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Editions

Harbour Esplanade delayed again

29 Sep 2016

Harbour Esplanade delayed again Image

By Shane Scanlan

Even more state government departmental restructure is delaying the Harbour Esplanade redevelopment.

Long-term Docklanders will not be surprised that the bureaucratic musical chairs is happening again.  This time it is the combining of Places Victoria with Major Projects Victoria to form a new “Development Victoria” section of a Jacinta Allan-led super department.

Tenders to re-deck three of the four white-capped holes in the wharf should have been let by now and work should be underway. But the new political masters need to be brought up to speed and, presumably, buy into the thinking.  Of course, this takes time.

But, in the meantime, the most important (and long-overdue) project for the development of our suburb gets put back on the shelf.

Another complication is the ambition of the AFL to redevelop Etihad Stadium and connect it more closely with the water.  A statutory masterplan is in place as protection, but locals should not be blamed for being wary of the high-level connections at work here. Gillon McLachlan and co don’t start talkingwith the juniors.  It’s (premier) Dan and (treasurer) Tim where they start.

Departmental restructuring is a disease, which all politicians acknowledge. But none of them can help picking at the scabs before progress can be made.

Is it just me who thinks that Docklands would be finished by now if the Docklands Authority had been left alone to complete the task it started in the ’90s?

The unanimous, bipartisan enthusiasm for Docklands was first diluted when the Docklands Authority was merged with the Urban Land Authority to become VicUrban back in 2003.

But at least there was a team dedicated to Docklands within this new structure at this time.  However it later adopted a “portfolio” approach, with responsibility for Docklands being shared across multiple managers.  

In 2007, the City of Melbourne was brought into the picture and years of paralysis followed as the bureaucrats struggled to understand their power-sharing roles and competed for influence.

The Docklands Authority had 52 staff but, by 2010, VicUrban had just 10 staff working on Docklands.

VicUrban became Places Victoria in October 2011 under the stewardship of CEO Sam Sangster and chairman Peter Clarke.  At least Docklands got a dedicated team again under this restructure, but in little more than 12 months both Sangster and Clarke would be gone.

Progress on Harbour Esplanade continues at a snail’s pace.  If “consultation” was a mark of progress, the project would be well and truly finished.  Docklanders are well and truly tired of being asked what they want, only to see new plans go back into the drawer.

The City of Melbourne keeps its hands in its pockets, particularly while it attempts to fund the potential black-hole that the Queen Victoria Market redevelopment threatens to become.

It says it can’t put any money on the table before the state reinstates the wharves and gives it a platform to work on.  The state reminds the council of the rating bonanza it has handed it by doing all the development work in Docklands.

The finger pointing goes on.  Nothing happens.  Docklands suffers.  Urrgghh!

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