Central Pier set to receive heritage installation as work continues to remove the western tip

Brendan Rees

Docklands’ century-old pier is set to get a heritage installation recognising the “original footprint of the pier”, as part of a Heritage Victoria condition on the western tip’s removal.

The western tip, which is no longer connected to the main structure of Central Pier, closed permanently in 2017 after it became structurally unsound and inaccessible for years, while the century-old pier, which comprised function spaces, restaurants, and offices, shut down in August 2019 after engineers found it unsafe and “could collapse at any time”.

Specialist marine contractor, Fitzgerald Constructions Australia Pty Ltd, has been using a barge system to dismantle and remove the western tip from the water piece by piece – with Development Victoria announcing last month that works were progressing on schedule.   

Heritage Victoria said in issuing a demolition permit for the western tip, which was granted in June 2021, a condition included that “a physical representation of the original footprint of the pier” is to be installed as part of the implementation of an approved Heritage Interpretation Strategy.

“The physical installation must represent the full length of the pier, as built in 1916-17, within the body of water,” it said.

It comes as Development Victoria confirmed it had engaged the services of a heritage consultant “regarding all of Central Pier – including the western tip.”

Docklands News understands the consultant specialises in heritage interpretation, which is known to inform ways of enhancing visitor experience.

Development Victoria did not provide the name of the heritage consultant or what interpretative concepts would be sought or if they were undertaking research for the proposed installation, instead stating, “Development Victoria continues to work with Heritage Victoria and a heritage consultant regarding all of Central Pier – including the western tip.”

A Heritage Victoria spokesperson said, “Heritage Victoria is working with Development Victoria to ensure the works required by the permit achieve a strong and engaging heritage outcome for Victoria Dock.”

In assessing the western tip’s future, Heritage Victoria “considered options for rehabilitation of the western tip of the pier, demolition and reconstruction of the western tip and demolition without the requirement to rebuild the pier.”

“It was considered that demolition of the western tip was an acceptable option as the substantial costs associated with rehabilitation or rebuilding would not necessarily result in a good heritage outcome. In either case, no original fabric would be retained,” it said.

Development Victoria’s group head of precincts, Geoff Ward, said, “We’re pleased with the progress” of the western tip’s removal with almost a quarter of the structure having been removed from the water so far – which does not include Central Pier.

“The works remain on schedule to be completed by early next year,” Mr Ward said.

Development Victoria said it had worked closely with Heritage Victoria on the permit process for the removal of the western tip, which began in late January, “and will continue to keep community informed throughout the removal process.” •

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