City of Melbourne council: the good and the not so good

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Jackie Watts

Let’s start with the good …

Maritime heritage really matters in Docklands. Given it is of such significance to the maritime heritage of Melbourne, it comes as no surprise that Melbourne Maritime Heritage Network (MMHN) is always alert to matters likely to have an adverse impact on the precinct, and therefore, on heritage values (beyond the damage that has already been done as port operations gradually shift downstream from Victoria Harbour).

This is why it is pleasing to discover that twice in April the City of Melbourne council took a pro-active stand in defending Docklands against inappropriate development.

Victoria Harbour and Yarra

Docklands News reported in May 2023 that “Council ‘plays hard ball’ over Port of Melbourne land rezoning”.

This seemingly innocuous bureaucratic realignment of small portions of land in Docklands was in fact crucial to the future of the precinct, which is why it is pleasing that the council decided to “except” this land from the proposed bureaucratic realignment.

Located along the Moonee Ponds Creek west of the Bolte Bridge, this small piece of land will be critical to the future of the Docklands. The Port of Melbourne Development Strategy 2050 identifies this small plot as “open space”. But is it? Not really.

The sub-text of the council’s decision has two important elements …

The decision enabled the possibility of Moonee Ponds Creek trail to link with and activate NewQuay around Victoria Harbour; and, more significantly …

This plot of land is essential to the highly controversial Port of Melbourne plan for a future Webb Dock freight link over the river.

The council voting for “exception” effectively compromised the Port of Melbourne plan for the construction of a rail freight link at water level across the Yarra River, which many consider would be disastrous in terms of the future of Victoria Harbour and the Birrarung/Yarra.

Harbour Esplanade

The council decided this month to take a stance against inappropriate development in Docklands by rejecting an amendment put up by the AFL and Development Victoria (DV) to redevelop part of the Marvel Stadium precinct. The proposal was described as “one of the most embarrassing applications the City of Melbourne has seen”.

DV owns the Harbour Esplanade site on which three high-rise towers were proposed. The incident will be known forevermore as “DV’s Great Wall of Docklands” proposal. The final decision will be made by Victorian Planning Minister Sonya Kilkenny. Let us hope she can remain firm.

The less good

Lendlease on North Wharf – note the name – is historically important. The location is now incorrectly referred to by Lendlease as Collins Wharf. Why? Perhaps a Collins St address is deemed more appealing in the real estate marketplace of the future. Lendlease has plans dating back to 2017 to construct apartment high-rise towers on six sites along North Wharf. Lendlease states …

“Each tower on the wharf that separates Docklands’ Victoria Harbour from the Yarra River gradually decreases in height to the end of the wharf. The end of the wharf is earmarked for a [small] public green space. Collins Wharf is a premium waterfront residential precinct that extends Melbourne’s famed Collins St further westwards to engage with the water, connecting its maritime past with the contemporary vibrancy of the city.”

Park on North Wharf

Regrettably this [small] “public green space” has been labelled – again inappropriately by the City of Melbourne – “Eco Park”. MMHN argues that it should be named in honour of engineers John Coode and Joseph Brady, who designed Victoria Dock (aka Victoria Harbour).

Returning to Lendlease’s work on North Wharf, MMHN also argues that given the open space deficit in Docklands, this small plot should be enlarged via DV acquiring one of the six Lendlease sites to be developed on North Wharf.

Furthermore, MMHN advocates that the community benefit contribution required of all developers should, in this instance, be directed towards the restoration and appropriate repurposing of the Shipping Control Tower in this North Wharf park. It would become a genuine destination for locals and, indeed, all Victorians.

Two recent Draft Council Plans both inexplicably omit reference to the unique Docklands precinct and its waterways. Given its unique status, it is in urgent need of “activation”.

  • Experiencing Melbourne 2028 – tourism plan
  • Recreation Facilities Provision Framework – a plan

This is indeed a regrettable oversight which will hopefully be addressed before the final documents. MMHN made submissions to councillors on both matters.

Docklands clearly remains a “work-in-progress”. MMHN encourages all in the Docklands community to get involved with what his planned in this unique precinct. Contact MMHN to share concerns. •

Meet Peta Brehaut

Meet Peta Brehaut

May 29th, 2024 - Docklands News
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