Maritime garden for Docklands?

189 Column MMHN Steam tug Wattie
189 Column MMHN Steam tug Wattie
189 Column MMHN Maritime Garden Concept
189 Column MMHN Wikipedia Rotterdam Rail Solution
Jackie Watts

Melbourne Maritime Heritage Network (MMHN) proposes that Development Victoria and the City of Melbourne activate the languishing Docklands precinct with a maritime garden – a unique public open space designed to attract and engage the public, and in particular engage young people, with the maritime technological wonders which enabled centuries of exploration and trade across the vast oceans.

There are many installations which enable the process of exploration above and below the water, e.g. navigation, monitoring and measuring weather, wave surge, environmental/pollution, marine and estuarine life, etc.

A water’s-edge public open space in the Docklands precinct would be entirely appropriate, with permanent, heritage-based but future-oriented maritime activities which genuinely respect and reflect the unique waterways of Docklands. Perhaps the heritage fleet could be berthed nearby?

MMHN was delighted recently to discover plans for such a uniquely informative maritime garden were developed more than 20 years ago by landscape architect Simon Warrender. The form of the garden itself is based on the points of a compass.

MMHN argues that the time to implement these designs for a dedicated maritime garden in Docklands has come.

News now from the Heritage Fleet

MMHN recommends that you take a close look at the wonderful steam tug Wattle nearing the very “pointy end” of its painstaking restoration works on view along North Wharf.

Maritime restoration is always a time-consuming and costly undertaking. Volunteers have devoted 14 years and more than 40,000 hours work to the Wattle project. Funding is an ever-present headache (more of a migraine really) for those courageous folk valiantly intent on restoring and/or operating Melbourne’s Heritage Fleet. Fundraising is not for the faint hearted.

Wattle’s focus is now on the final funding “crunch” to realise the vision of operating and enlivening Victoria Harbour, the Yarra and Port Phillip Bay. So far nearly $2 million and in-kind support has been provided by enthusiastic donors. The Port of Melbourne has been very generous with in-kind support covering hefty “slippage” costs.

Before too long, Wattle will begin generating its own funds through tourism, but a further circa $200,000 is needed to make the “vision” a reality, The sooner the Wattle is operational, the sooner it can become self-sufficient.

If you recognise the immense efforts of so many, and if you acknowledge the value of maritime heritage in the Docklands Precinct, perhaps offer your support by contributing to the completion of the Wattle works. The name of the account is Restoration Account. Bank details: BSB (083 163). Account No. (4374 59324).

Polly Woodside

News from the Polly Woodside nearby at Southbank is less cheerful. The National Trust (Vic) has announced that it will host open days on Sunday, September 4 and Sunday, September 2 and 10 and will offer optional guided tours 10.30am, 11.30am, 1.30pm and 2.30pm.

Maintenance costs remain a serious issue and so too is invaluable but diminishing capacity and the number of Polly volunteers.

Port of Melbourne Rail Bridge – the solution!

MMHN has long been concerned that the Port of Melbourne has rail infrastructure plans, which will seriously and adversely impact on our waterways. References within the “Navigating Our Ports Futures” strategy justifies our growing alarm at the prospect.

Although no state government support is stated, much is inferred. Obviously, installing an at-grade rail line across the Yarra on the bay side of Bolte Bridge will certainly impede all water traffic in the Yarra rendering Victoria Harbour a mere pond.

MMHN genuinely acknowledges the Port’s commercial imperative to progress such rail infrastructure, but utterly rejects the proposed plan of an old-style “at-grade” bridge when a submerged tube is the obvious “solution”. Not new news, of course, as it happens the Sydney Morning Herald (August 1, 2022) cited the example of the historic yet redundant “Hef” officially Koningshaven Bridge, over the Koningshaven (Kings Harbor) channel at the port of Rotterdam. See

This solution to Rotterdam’s freight logistics problem was in 1987 to install a 2796-metre-long submerged rail tunnel, Willemsspoortunnel, a series of concrete caissons built offsite and lowered into the river to become a submerged tunnel. See:

There are many other examples of such submerged prefab tunnel installations in Scandinavia. Clearly it is a SMART solution to the Port of Melbourne’s logistics problem and is one which doesn’t trash our waterways. Surely the state government in this SMART state should ensure that the port investigates these options – before totally ruining Docklands waterways? •

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