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Demolition of Central Pier presses ahead

Sean Car

The first chapter of a long-awaited revival of Central Pier has been given hope, with the state government including $3 million in its recent budget for a concept design and business case for demolition and redevelopment.

With the pier’s closure resulting in an annual loss of more than a million visitors to Docklands, the government’s funding commitment is an important first step towards determining its future uses as the precinct looks to bounce back from COVID-19.

The pier’s owner Development Victoria announced in December last year that it had put in an application to Heritage Victoria to demolish the disconnected western tip of the pier, while putting out a tender for the demolition works at the same time.

A spokesperson for Heritage Victoria told Docklands News last month that it was still assessing the application and “a determination is expected soon”.

In the meantime, Group Head, Precincts at Development Victoria Geoff Ward said it was currently preparing to embark on a community engagement process on the pier in the second half of this year.

“We’re developing a plan for extensive stakeholder and community consultation on the redevelopment of Central Pier – and continue to progress planning and design works to develop future plans for the pier,” he said.

“The consultation is an important next step in the redevelopment process, with a view to creating a vision for Victoria Harbour and Central Pier as part of Docklands’ continued development.”

“We are waiting for approval from Heritage Victoria to remove the western tip of Central Pier – pending that approval we hope to commence works later this year.”

The western tip, as well as the pier itself, requires heritage approval for any proposed remediation or demolition works to be carried out. Under the Heritage Act 2017 the executive director of Heritage Victoria is required to consider various matters in determining a permit application for any such works. This includes:

  • how the proposal would affect the cultural heritage significance of the place.
  • how the refusal of the application would affect the reasonable or economic use of the place.
  • any submissions received.

In this month’s Maritime column on page 17, Melbourne Maritime Heritage Network (MMHN) chair and former councillor Jackie Watts said Development Victoria still had a “fixation on demolition”, despite having other options at its disposal.

“There is still a fixation on demolition, despite irrefutable evidence that expertise exists to completely restore Central Pier. Development Victoria deserves no kudos whatsoever for neglect of the pier thus far. The agenda is unfathomable!” she said.

“Before squandering yet more valuable heritage infrastructure, MMHN recommends that Development Victoria consider examples of successful pier maintenance and restoration elsewhere around Victoria.”

“Further destruction of the very pier that Development Victoria cut in half and seems intent on demolishing further. The Central Pier site, a State public ‘asset’, is simply too valuable to waste. The future lies with Heritage Victoria.”

While public consultation on the future uses of the pier is yet to begin, MMHN has long advocated for Central Pier to house a Maritime Experiential Centre – a permanent attraction showcasing – Melbourne’s maritime heritage, industry and trade.

This would complement the current work being carried out by the council and the state government for a future maritime hub at the Mission to Seafarers building on Flinders St, focusing more on seafarers’ services, heritage and industry.

The issue regarding the pier’s sudden closure in 2019 due to safety concerns remains at that the centre of an ongoing legal battle between the tenants of Central Pier and its anchor tenant Atlantic Group, who have sought $100 million in damages from Development Victoria. •

Balance

Balance

May 4th, 2022 - Abby Crawford
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