Focus groups identify core issues for Docklands Summit
Focus groups involving the Docklands community have gathered to share ideas with the City of Melbourne to help inform the agenda and workshops of the long-awaited Docklands Summit.
The summit, which will explore the revitalisation and future vision of Docklands, will bring together more than 80 people from major development companies, businesses, representative groups, and the Victorian government.
Before the summit gets underway at the Medallion Club, Marvel Stadium on September 2, the City of Melbourne held a series of focus group sessions with small businesses, residents, and representative groups in Docklands to inform the summit’s design and direction.
Lord Mayor Sally Capp said the sessions, which ran from August 8 to 21, provided “valuable feedback” and helped to identify “core issues and key challenges for discussion”.
“Our Docklands stakeholders highlighted a range of priorities – including activating vacant floor space, improvements to make the precinct more vibrant and easier to navigate, creating better connections with the picturesque harbour, and improving the public perception of the area,” she said.
Ms Capp said the invite-only event was an historic opportunity to “reset the future” of Docklands, which had borne the economic brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic more than anywhere else in Australia, while also experiencing an exodus of workers and residents.
Visits to the precinct are estimated to be down about 30 million per year based on foot traffic counts, with the closure of Central Pier and the Melbourne Star observation wheel casting a further cloud of doubt over the waterfront’s once-thriving hospitality and entertainment industry.
The summit will involve group activities, guest speakers, workshops, a panel discussion, and networking opportunities - with key players including Development Victoria, the AFL, Mirvac, Port Phillip Ferries, Lendlease, ANZ, and the Department of Environment, Land and Water, among others.
Among the attendees will be the Docklands Chamber of Commerce chief executive Shane Wylie who hoped the summit would identify a few key strategies for progress “rather than dwelling on small minutia and complaints”.
“We will be following the results keenly and lastly hope that it actually leads to action. In the past five years the chamber has been involved in five different consultations of which none have led to any meaningful action,” he said.
A spokesperson for the Docklands Representative Group (DRG), which will also attend, said: “Our fervent desire is that this summit will take a holistic approach and not just focus on improving visitation”.
This included not just focussing on events and hospitality as a “solution” to Docklands’ future, instead “that there is genuine openness to consider new approaches, not the same old”.
“The unique feature in Docklands is the harbour and the maritime history – no one else can actually claim that” the spokesperson said, adding one way to enhance the knowledge-based experience for visitors was leveraging the precinct’s indigenous and maritime history.
The DRG spokesperson said there also needed to be some forethought to addressing crime and safety issues as well as what role residents could play in the community.
Another attendee, Jackie Watts, chair of the Melbourne Maritime Heritage Network, said her group would advocate to optimise the “untapped value” of Docklands’ waterways and heritage.
Ms Capp said the council was looking forward to creating a “collective momentum to revitalise the precinct” as it was one of Melbourne’s “most important precincts, home to major business headquarters as well as the scenic Victoria Harbour that attracts tourists year-round”.
The council will offer summit attendees $50 cashback on money spent in Docklands over the next month, as part of the Docklands Dollars initiative – managed by the Docklands Chamber of Commerce. •