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No funding for Harbour Esplanade

30 May 2018

Harbour Esplanade again missed out in next year’s City of Melbourne draft budget, but finance chair Cr Arron Wood says he’ll advocate for funding so at least proper planning and designs can restart.

Submissions on the draft budget are open until June 13 and Cr Wood encouraged Docklanders to have their say.

He said the project would have to wait until the 2019/20 budget cycle to receive any significant capital works funding.

“I will be advocating hard for the City of Melbourne to put aside significant funds in this budget to update the plans and get the design brief completed,” he said. “This will mean the 2019/20 budget will get this long-awaited project up and running once and for all.”

“When Harbour esplanade is no longer seen as just a part of Docklands, but as Melbourne’s premier waterfront, we’ll know the potential of this amazing precinct has been realised.”

The council and Development Victoria have procrastinated for decades over completing Harbour Esplanade. Most recently, they put the latest master plan on hold until the AFL’s plans for Etihad Stadium became clear.

Development Victoria’s general manager for precincts, Simon Wilson, told Docklands News: “With the redevelopment of the Docklands Stadium recently announced, Development Victoria will work closely with the City of Melbourne, the AFL, stakeholders and the wider community to develop a vision to revitalise the Stadium and Harbour Esplanade area.”

Cr Wood said the recent state government announcements about the stadium appeared to remove the hurdles that had been holding the project back.

“There is still some master plan updates to work through with Development Victoria, but there’s goodwill and a strong understanding that we need to get this project moving,” he said.

“Harbour Esplanade is Melbourne’s waterfront and a symbol of the city turning to face the harbour, but it is currently giving the wrong message about how much Melburnians are starting to love our waterways.”

“Rather than reflecting the vitality and exciting potential of Melbourne’s premier urban redevelopment, it is currently telling a story of decay and neglect.”

“The sooner Harbour Esplanade can knit the fingers of the precinct together, the sooner Docklands as a whole will finally command the respect it has been lacking for the past two decades.”

In a submission to the council, Docklands developer David Napier asked why the project was taking so long.

“Why is it taking so long for our elected decision makers to realise that making no decision on the upgrade of the Harbour Esplanade waterfront is having a major impact on the ongoing viability of retail outlets and is dampening activity and foot traffic on the north side of Victoria Harbour?” he said.

“I started working in Docklands in 2000 and moved here in 2008. The convenience of being able to walk to the city in 10 minutes, catch a free tram to anywhere in the city (from our front door) or beyond to the MCG or tennis centre, make it a highly desirable place to live and work,” Mr Napier said.

“Some observations relating to the current status of the north end of Docklands include:

  • The Harbour Esplanade waterfront suffers from a history of abandoned master plans, broken promises, a lack of funding and the absence of any serious commitment by our governing authorities to deliver;
  • Restaurants and retail shops continue to shut down at a steady rate while new multi-unit residential apartment towers and hotels are completed and occupied by hundreds of new residents every year;
  • LaTrobe St is the only Hoddle Grid connector out of the CBD that provides a stunning view over Victoria Harbour. Brilliant on a sunny day with the water sparkling and the boats bobbing, let down only by the neglected state of the LaTrobe St bridge and the run-down appearance of the waterfront edge;
  • The south end of Docklands has an abundance of recreation parks and gardens, some upgraded several times already, servicing an influx of office workers and apartment residents, as it should be with the connection between the city and Docklands along the sought-after Collins and Bourke street addresses;
  • Over the past 10 years Docklands has been the fastest growing commercial precinct in Australia, with a commensurate increase in residential;
  • The City of Melbourne collects ever increasing annual rates from office, retail and apartment dwellers, yet because the rate collections have become a secret over recent years we are unable to judge whether Docklands is receiving a fair go when it comes to maintenance and upgrade of essential services and infrastructure, not to mention the provision of additional parks and a waterfront upgrade.
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