Preserving maritime heritage
Amid the dynamics of current and future developments of the North Wharf and broader Docklands precinct, rests the stories of Melbourne’s maritime heritage.
On the evening of Thursday April 18, a group of maritime historians and interested parties met at the splendid facilities of Polly Woodside for The Future of Melbourne’s Maritime Conference, hosted by The National Trust.
From the North Wharf, the view across Seafarers’ Bridge, is a beautiful vista at sunset with Polly Woodside set amid a glow of afternoon light and timber hue and people like schools of colourful fish walking busily or otherwise by her.
However, the wind was cold and wild and rain fell heavily across the gloomy waters beneath Seafarers’ Bridge and for those attending the conference, Polly Woodside provided a haven from the stormy bluster.
The meeting addressed, in no uncertain terms, the challenges of preserving Melbourne’s maritime assets and, with these, the stories of sea travel, trade and migration that has contributed to the city we enjoy today and are at risk of being lost forever.
Since 1999, a strong partnership between the Victorian Government and the private sector has seen over $6 billion of investment occurring at Docklands and, whilst around 98 per cent of the developable land at Docklands is contracted to private developers, Docklanders might ask what contribution these investments have made to the preservation of maritime heritage.
Undeniable at the meeting, however, was the polite forgiveness that planning for the preservation of our maritime heritage has been largely overlooked.
The impact of tall ship movements and berthing fees were discussed, and whilst all adoring the plum positioning of Polly Woodside on the South Wharf and the contribution she makes, a quiet empathy was shared for the vessel and its unfortunate position of being landlocked and being required to pay her way even if it is in the wrong position.
Maritime heritage links the North Wharf and South Wharf areas. The Shed 5 and Mission to Seafarers on the North Wharf have together served in history and today present unique opportunities to restore the balance back towards preservation of maritime history.
The iconic dome structure of the mission building is a notable landmark for seafarers and many visitors daily. The dome and Shed 5 are earmarked for restoration and will become even more noticeable. But what if the mission building was not there?
In October 2010, the vision for Melbourne’s Docklands was developed as a result of an extensive consultation program conducted by VicUrban (now Places Victoria) and the City of Melbourne.
The vision recognised and builds on Docklands’ unique qualities and positions it to play a vital part in maintaining and enhancing Melbourne’s role as a global city.
The second decade of Docklands developments is underway on Melbourne’s urban waterfront, including plans for the North Wharf area.
We invite you to take a stroll across Seafarers Bridge at sunset and capture the view from both sides, a view that changes with each sunrise. Imagine how special it would be when Melbourne’s maritime history is properly recognised and adequately protected.