Council “plays hard ball” over Port of Melbourne land rezoning

Council “plays hard ball” over Port of Melbourne land rezoning
Sean Car

City of Melbourne councillors have voted to withhold support for a transfer of land located west of the Bolte Bridge in Docklands to the Port of Melbourne as it seeks more information from the state government over Moonee Ponds Creek.

The realignment of the port’s boundaries, which also affects the municipalities of Hobsons Bay, Maribyrnong, and Port Phillip, follows the state government’s 2021 enlargement of land controlled by the Port of Melbourne, which has its own planning scheme.

At the April 23 Future Melbourne Committee meeting, councillors voted to support what Cr Rohan Leppert described as an otherwise “relatively unexciting bureaucratic affair” regarding the realignment of small portions of land in Docklands and Fishermans Bend.

While councillors supported nearly all of the proposed realignments, they did so with the exception of land located along the Moonee Ponds Creek west of the Bolte Bridge, which the port’s 2050 Development Strategy identifies as “open space”.

However, the port strategy also indicates that the alignment of a controversial proposal for a future Webb Dock freight link over the Yarra River, considered by many as devastating to Docklands, would be constructed over this site.

 

 

The report from council management on April 23 noted that any future proposal for the freight link would be subject to its own planning assessments, along with public engagement.

But with the land in question located along Moonee Ponds Creek, councillors used the opportunity to put pressure on the state government to provide information about delayed plans to support revitalising the waterway’s southern reaches.

Namely, councillors demanded clarity around the release of the all-important Moonee Ponds Implementation Plan and the reinstatement of Moonee Ponds Creek trail in Docklands, which are respectively five and fours years overdue.

Deputy Lord Mayor Nicholas Reece said he was concerned that supporting the proposed changes would “hinder progress” on these important projects affecting Moonee Ponds Creek.

“We’ve been running a really strong campaign to see it [Moonee Ponds Creek] reinstated to its former glory and that’s why we’ve been calling for the state government to release the implementation plan,” Cr Reece said.

“Secondly, we’ve been calling for the reopening of the trail as it runs through that southern stretch around the back of the Docklands film studio down to [Ron] Barassi [Snr] Park and the Yarra River. That is indeed an important link; you might say the missing link of the Capital City Trail – Melbourne’s most popular cycling trail.”

 

Some people might say we’re playing hard ball here, but, in fact, we’re very politely seeking more information so we can make a properly informed decision before we decide on these boundary changes being sought by the state.

 

Cr Leppert said that upon the council receiving information regarding the government’s delays in releasing the implementation plan and reinstating the creek trail in Docklands, “perhaps we’ll be in a much more consenting mood”.

“It’s fine to make them [boundaries] all cadastral … but where there’s a geographical feature, I think we should err on the side of the geographical feature not the cadastral boundary when deciding where those planning scheme boundaries are,” Cr Leppert said.

“There may be plans in the future for a new rail link to Webb Dock which might need to look at some of that land. Whenever that development is considered, some of the environment, biodiversity, and flood mitigation policy that sits inside the Melbourne Planning Scheme should be considered – not just a straightforward statutory decision by the Port of Melbourne and the Minister [for Planning] to not have to consider any of those issues.”

A Port of Melbourne (PoM) spokesperson told Docklands News: “PoM works collaboratively with our neighbouring municipalities, including with the City of Melbourne, in regard to the Moonee Ponds Creek. Long-term planning for intermodal links at PoM is under way and we look forward to continuing to work closely with our stakeholders.”

The state government was also contacted for comment. •

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