An invitation to the Docklands community

An invitation to the Docklands community

By Jackie Watts

Moving forward against the headwinds of the persistent pandemic storm is enough to challenge anyone’s buoyancy! However, maritime stakeholders – and of course this includes the Docklands community – are a resilient and optimistic lot.

Although Docklanders are likely to be more aware than most city dwellers of the impact of winds blowing over water, buffeting pedestrians, whipping up the white caps, driving waves up to the wharves around Harbour Esplanade, harnessing the raw power of the wind has been a challenge since history was first written.

Acknowledging that wind power and maritime trade have been key elements of Melbourne’s evolution, the first Melbourne Maritime Heritage Network (MMHN) event for 2022 will explore the fascinating theme The Power of the Wind - Past, Present and Future.

An Invitation to everyone in the Docklands Community!

Come along or Zoom in to hear four outstanding speakers:

  • The Past: Bruce Gooley – researcher and presenter.
  • The Present: Dr Christiaan De Beukelaer, senior lecturer in cultural policy, University of Melbourne, and George Shaw – Melbourne to Osaka two-hander yacht race.
  • The Future: Erin Coldham, chief development officer, Star of the South.

When: Wednesday, February 16, 5.30pm – 7.30pm.

Where: Magnet Gallery, The District Docklands.

In these uncertain times, MMHN offers you two options for this event – in-person or via Zoom. To register, just email your preference email us [email protected] and we will either confirm your registration or send you a Zoom invitation. A nautical thought on the need for options and flexibility in these challenging times, it is worth remembering that “We cannot direct the winds but we can adjust our sails” – Thomas S. Monson.

Turning now away from the ocean, wind and waves towards the shore, Docklanders will be aware that MMHN is currently pressing Development Victoria (DV), representing the state government of course, to make the long overdue decision on the future of Central Pier. Docklands is languishing and the derelict Central Pier at its heart is graphic evidence of this.

The tip section of the pier is to be demolished after years of neglect by Development Victoria. MMHN is alarmed that any further delay by DV in making a decision may be part of deliberate strategy. The questions arise: is Development Victoria simply repeating the pattern of neglect on this heritage-listed pier? Are we watching yet another episode of deliberate delay, deliberate neglect resulting in complete demolition of Central Pier? If so, what then is the point of heritage listing at all? Futile protection of our heritage thus far. Surely the state government has an obligation to intervene to save this publicly owned heritage asset? Any further delay in determining the future of Central Pier is absolutely unacceptable. Enough is enough.

Although it is already a disgrace that two thirds of Central Pier have been, or will be, demolished, all is not lost. MMHN has proposed an excellent option to Development Victoria for the remaining (and threatened) section of the pier abutting Harbour Esplanade to be transformed into an architecturally iconic Maritime Experience Centre. This is an appropriate repurposing of this heritage-listed maritime infrastructure in the heart of the Docklands precinct. Such a centre ticks all the necessary “boxes” ‒ an iconic low-rise building on and over the water in this highly visible location offering maritime-related “experiences” new to Melbourne.

Most importantly, a Maritime Experience Centre is the ideal type of investment to deliver a permanent public “activation” to Docklands. MMHN takes the view that the City of Melbourne or state government investment in “sugar-hit” events in Docklands like flash-bang fireworks or unreliable drone displays is wasteful and misguided. Such events merely offer expensive transitory public benefit value and are risky in a number of worrisome ways – weather dependent, public safety, activities. Such events deliver a “wow” but do will not energise or support the businesses of the Docklands Precinct and drones displays curtail normal commercial waterways. Such events are not designed to deliver reliable repeat visitation all year round which is so sorely needed by the languishing Docklands precinct.

MMHN has researched comparable maritime centres in dock areas in cities around the globe which celebrate their maritime heritage. Melbourne does not. Recently MMHN has discovered yet another beautiful modern maritime museum in Windermere (UK). We are aware that this museum, like the architecturally exciting maritime museum in Melbourne’s sister city of Tianjin (China), has used Australian expertise to create both these major cultural tourism assets. Surely Development Victoria and the state government can see the benefit in capturing and harnessing such Australian design expertise and talent here in Docklands to create the Melbourne Maritime Experience Centre (MEC) on Central Pier in Victoria Harbour.

With a sense of justified optimism, MMHN met in late December with the CEO of Development Victoria, Angela Skandarajah, together with Deputy CEO Geoff Ward, to discuss Docklands heritage concerns and  discuss the MMHN proposal for a Maritime Experience Centre on what remains of Central Pier. We all anxiously await their response which will hopefully save what remains of our heritage-listed Central Pier. MMHN will continue to work towards to that end •

If you want to see more:

MMHN Proposal Windermere Tianjin 

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