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Editions

Don’t hem me in

01 Mar 2011

Editorial Comment - Shane Scanlan

Docklands is in danger of losing its open horizons and water views because planners seem afraid of open space.

The vision of our founding fathers (and it was only 10 years ago!) appears lost on the current crop of people in charge.  If we are not careful, our water views will be blocked from Harbour Esplanade.

I was appalled to learn that the City of Melbourne was seriously considering placing the long-overdue Docklands library on the waterfront between the NAB building and Central Pier.

As it turns out, timing and costs make this site unviable.  But the fact that they even looked at this site for a substantial building should set alarm bells ringing for concerned Docklanders.

Elsewhere in this edition (Page 11) we have a story about an adverse reaction to the siting of a Circus Oz tent on the waterfront between Central Pier and NewQuay.  This is a temporary structure but, again, it demonstrates the change in thinking by the authorities.

Ten years ago the government of the day “liberated” Melbourne’s waterfront when it demolished a row of wharf sheds and opened up an entirely new vista for Melbourne.

A press release at the time said:  “Harbour Esplanade will create an enormous open space which will provide the key public access to the CBD’s newest waterfront - on Victoria Dock.”

These days, it seems, “enormous open spaces” scare the planning fraternity.

When questioned about their desire to fill it in with structures, they talk about “activation” and argue that the public is uncomfortable unless they are within range of some type of built form.

But the argument is also about money.  The redevelopment of Harbour Esplanade is being conducted in three stages.  We are still enduring the pain of the first stage (and will be until mid-year), but this is the only stage which is fully funded.

Stages two and three still lie before us and VicUrban doesn’t have the cash to pay for them. 

Readers may recall the initial plans for the waterfront when the grand “verandah” project was first announced in 2008.  The plans were for a series of passive and active open spaces. The only mention of buildings were “small street vendors”.

Like many other aspects of life in Docklands, “consultation” was duly performed with a promise that this would result in concrete plans and, ultimately, action.

However, it appears that these days all bets are off.  The project is being revisited and money is central to the outcome.

The risk is that the authorities view parts of the open space as a saleable commodity which can be traded to fund the rest of the project.

The outcomes of decisions taken around these principles will be with us for generations to come.

My fear is that unless Docklanders stand up and oppose it, the authorities may well “sell off the farm” to fund the development.

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Comments

  • Nola Logan at 6:15pm on 15/03/11

    Great article,obviously every resident of Docklands wants this area to remain open space, I see no need to spend millions developing it, some much needed grassed areas would be lovely. Obviously more action needs to be taken by present residents to ensure rampant overdevelopment is curbed.
    Could a public forum be organised with VicUrban/Melbourne City Council to give residents some real say?

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