Docklands on pause amid uncertainty

Docklands on pause amid uncertainty

By David Schout

As businesses close, workers clear and events cease, Docklands is bracing for an acutely uncertain 2020 amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

In the space of just two weeks in March, almost all Docklands-based businesses and events were forced to close or cancel after increasingly stringent government measures forced people indoors.

Many local residents now face the prospect of isolation inside apartment buildings, making the months ahead particularly challenging.

With less room to move (and practice social distancing) in these living arrangements, owners’ corporations (OCs) throughout Docklands face important decisions about common areas and procedures to deal with residents who may contract the virus.

The local area, via its numerous hotels, may also host return travelers who are forcibly quarantined under federal government directives. At time of publication, the state government said that Crowne Plaza was the only Docklands hotel to be doing so.

Accommodation giant Quest confirmed with Docklands News that while many of their hotels throughout the nation were offered as quarantine facilities, Quest NewQuay and Quest Docklands would not be taking returned travellers.

NewQuay franchisee Stacy Andronikos, however, said that the pandemic had hit his business hard.

“It’s tough. It’s been tough on the entire industry,” he said.

“We’re just taking it day by day at to be honest because things are moving so fast. It has been tough for the area and for Melbourne. Fingers crossed we can pick up as quick as we dropped off.”

The impact on many businesses has been swift.

An area defined by a large working population, Docklands has seen a rapid downturn in foot traffic that rendered some streets into ghost towns in a short space of time.

The City of Melbourne’s pedestrian counting system indicates that more than 400 people typically walk past the usually busy corner of Bourke St and Harbour Esplanade on a Monday lunchtime (between 12-1pm).

But by Monday March 30, that number was down to just 40 as many businesses closed.

Some were uncertain whether their doors would open again.

Lord Mayor and Docklands resident Sally Capp said the health and economic impacts on the city were profound.

“Of course, the priority has to be health and the way we respond to our challenge around slowing the spread of this virus,” she said in a social media address.

“It has been devastating to see the impact on the number people (present) and what that means for our retailers and hospitality businesses in particular.”

Cr Capp said that people were “firmly at the centre” of the council’s approach in the coming weeks and months.

“It’s really important that we’re all taking a caring approach at this time. For us we’re particularly looking at our most vulnerable, being our elderly and rough sleepers. So please, whatever you’re doing, look out for the people around you whilst taking the necessary precautions for all of us to slow the advancement of this virus.”

All the city’s libraries, aquatic/recreation centres, arts and cultural centres, community hubs and visitor centres have been closed until further notice.

In Docklands this includes: The Hub, Library at The Dock, Melbourne City Marina and Yarra’s Edge Marina onshore facilities (boating customers can still access their vessel through marina gates).

While parks remain open, playground equipment has been ruled off-limits at Buluk Park, Docklands Park, Point Park, Ron Barassi Snr Park, Victoria Green and Wharf’s Landing.

Childcare facilities and in-home services such as domestic assistance, home maintenance, meals, personal care, respite, and individual social support would continue, as council staff were ordered to ask COVID-19 screening questions.

While the state and federal government’s response would best determine the health and economic impact of COVID-19 on locals, the council has made a number of moves to soften the blow. 

Most notably, this included a $10 million pledge to cushion the impact on city businesses and workers, something small business chair Susan Riley said the a favourable financial position allowed them to do. For more on what the package included read How the virus has hit Docklands on page 1.

Deputy Mayor Aaron Wood said relief would be swift.

“We’re acting quickly, it’s not all going to be perfect, but sometimes ‘perfect’ can get in the way of ‘good’, and that’s really why we’re moving as quickly as possible,” he said at the March 17 Future Melbourne Committee meeting.

For updated local government advice on COVID-19, visit melbourne.vic.gov.au

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