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Heritage protections for Fishermans Bend

Sean Car

Shed 21 on Lorimer St in Docklands was among five industrial sites nominated for heritage protection as part of the City of Melbourne’s independent heritage review of Fishermans Bend.

Councillors unanimously endorsed the findings of the review at the April 20 Future Melbourne Committee meeting, which will also see the Vegemite factory and a Salmon St substation nominated as sites of local significance to the Minister for Planning Richard Wynne.

The review has also resulted in the nomination of the West Gate Bridge and the former Government Aircraft Factory (now Boeing) at 226 Lorimer St Port Melbourne as sites of state significance to the Victorian Heritage Register.

Deputy Lord Mayor and the council’s chair of planning Nicholas Reece said when it came to Australia’s industrial history, there was “probably no area more important” than Fishermans Bend.

“This very special precinct needs to be properly protected,” he said. “Fishermans Bend has been home to some of our most iconic industries and brands including Vegemite and General Motors Holden.”

The facility at 21 South Wharf was established as a berth from 1908 and according to the heritage review, Shed 21, which still stands today, was constructed in 1956 for mechanised handling of steel.

“Steel was seen as vital to the economic growth of Victoria and, for 27 years, Shed 21 played a major role in its importation,” the review stated.

“Shed 21 was large and included distinctive transverse cranes that travelled on tracks beyond the extent of the shed on both the Yarra River and road sides for loading.”

“The Bolte Bridge, constructed in 1999, and the development of Docklands, meant that freight ships no longer used the wharves to the east of the bridge. In 2016, two-and-a-half bays from the eastern end of the shed were demolished. The section of the wharf apron where the cranes ran, which was on timber piles, was also removed and a narrow dropped-level apron introduced at the waterside.”

The site is currently owned by Development Victoria and has been discussed since 2006 when the initial Yarra’s Edge Bolte Precinct Development Plan was approved.

An amended plan was approved by then Minister for Planning Matthew Guy in 2013 under the premise that the Metropolitan Fire Bridge (MFB) would build an emergency services centre at the western end of the site.

However, in 2015 the MFB withdrew its interest and as a result, the 50-metre building earmarked for the site was no longer relevant. Development Victoria later applied for built form of up to 90 metres along the Lorimer St frontage.

It proposed a mixed-use precinct incorporating a “blend of commercial and residential uses, as well as community recreation and open space areas” including a health and wellbeing hub, maritime facilities and arts and recreation facilities.

But plans for the site remain uncertain, with a spokesperson for Development Victoria telling Docklands News last year that it was continuing to refurbish the former shipping sheds for “future activation”.

“Development Victoria continues to explore activation opportunities for Shed 21,” the spokesperson said.

The council’s heritage review of the site supported an alternative recommendation which proposed to “align the heritage overlay with the approved Development Plan covering the subject land (Bolte Precinct West – Yarra’s Edge Addendum, 2019)”.

“Development Victoria is committed to retention of Shed 21 and ensuring a sensitive high-quality interface on any future development to the south,” the report stated.

With Fishermans Bend forecast to accommodate 80,000 new residents and 80,000 new workers by 2050 as part of the state government’s ambitious urban renewal vision, the council’s chair of heritage said the review was particularly exciting.

“This is unprecedented work,” he said.

“When we look at the credible histories that have been put together for us, Fishermans Bend has some of our finest heritage fabric – conserving the best is only going to make urban renewal even stronger.”

“We’re stepping up protection for significant sites to provide certainty and clarity to landowners, established businesses and the community.”

Cr Leppert said the nomination of the former Kraft Vegemite factory was an example of how to protect the history of Fishermans Bend while the area redeveloped.

“In 1943, hundreds of women were recruited to work at a new vegetable dehydration factory in Port Melbourne as part of the war effort. In 1952, the site was expanded to include a ‘yeast factory’ that went on to become a household name and Vegemite is still being made at the factory today,” Cr Leppert said.

“This site is emblematic of post-war food manufacturing plants that were constructed across Melbourne. It’s important to retain the area’s history and we will continue to do whatever we can to ensure Fishermans Bend retains its industrial spirit.”

The Deputy Lord Mayor said the Westgate Bridge had been nominated as a site of state significance for its historic and social significance as well as the aesthetic and technical significance of the bridge’s design and construction.

“The Westgate Bridge was the site of an industrial accident that killed 35 workers more than 50 years ago and led to lasting workplace reforms. The bridge also opened up our city to the west,” he said.

The former Government Aircraft Factory (now owned by Boeing Aerostructures Australia) at 226 Lorimer St in Port Melbourne was also nominated as being of state significance for the role it played as one of only two aircraft assembly plants in Australia during World War II.

With 40 per cent of the Boeing site proposed for heritage listing, the council said it will not impact on any of the current operations of Boeing nor its ability to consider expansion of their operations on this site in the future •

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Balance

May 4th, 2022 - Abby Crawford
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