Docklands Act, it’s time …

Docklands Act, it’s time …
Sean Car

If there was ever a month to highlight the desperate need to reform governance of Docklands, March 2023 might have just taken the cake.

In the 32 years since the Docklands Act 1991 was conceived, a lot has changed in our precinct. With the exception of a handful of undeveloped sites, it’s largely been built out, and now, more than 16,000 residents call this place their home.

There’s also a school here now, which is currently overflowing. More on that shortly …

 

Despite all of this, the governance structures in place still treat this central city suburb as the subject of urban renewal, where the rights of residents, who have invested heavily in our community, continue to be outweighed in favour of opaque development planning.

 

Meanwhile, as you’ll read on the front page of this edition, the Victorian Government is now proceeding with changes to make it easier for venues in Docklands to serve liquor until 3am, “as of right”.

We all know Docklands is zoned as “mixed use” and, being home to Marvel Stadium and a bustling events calendar, we ought not expect this to ever change completely. But this decision by the state government, without consultation, does nothing in the pursuit of balancing the area’s interests.

The ongoing campaign from scores of residents to find a solution to noise and amenity impacts relating to floating nightclub ATET reached a tipping point last month as the City of Melbourne convened a crisis meeting in an attempt to address the issues.

But despite the best efforts from those at Town Hall, and even relevant state regulators to ease the pain for locals, one resident perhaps best summed up the situation that Docklanders find themselves in …

 

I don’t give a damn what the rules and regulations are, they’re obviously completely inappropriate. They have to be changed, there is no other answer.

 

And yet, the main government agency responsible for Docklands, Development Victoria, was absent from this meeting. Despite approving ATET to operate at its current position on the wharf, it continues to pass the buck onto the City of Melbourne as a “permit issue”.

That may be the case, but as the resident succinctly put it, perhaps the rules under which the council is working are inappropriate? It’s fair to say given the numbers of locals affected, and the inability to find a meaningful resolution, the only hope lies in “reform”.

While some locals feel they are being forced out of their homes, some students at Docklands Primary School (DPS) will be forced from Term Three to attend classes held in a shopping centre – another historic failure of planning that our community is now having to deal with.

And, in one way or another, it all comes back to the Docklands Act. Built on the last conceivable site left for a school in Docklands, DPS has already been dealing with a myriad of competing safety issues along Footscray Rd and its students have no easy access to badly needed open space.

All because of an irrelevant set of laws, and a passive government agency administering them, which continues to see the needs of developers and businesses prioritised under the guise of “urban renewal”.

Come on, Premier Andrews. There might not be enough votes here to sway you, but it’s time to do the right thing – repeal the Docklands Act, ship out Development Victoria, and give this community some certainty and a sense of ownership over its neighbourhood. •

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