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Public events are under a cloud

30 Aug 2011

Public events are under a cloud Image

Harbour Esplanade’s capacity to host public events is under a cloud until VicUrban fixes structural problems with its raised wharf areas.

Engineers have reported load-bearing problems with the old wharves but there are no immediate plans to fix the problem.

VicUrban says the issue will be addressed as part of the next stages of the Harbour Esplanade redevelopment, but no timelines are in place.

In the meantime, it has advised the City of Melbourne not to issue permits for public events.

The issue came to light last month when a group of Docklanders attempted to lobby the State Government and the City of Melbourne to locate Cadel Evans’ home-coming parade in Docklands.

Following the decision to host the event at Federation Square, the group produced a document designed to demonstrate Docklands’ capacity to host future events of this nature.

But in distancing the council from the document, City of Melbourne City Business Director Martin Cutter said: “Harbour Esplanade wharf and Central Pier (western tip) have a practical load capacity of zero kg, due to the structural integrity of these areas identified by VicUrban.”

But VicUrban’s Docklands acting general manager Simon Wilson points out that the problem is confined only to the raised wharf areas.

“The lowered areas and the former tram reserve, now that the latter has effectively been vacated by our contractor, is available for all to use.  If relevant, the raised areas could be fenced off,” he said.

“The lowered area comprises about 20,000sqm that could be made available for use subject to the necessary permits being issued by the city.”

Destination Docklands chairman Kyle Johnston said Docklands had a number of large-scale open space public event venues at Waterfront City, Victoria Harbour Promenade, NewQuay Promenade, Docklands Park and the soon to reopen piazza under the Southern Star wheel.

“These spaces can sufficiently cater for current Docklands event demand,” Mr Johnston said.

Docklands Chamber of Commerce president Keith Rankin declined to comment.

VicUrban says the fencing around the Shoal Fly By sculptures is not connected to the poor state of the wharves.  It says some minor damage was found earlier this year but, again, no time line has been announced for repairs.

“The fences around Shoal Fly By have been erected as a temporary measure to ensure public safety while VicUrban, in consultation with the artist and structural engineer, investigates appropriate solutions for the artwork,” Mr Wilson said.

VicUrban is currently strengthening Central Pier following a similarly bad report from a routine engineering inspection in April which found problems with the western tip, the area under Shed 9 and the in the roadway between Sheds 9 and 14.

“In early May, independent structural engineers confirmed that the western tip and areas surrounding Shed 9 will remain safe for pedestrians and managed activity prior to and during rectification works,” Mr Wilson said.

“Remediation works to restore the structural integrity of the Pier under the affected leased areas are currently underway and are expected to be complete by the end of the year.”

“VicUrban will continue to explore rehabilitation solutions for the western tip with the priority being given to rectifying the affected parts of the pier that are under Central Pier Docklands’ leased areas, and to ensuring public safety within public areas.”

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