Docklands – a port precinct?

Docklands – a port precinct?
Jackie Watts

Beyond the Bolte Bridge, the commercial Port of Melbourne (PoM) operations define the unique status of the Docklands precinct. While Docklands may not actually identify itself as functioning “port” precinct at all, perhaps it should do so.

Whatever happens as the operations at the PoM evolve this will absolutely impact on the Docklands precinct. For example, a rail bridge proposed by PoM at water level parallel to the Bolte Bridge threatening to enclose Victoria Harbour? 

Are you aware that the newly released Victorian Commercial Ports Strategy entitled Navigating our Port Futures correctly identifies that “tensions” exist in port planning decisions which have an impact on life in adjacent communities? MMHN recommends Docklanders take a close read of the strategy especially between the lines.

Here is the link –

What is the new strategy saying about what is planned for the PoM beyond the Bolte Bridge? While identifying probable “tensions” around ports planning and nearby communities, is it significant that maps in the strategy completely “blank out” the entire Docklands precinct? Probably this “blanking out” is because the Victorian Minister for Ports and Freight Melissa Horne only controls the PoM (bay) side of the Bolte Bridge, not the Docklands precinct itself.

However, surely the Docklands community cannot be simply “blanked out” of any future port planning? Significantly the strategy reveals that the state government is well aware that port decisions will have an economic, environment, social impact on adjacent communities?

It refers to the state government focus on “setting the appropriate planning frameworks to protect ports and their transport corridors from sensitive-use encroachment” while managing potential “urban amenity impacts” (i.e.. communities like the Docklands precinct).

The strategy sets out state government actions and objectives over the next five years in “support of the ports system including supporting capacity growth at the Port of Melbourne”.

Critical questions for Docklands are: to what extent will port community needs be reconciled with “port system” needs? How will the anticipated “tensions” between PoM needs and Docklands precinct community needs be equitably resolved? How will these state government “actions and objectives” impact on the Docklands precinct community over the next five years?

The strategy states primarily from the port perspective: “Commercial ports have long grappled with the inherent tension between growing freight capacity of and local planning policy”. Obviously the most telling “grapple” will be maintaining public amenity in Victoria Harbour/Yarra River and the rail bridge proposed by the PoM.

A reminder that PoM is state-owned but privately operated on a 50-year lease arrangement. The strategy sets out a few fascinating PoM statistics: 30 berths handling an average nine ships (vessel lengths 100 to 350 metres) arriving daily, international and coastal trade, almost all trade across Bass Strait, carrying 8000-plus containers, 1000 cars, 2800 tons of dairy produce, plus dry and break bulk, plus facilitating with about 50 per cent of Victoria’s liquid bulk cargo.

Annually this adds up to 3000 vessels, three million containers, 3000 new cars and one million tons of dairy products. Clearly the PoM is a “big player” in the state economy.

MMHN is delighted to announce the establishment of a new local maritime group The Port of Williamstown Action Group. Just across the water, no doubt the Williamstown precinct, in relation to port infrastructure, will have much in common with the Docklands precinct.

Both precincts have such rich maritime heritage and regrettably also rapidly degenerating maritime infrastructure resulting in lost public amenity – pier closures and crumbling wharves. Let’s hope at the state election year, such urgent maritime matters capture the attention of all relevant politicians and aspirant politicians.

Surely the “amnesia” around the multi-faceted value of maritime heritage, tourism and recreational boating will resonate as the election draws near in the maritime state of Victoria? •  

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