New ferry terminal on the horizon

By Brendan Rees

Melbourne billionaire Paul Little has unveiled plans to build a new ferry passenger terminal and community hub in Docklands in what could be a huge boost to “activate the esplanade”.

The former Essendon Football Club chairman and owner of Port Phillip Ferries has lodged a permit application with the City of Melbourne to replace the ferry terminal building beside Harbour Esplanade.

According to the planning submission, the current building is “no longer fit for purpose given substantial patronage and business growth of Port Phillip Ferries over their last four years of operation”.

Under the plans, the existing building would be removed to make way for a new community hub and ferry passenger terminal which would also feature a café, waiting room, foyer, verandah, bathrooms, ticketing office, deck, and a ramp.

“The proposal supports the purpose of the Docklands Zone as it will improve the visual amenity of Victoria Harbour and strengthen the mix of uses within the area,” a pitch to the City of Melbourne stated.

Port Phillip Ferries has attracted around 300,000 visitors to the area which is expected to grow as people seek to commute between Melbourne, Geelong, and Portarlington.

City of Melbourne Deputy Lord Mayor Nicholas Reece said Victoria Harbour was “a much-loved part of Melbourne” and vital as a major water transportation hub.

“The entire city would benefit from expanded activity, to make Victoria Harbour the Flinders Street Station of water transport services,” he said.

“While it’s exciting to see developers keen to invest in the future of water transport within Docklands, all applications will be carefully considered by council officers.”

The proposed four-metre building would accommodate up to 100 patrons and open seven days a week from 6am to 8pm on weekdays, and 9am to 8pm on weekends and public holidays.

Jackie Watts, chair of Melbourne Maritime Heritage Network, said while she welcomed the proposal, the designs would need to “adequately factor in new and expanded ferry services so that we can optimise the value of our extensive waterways”.

Jeff Gordon, managing director of the Melbourne showboat, Lady Cutler, which has been in operation for 14 years at Victoria Harbour, said he didn’t have “a problem with anything that activates the waterway”, but the proposed ferry terminal should not be to the “disadvantage of other boat operators”.

“It should be for everyone, we are the passenger boats for Melbourne,” he said.

“In a wet night in Melbourne, people need somewhere to shelter. It’s no good just dropping them out of the tram and sticking them on an empty wind-swept wharf.”

“If you say this is going to be Paul Little’s little playground and only give him the opportunity then you’re cutting out all the active businesses that have been activating the waterway all these years.” •

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