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Editions
August 09 Edition Cover

Who are we?

01 May 2012

By Shane Scanlan

Are we Docklands or Melbourne’s waterfront?  Or can we be both?

These are not questions of national significance, but they are the source of some tension at the local level.

The City of Melbourne funds three separate organisations which each harbour noble ambitions to put Docklands on the map.

But without a shared agenda, it appears the council is (at best) encouraging a fragmented approach and (at worst) supporting conflicting views.

The players are the Docklands Chamber of Commerce, Destination Docklands and the Yarra River Business Association (YRBA).

Strictly speaking, the chamber does not have a marketing role.  That role belongs to Destination Docklands – a co-operative marketing organisation comprising local stakeholders but (significantly) not the Chamber of Commerce.

The YRBA could be viewed as the chamber’s equivalent in neighbouring Southbank.  It too is funded by the City of Melbourne via its Melbourne Business Precincts program.

But, unlike the Docklands chamber, the YRBA is unashamedly a marketing organisation and, also unlike the Docklands chamber, it is not constrained to a neat, post-code-wide geographic area.

Rather, as the name suggests, the YRBA sees its territory as both sides of the river from the MCG in the east to Waterfront City in Docklands in the west.

The YRBA markets itself as “Melbourne’s Waterfront” and sees Docklands as part of that. And last month the YRBA published an “issues and opportunities” paper in which it clarified its position in relation to Docklands.

“It is the aim of YRBA to eventually see the attributes of the two precincts marketed under a joint banner and administration, to maximise potential and to avoid fragmentation of Melbourne’s marketing agencies,” it said.

“YRBA instigated the Melbourne Waterfront theme and will continue to support the concept. However, as an interim process, it will primarily engage with Docklands organisations through a higher auspicing body, such as City of Melbourne Marketing or Melbourne Business Precincts Inc.”

The Docklands Chamber of Commerce has responded to the YRBA’s document by congratulating the organisation on the quality of its document and supporting the notion of jointly marketing “Melbourne’s Waterfront”.

In fact, the chamber went further by claiming the concept was born as a result of one of its own initiatives.

Chamber president Keith Rankin said: “The chamber supports the concept of integrating ‘Melbourne’s Waterfront’ for marketing purposes.”

Destination Docklands chairman Kyle Johnston sees merit in joint marketing initiatives but says the “Melbourne’s Waterfront” concept is an old idea which had not been adequately supported in the past.

“Melbourne Waterfront has been a theme in Melbourne dating back to 2005 when Tourism Victoria convened a Melbourne waterfront working group involving river operators from Crown, Southgate, YRBA through to Docklands,” he said.

“It is not a new idea and nothing eventuated from this and it eventually closed in 2007 as there was no commitment or structure around the idea.”

Interestingly, the City of Melbourne says its research reveals 75 per cent of Melburnians associate the term “Melbourne’s Waterfront” with Docklands.

A spokesperson said: “The City of Melbourne has embraced the term ‘Melbourne’s Waterfront’ in marketing campaigns and other communication channels, when describing the area from the Yarra River to Docklands.”

Mr Johnston suggested Destination Melbourne would be a more appropriate authority to jointly market the river.

“There may be benefit in marketing the river under a joint approach,” he said.

“However (joint) administration doesn’t make a lot of sense. I am not sure what we are administering. I see this as more of a marketing partnership program.”

However, he said, Destination Docklands would work with the YRBA if invited to do so.

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