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Another blow to maritime industry

By Shane Scanlan

Docklands’ maritime industry has been dealt another blow with a South Wharf shed, which has long been earmarked for an on-shore facility, being given over to urban fringe sports for at least five years.

From as early as 2009, the western section of Shed 21 has been designated in planning documents as a “working quay area” for the maritime industry.

A 2016 draft amended precinct development plan, which is currently before the state government for endorsement, maintains this vision and allocates almost half of the 1950s-built shed to a “waterways/working quay area”.

But a later 2017 “master plan” for the area evicts the boating community entirely in favour of fringe sports – at least for the life of the “temporary activation”.

A current Development Victoria expression of interest (EoI) is offering the entire 4200sqm shed to urban fringe sports operators for at least five years and possibly more.

“The opportunity involves occupancy of the space for initially up to a five-year period with the possibility to consider an extension if the operation is successful,” the EoI, which closes on July 4, says.

Development Victoria development manager Harry Polydurouo told the July 27 Docklands Community Forum (DCF) that a 2017 consultation had identified a shortfall of urban fringe sports.

“It’s basically sports like basketball, skating, roller sports, climbing, etc,” Mr Polydurouo said. “So, there’s a real opportunity for those types of uses.”

Mr Polydurouo told the forum there was a future “opportunity” for a “working pier” adjacent to the site.

“In terms of the longer-term vision for the Bolte Precinct West, we see it as a mixed-use precinct – retaining the sheds, creating flexible spaces for community and recreation,” Mr Polydurouo said.

“There is an opportunity for a working pier to accommodate a maritime and waterways function for the City of Melbourne. There’s also the opportunity for a new wharf and promenade along the Yarra River.”

Mr Polydurouo said DV had spent $2.83 million so far removing lead paint, fixing the structure and demolishing the adajacent wharf.

The Docklands Waterways Strategy 2009-18 earmarks the site as a maritime precinct for: Vessel refuelling and servicing; Wet maintenance berths; Repair facility; Water shuttle stop; Dry stack facility for boats; Boating Education Centre; Potential for travel lift; Offices for service providers (i.e. brokerage, upholsterer, mechanic); On-shore support facility; and Small heritage boats under restoration.

And the Bolte Precinct West Addendum to the Yarra’s Edge Bolte Precinct Development Plan (November 2016) clearly shows two bays of Shed 21 reserved for a “working quay area”.

But the Mr Polydurouo’s EoI shows no future potential maritime use of the shed. In his document the marine industry has been pushed underneath the Bolte Bridge which, in earlier planning documents had been reserved as a parking and storage area.

The 2106 document says: “An active working quay is to be located at the western of the existing shed structure. This area will be directly accessed from Lorimer St via an access road adjacent to Bolte Bridge.”

“The space has a ‘working quay’ flavour and is expected to accommodate maritime and waterways functions, including council’s waterways maintenance and water events operations. It could also include potential boat refuelling activities. The western edge of this area is expected to have close ties to the use of the area below the Bolte Bridge.”

The president of the Melbourne Passenger Boating Association, Jeff Gordon, said: “My question for the government is does the state government believe that the Yarra deserves a healthy and vibrant water-based industry?” 

“If the answer is no, then tell us all to bugger off – take our boats and go elsewhere – but if the answer is yes, then the government needs to get behind us and support the industry. We are not going to survive without properly-planned, shore-based infrastructure and back of house facilities.”

“Vessels operating in Victoria Harbour continue to be squeezed out by developers, with Development Victoria, treating the industry as a second-class citizen, with the head of security on Central Pier now the mouthpiece for Development Victoria, as they don’t speak to us directly anymore.”

Mr Polydurouo told the DCF that the EoI would close on July 4 with an operator to be appointed by the end of the year.

A Development Victoria spokesperson said: “Development Victoria’s long term vision for Bolte Precinct West includes provision for both community spaces and waterways operations for the City of Melbourne (CoMs.”

“Development Victoria is currently working with stakeholders to progress planning and design for the precinct, including its ability to support effective growth of maritime activities in Docklands.”

“In the meantime, via an Expression of Interest process, DV is seeking to activate the site in the short term with sport and recreation use. In line with the results of community consultation undertaken in 2016, the preference is for urban fringe sports.  DV is committed to managing the evolution of the precinct to realise the long-term vision.”

“DV and CoM are also progressing plans for Harbour Esplanade that could include a zone allocated for heritage vessels, as part of the wider Stadium Precinct project.”

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