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Outrage over private use of public park

04 Feb 2016

Flinders Wharf residents are outraged by the use of Seafarers Rest as the venue for a pop-up bar.

The F.T.W. Mutiny on the Bay pop-up venue opened in December, as part of Asset1 WTH’s pre-activation plan for the North Wharf site after purchasing it from the government for $28.5 million in November.  

Seafarers Rest Park is on Crown land and remains a public park and recreation zone under the planning scheme. The site will remain public open space after redevelopment of North Wharf.

Although it is on public land, neither the Department of Treasury and Finance (DTF) or the City of Melbourne objected to the pop-up venue.

According to a DTF spokesperson the pop-up bar was licenced as part of an initiative to activate a neglected part of Docklands.

The spokesperson said the activation of the site formed part of the contractual arrangements for the redevelopment of the North Wharf precinct and said City of Melbourne also approved the activation.

A council spokesperson confirmed the City of Melbourne did not object to the application for the pop-up venue, but said it was not the responsible authority for the site.

The DTF spokesperson also maintained the site remained open to the public and the current activation was designed to encourage people to visit the park.

“In the long-term the park will be significantly updated by Asset1 to look less like an industrial eyesore and more like a park,” the spokesperson said.

“The pop-up stall only occupies a small part of the park and we understand the community are able to access the park including the small area where there are trees.”

However, Flinders Wharf residents say they are bemused by the suggestion that residents had access to the park and said it was now entirely inaccessible.

One resident, who asked to remain anonymous, said DTF was oblivious to the community impacts of the use of the site.

“From my perspective ‘activation’ of the site has not considered resident or community requirements. Rather a view to make short-term returns on public land without reference to impacts on neighbouring residents nor consideration of the compounding effect of noise impacts, which we have already voiced with respect to alcohol serving venues across the river,” the resident said.

The resident said the public land could have been better activated in the interests of local residents and their children and that Asset1 had failed to consider the community or residents.

Riverlee (of which Asset 1 WTH is part of) development manager Gabriel Kok said since purchasing the North Wharf land from the State Government last year the company also had a licence over the park, requiring it to secure the premises when unoccupied for safety and security reasons.

“However, since we have learnt how important access to the park is to local residents, we have opened up two access points and are also in the middle of putting in an additional access door,” Mr Kok said.

“While we consider the design and use of the site long-term we are activating the space in the short-term to allow for a mix of community uses that will allow for local residents to engage with the space and the otherwise inactive waterfront.”

He said two Flinders Wharf residents had contacted Asset 1 to express concerns about the “short-term pre-activation”.

“We openly shared our plans with both residents and advised the pop-up operators to put procedures in place to proactively mitigate any concerns and appease the residents,” Mr Kok said.

The F.T.W. Mutiny on the Bay is expected to operate at Seafarers Rest Park until the end of April.

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