Council ‘‘drags the anchor’’ on berthing relief in Docklands

Council ‘‘drags the anchor’’ on berthing relief in Docklands

By Sean Car

Commercial boat operators in Victoria Harbour are pushing the City of Melbourne to provide 100 per cent berthing relief for their businesses, with many already closing due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Council announced in March that it would be providing 50 per cent in rate relief to operators berthing in Victoria Harbour from April to June, and would consider additional relief on a “case-by-case” basis.

Melbourne Passenger Boating Association president Jeff Gordon, who operates the Lady Cutler from a berth in Victoria Harbour, said the council was “dragging the anchor” in its support of the local boating industry.

Parks Victoria (PV), which manages berthing licensing further upstream along the Yarra River in Southbank, announced that it was waiving berthing rent for the whole of 2020, with refunds back-issued for the first three months of 2020.

Mr Gordon described the council’s support to Docklands boat operators as “un-Melbourne.”

“We feel, as an industry, that this [PV rent relief] sets the standard for the City of Melbourne, as it would be untenable to have one part of the Melbourne passenger boats on 100 per cent rental relief and others operating in the same waters on less,” Mr Gordon said.

“Our shared goal here should be to come out of this period with boats fully operational and ready for the summer season.”

“For many reasons, this niche Industry is very special to Melbourne and Melburnians. The vessels, laying idle at their berths are costing the operators to maintain and be made ready to resume their trade when the threat lifts.”

“It’s been very hard for many boat operators to say goodbye to many of their key staff. Some are even paying for people affected out of their own pocket.”

“I note that the City of Melbourne is taking its time over this matter, and has already provided our members with rent notices at 100 per cent for the three months from April 1, 2020. This is causing our members great distress.”

City of Melbourne CEO Justin Hanney told Docklands News that council was aware that this was a difficult time and was “working directly” to support the Docklands boating community.

“Victoria Harbour is the lifeblood of Docklands and the City of Melbourne is doing everything we can to support our local boat industry,” Mr Hanney said.

“We encourage boat operators affected by the COVID-19 restrictions to get in touch with us and discuss the rent relief options available.”

“Seventeen operators, with 31 charter vessels, are on a Crown Land Licence with the City of Melbourne. The City of Melbourne has already offered rent relief of 50 per cent from April to June to all of these operators and sent out information with invoices for the final quarter of 2020, inviting operators to apply for the rent relief adjustment. As of April 24, 2020, nine applications for rent relief had been received.”

“This followed a Future Melbourne Committee (FMC) decision on March 17, 2020 to provide eligible City of Melbourne tenants with rent relief of 50 per cent for the months of April to June.

Mr Hanney said that in response to the National Cabinet’s National Code of Conduct introduced on April 8, the Council was now reassessing its rent relief package.

At their April 28 council meeting, councillors were expected to approve a management recommendation that would enable council to discuss rent relief with tenants of council-owned managed premises on a case-by-case basis.

“Packages will include a rent waiver of at least 50 per cent, with options to waive a larger proportion or to defer a further proportion of payments. The package will also include up to 100 per cent rent relief in cases where extreme hardship can be demonstrated,” Mr Hanney said.

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