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Nothing for Docklands in council budget

01 Jun 2017

By Shane Scanlan

The City of Melbourne announced its draft budget last month. Its revenue is up 5 per cent on last year to $451.8 million. But it plans to spend nothing on Harbour Esplanade.

In fact, apart from ongoing maintenance, there is nothing of note for Docklands in the 2017/18 budget.

The council refuses to say how much it is making out of Docklands. The State Government used to force it to separate its Docklands financials, but it is no longer obligated and has not done so since 2015.

In that financial year, the council earned a $9.16 million surplus from Docklands. With thousands of more valuable properties contributing rates since then, one can only imagine the imbalance between taking and giving.

At a press conference on May 4, Lord Mayor Robert Doyle confirmed there was no plan to put money aside for Harbour Esplanade.

“There’s nothing in it for Harbour Esplanade in this particular year,” he said.

Cr Doyle implied that Development Victoria’s failure to restore the wharf decks on both sides of Central Pier was to blame for the council’s oversight.

He said: “We’re waiting, as you know, on Places Victoria (Development Victoria) to finish the work they’re doing on either side of Central Pier. There’s not a major upgrade in this budget.”

He did, however, have some thoughts to share about the western end of Central Pier, which was condemned on 2011 and closed to car parking.

“I’d love to see the removal of the car park at the end of Central Pier and opening that up. I don’t think it has to be as expensive as people say,” he said.

“I don’t think you need to remove the whole lot. My view would be to just take off the concrete and cap the piles that are there. I think that would be a wonderful reminder of the history of Central Pier.”

The Lord Mayor also took the opportunity to outline his desire to see heritage sheds returned to Harbour Esplanade within four years – a move which is sure to find local opposition to protect water views.

He said: “And also to put back the heritage sheds on land on each side of Central Pier. I’d like to think it’s within the four years of this council.”

A master plan for Harbour Esplanade was adopted in 2015. Since then, Development Victoria (formerly Places Victoria) has funding to restore three of the four former wharf areas that are currently occupied by white-capped piles.

This work was scheduled to proceed in the middle of last year, but was delayed by the administrative merging of Major Projects Victoria and Places Victoria to form Development Victoria.

This reshuffle is now complete, with Development Victoria now headquartered in Exhibition St in the CBD.

It is understood that another government entity will occupy the former Places Victoria offices in the Good Shed North.

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