Ferries are inspiring us!

Ferries are inspiring us!

By Jackie Watts - Chair of the Melbourne Maritime Heritage Network

The proposed VH08 Passenger Transfer Area on Harbour Esplanade is in search of a name!

What name do you think would be appropriate for a new, and key, maritime facility in Docklands? The redevelopment of this prime water-based transport site is welcome indeed ‒ an important element in relation to tourism certainly, but MMHN also wants ferries using this facility to be part of the Public Transport System.

Given the increasing road congestion in the city, we are confident many in Docklands would agree that when Development Victoria (DV) starts investing public money in maritime infrastructure such as this ferry terminal, at the same time there should be close liaison with the Minister for Transport. We need to ensure that this public investment in ferry infrastructure supports BOTH the public and the private sectors.

This ferry terminal has the potential to become a prime Docklands destination – akin to the Flinders Street Station steps “under the clocks”, or Circular Quay ferry wharf in Sydney. It will serve to “activate” Docklands businesses and it needs a name – NOW! Email your suggestions to Melbourne Maritime Heritage Network (MMHN) [email protected]. For the location of the terminal, see here.

Further on ferries, note in your diaries, the next MMHN seminar to be held on Wednesday, June 23 at 5pm at Docklands Library on the topic “Ferries of Melbourne: Past, Present, Future - Good, Better, Best?” History shows us that Melbourne’s ferries have delivered significant social and economic benefit to the community in the past. Today they are a woefully under-developed transport option. The opportunity to expand ferry services in this State and city is obvious. Explore the topic with us – and key stakeholders. To receive your invitation to this MMHN event: email [email protected]

Harbour Esplanade on Victoria Harbour

Frustration with Docklands planning over decades has stymied many of us. We recommend a look at a Docklands maritime hidden treasure, recently discovered by MMHN board member Michael O’Brien – a 72-page glossy City of Melbourne Council Master Plan 2015. It is a frustrating but inspirational read with great images. Back in 2015, maritime heritage was acknowledged …

“Harbour Esplanade will be the primary public space in Docklands. A fine boulevard for promenading, an opportunity to experience elements of Melbourne’s rich maritime heritage and a place to welcome and guide the public through the sub-precincts of Melbourne Docklands and the central city. It will be flexible, adaptive, changing – an event space by the water.”

Pleasing sentiments indeed but regrettable that so little has been done to achieve such a vision. At some point since 2015, the bureaucratic “gaze” gradually turned away from the water towards land-based development, see here.

That said – in 2021 there is possibly good news on heritage at last!

In the recent state government budget, $3 million was allocated to DV to progress planning and design work as part of a business case to develop future plans for the pier in Docklands, which was permanently closed in January 2020. Geoff Ward, Group Head, Precincts at Development Victoria said, “the redevelopment of Central Pier is a long-term project and we are looking forward to consulting with the community and other stakeholders to kick-start the planning phase”. And potentially exciting news for maritime stakeholders, this will include looking at all options to respectfully preserve the heritage of the pier and surrounding docks while also taking a wider approach to revitalising the waterfront in Docklands, which is a key priority for Development Victoria. MMHN feels a tad more optimistic about Central Pier.

There is still a fixation on demolition, despite irrefutable evidence that expertise exists to completely restore Central Pier. Development Victoria deserves no kudos whatsoever for neglect of the pier thus far. The agenda is unfathomable!

Before squandering yet more valuable heritage infrastructure, MMHN recommends that Development Victoria consider examples of successful pier maintenance and restoration elsewhere around Victoria. Further destruction of the very pier that Development Victoria cut in half and seems intent on demolishing further. The Central Pier site, a State public “asset”, is simply too valuable to waste. The future lies with Heritage Victoria.

MMHN argues that Central Pier is the prime location for an iconic architecturally significant Maritime Experiential Centre to educate, entertain and excite the wider community on all matters maritime – and activate Docklands. A permanent attraction would maximise the value of this iconic Docklands site and celebrate its critical role in Victoria’s prosperity. Creative technologies would enable the state government to showcase Melbourne’s hidden under-valued assets – maritime heritage, maritime industry and maritime trade – logistics, innovation, propulsion, extraction, environment, etc. A model for this Docklands Maritime Experiential Centre is the new Maritime Experiential Centre designed by Australia’s own Cox Architecture in Tianjin, China, Melbourne’s sister city – on a very similar Central Pier on a Harbour Esplanade. See here.

Further on futuristic design concepts – Michael O’Brien also found an early proposal for locating an iconic museum on the tip of Central Pier! See the video

More good news for Docklanders

MMHN member Emma Russell writes about what looks like a simple old shed on North Wharf near the Mission to Seafarers (at the end of Flinders St). However, diving into maritime heritage shows us that this massive Goods Shed is far from simple – it is key to the major Riverlee project. MMHN commends Riverlee’s commitment to incorporate our maritime heritage into the project. As Emma states to build with history rather than over it. Goods Shed No.5 – a positive restoration story along the Greenline. During the next couple of years Docklanders will be able to watch how both cultural and economic values of a site can be enhanced when old structures are carefully retained, restored and enriched by interpretation and storytelling, instead of being demolished in a cloud of dust. MMHN recommends that you read and watch how this is being done at Goods Shed No.5 – the only place in Melbourne where it is possible to see all the elements of a traditional (pre-containerisation) berth.

Many Docklanders will have been pleased to note in the City of Melbourne Draft Budget a $3.3 million allocation investment in Docklands maritime infrastructure. MMHN views this investment in an under-valued community “asset” that our waterways are gaining recognition by both state and local government. Unlike other State capitals, it is many years since our government invested in an iconic venture delivering social, cultural and economic value. Melbourne is a city in dire need of such a boost to the economy and the morale of its citizens •

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