Samples of water and sediments were collected from 24 urban wetlands in Melbourne, Australia, in April 2010, and tested for more than 90 pesticides using a range of gas chromatographic (GC) and liquid chromatographic (LC) techniques, sample ‘hormonal’ activity using yeast-based recombinant receptor-reporter gene bioassays, and trace metals using spectroscopic techniques. At the time of sampling, there was almost no estrogenic activity in the water column. Twenty-three different pesticide residues were observed in one or more water samples from the 24 wetlands; chemicals observed at more than 40 % of sites were simazine (100 %), atrazine (79 %), and metalaxyl and terbutryn (46 %). Using the toxicity unit (TU) concept, less than 15 % of the detected pesticides were considered to pose an individual, short-term risk to fish or zooplankton in the ponds and wetlands. However, one pesticide (fenvalerate) may have posed a possible short-term risk to fish (log10TUf > −3), and three pesticides (azoxystrobin, fenamiphos and fenvalerate) may have posed a risk to zooplankton (logTUzp between −2 and −3); all the photosystem II (PSII) inhibiting herbicides may have posed a risk to primary producers in the ponds and wetlands (log10TUap and/or log10TUalg> -3). The wetland sediments were contaminated with 16 different pesticides; no chemicals were observed at more than one third of sites, but based on frequency of detection and concentrations, bifenthrin (33 %, maximum 59 μg/kg) is the priority insecticide of concern for the sediments studied. Five sites returned a TU greater than the possible effect threshold (i.e. log10TU > 1) as a result of bifenthrin contamination of their sediments. Most sediments did not exceed Australian sediment quality guideline levels for trace metals. However, more than half of the sites had threshold effect concentration quotients (TECQ) values >1 for Cu (58 %), Pb (50 %), Ni (67 %) and Zn (63 %), and 75 % of sites had mean probable effect concentration quotients (PECQ) >0.2, suggesting that the collected sediments may have been having some impact on sediment-dwelling organisms. [Graeme Allinson, Pei Zhang, AnhDuyen Bui, Mayumi Allinson, Gavin Rose, Stephen Marshall & Vincent Pettigrove (2015). Pesticide and trace metal occurrence and aquatic benchmark exceedances in surface waters and sediments of urban wetlands and retention ponds in Melbourne, Australia. Environmental Science and Pollution Research, weedsnetwork update.