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Docklands wharves give up the ghost

By Bethany Williams

After a century or more of loyal service, Docklands’ old wharves are collapsing at a rapid rate.

Early in December the wharf under Shed 21 gave way causing its roofline to look like a giant had sat on it.

Some weeks later the adjoining Shed 20 suffered a similar fate and then, in January, wharves on the western end of North Wharf near the old control tower gave way – resulting in an abandoned pavilion listing dangerously towards the water.

Observers have been surprised that the old structures have given way almost simultaneously.

A report by Hyder Consulting last August recommended the demolition of sheds 20 and 21 due to the likelihood of the collapse of the asbestos cement covered roof.

The sheds had originally been used as cargo sheds when Docklands was a shipping dock and are listed on the Victorian Heritage Register.

The spate of damage has caused Places Victoria to act quickly in response – particularly to remove potentially dangerous asbestos from the wreckage, a task made

more challenging considering Cirque du Soleil is currently operating next door.

“Following the shed collapse Places Victoria, as landowner, engaged a hygienist to undertake air monitoring and the shed was assessed by the City of Melbourne building control,” Places Victoria acting CEO Simon Wilson said.

According to Mr Wilson, no contamination had been detected outside of the site and monitoring was ongoing.

Initially, the council had issued an emergency demolition order for a section of the shed and a permit application had been made to Heritage Victoria for the entire demolition of the shed.

However, Mr Wilson said further collapses in other sections of the shed had occurred and the City of Melbourne had issued an emergency order for the full demolition of the shed.

He said the full demolition of the shed would be completed as soon as practicable.

Mr Wilson said the removal of the shed was consistent with the NewQuay West masterplan, which included a new residential development on a reconstructed wharf.

He said residential development on the site was not planned for about another five years.

On the opposite side of Victoria Harbour, an old building also collapsed in January.

Places Victoria currently controls the wharf where the collapsed building sits, but the land was due to be transferred to Lend Lease under a development agreement.

According to Mr Wilson, the organisation is currently working to appoint a contractor to remove the building, with work planned to start in mid-February.

The future of this site looks similar to that of Sheds 20 and 21.

Mr Wilson said Lend Lease planned to demolish the current wharf, construct a new wharf and put apartments on the site.

Docklands: It’s time for a plan

Docklands: It’s time for a plan

September 29th, 2021 - Sean Car
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