipity City", pp. 193-204.
  8. ^ Hamilton, "Serendipity City", pp. 170-74, 192-93
  9. ^ Hills, Ben "The city that never was", The Sydney Morning Herald, 16 August 1997.
  10. ^ Hamilton, "Serendipity City", pp. 152-55.
  11. ^ Jupp, James. From White Australia to Woomera: The Story of Australian Immigration. Cambridge University Press. pp. 107–219. ISBN 0-521-69789-1. Retrieved 12 January 2008.
  12. ^ Hamilton, "Serendipity City", p. 155
  13. ^ "SA's big bang theory: lessons from inside the MFP - InDaily". InDaily. 8 September 2017. Retrieved 4 November 2017.