Maritime Union of Australia supports call to create maritime experience centre at Central Pier

Maritime Union of Australia supports call to create maritime experience centre at Central Pier
Brendan Rees

The Maritime Union of Australia’s (MUA) Victoria branch secretary Robert Lumsden has spoken of the critical importance in redeveloping Central Pier, saying it must capture the essence of maritime history while providing a vibrant space for everyone to enjoy.

Mr Lumsden said the MUA was actively supporting and advocating for the successful reutilisation of Central Pier, as Development Victoria prepared to demolish and redevelop the deteriorating century-old structure after a community engagement report was released in August.

As part of the project, Mr Lumsden told Docklands News that consideration should be given to creating a maritime experience centre showcasing the historical significance of the pier and its connection to Melbourne’s maritime history, while ensuring it was an appealing tourist destination, emphasising “if you’re going to do it, get it right the first time”.

He pointed to the success of the Brook Street Pier in Hobart, a floating pontoon built in 2015 that incorporates maritime heritage and architecture of the precinct to deliver a vibrant working cruise and ferry centre.

It also features a public space and market for tourism operators including seafood, dairy, wine and whisky, with the terminal level also used as an event space for up to 1200 people outside of ferry operating hours.

“Creating something like a floating pier would be great as an interactive space for people and kids to be able to enjoy it,” Mr Lumsden said.

“We don’t want to see so much as a museum, we don’t want to call it that, but more a maritime experience and cultural centre along the lines of what’s happening in Hobart.”

Mr Lumsden said the Brook Street Pier had proved to be an overwhelming success, noting its transformation of becoming a bustling tourism hub should serve as a blueprint for Central Pier, a concept supported by the Melbourne Maritime Heritage Network (MMHN).

Asked if he agreed with Development Victoria’s community survey in relation to the redevelopment of Central Pier, which asked whether the pier and the water should be a dynamic mix of public and commercial uses to activate the space and reflect the rich heritage of the place, Mr Lumsden said “most definitely”.

“Why wouldn’t we? It has to be something that’s interactive, bringing together Indigenous and cultural elements – just a record of the fantastic history the maritime sector brought to Melbourne,” he said, adding it must intertwine the “past, present, and future” to captivate locals and tourists alike.

However, he said that while “some form” of hospitality venues was welcome, “we wouldn’t want it to become a commercial entity”.

Mr Lumsden said it was equally important to also keep the murals at Central Pier, which are believed to have been created in the 1950s and ‘60s, most of which had deteriorated, saying it “would be a shame to see all of that lost”.

According to MMHN’s chair Dr Jackie Watts, she understood that the murals, with their historical merit being unknown, “may not stand up to demolition”, with Development Victoria taking the “precautionary step to ensure they were digitally captured”.

Dr Watts said MMHN had been offered to meet with the designers of Brook Street Pier at some time in the new year to explain the success behind Hobart’s floating pier project.

A huge benefit to building a floating pier, she said, was that it would be built off-site with “no disruption” (either noise or pollution) to Docklands, as “it’s floated into place and reconnected to the existing services”.


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Meanwhile, Development Victoria’s group head of precincts Niall Cunningham said specialist marine contractor Fitzgerald Constructions Australia Pty Ltd had been on-site since October and had begun water-based piling works, which was the first step in the process of removing Central Pier.

“This work will include mooring poles driven into Victoria Harbour to secure the barges that will transport the machinery, including cranes, that will be used for the removal works,” he said.

“The buildings on the pier will be the first to be removed, followed by the pier itself. The process is expected to take several years to complete.”

Equipment and cranes will work from barges anchored in the water, which are carefully positioned alongside the structure.

Development Victoria said it would continue to engage with Heritage Victoria, the City of Melbourne, the community and other key stakeholders to identify opportunities for the revitalisation of Central Pier and adjacent waterfront areas while respecting the rich cultural heritage of the Victoria Harbour. •

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