North Wharf works due for completion by mid-2023, as ATET’s push for Sunday trading heads to council in December
Development Victoria (DV) says it has started the process to remediate the western end of North Wharf allowing floating nightclub ATET to move to its preferred location in mid-2023, with the operator’s bid to trade on Sundays to go before the City of Melbourne for a decision on December 6.
The controversial floating nightclub, which originally proposed to operate at the western tip of North Wharf near the Bolte Bridge, remains based at a temporary location near Shed 2 while DV completes restoration works at the wharf’s end.
In a statement to Docklands News, DV’s acting group head of precincts Niall Cunningham said it had started the process to procure a contractor to undertake remediation works to “strengthen and improve” the western tip of North Wharf.
“We anticipate these works will be complete by mid 2023. These repairs will allow more people and businesses to enjoy the wharf safely,” Mr Cunningham said.
However, he added that, “any move from ATET’s current location along North Wharf would require the operator to seek the relevant permit and licences approvals from the City of Melbourne, who are the responsible authority.”
While ATET’s barge is currently situated around 250 metres from the closest apartment towers at Yarra’s Edge and Victoria Harbour, the move to the end of the wharf is hoped to provide affected residents with added reprieve from any ongoing noise impacts.
The barge’s location was just one of a string of issues raised by more than a dozen residents who addressed the City of Melbourne’s Future Melbourne Committee (FMC) meeting on November 8 to express their concerns directly with councillors.
It followed ATET’s opening weekend on October 22-23, which attracted an unprecedented number of complaints from locals due to excessive noise until 1am, while the business was also found to have breached its permit by operating on a Sunday.
ATET was ultimately ordered to cease Sunday trading and undergo an independent acoustics assessment that was later peer reviewed by the council, which also conducted separate testing of its own.
The council has confirmed the venue has since demonstrated “general compliance” with its permit and noise protocols set out by the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) and said it would continue to facilitate “random noise testing”.
Local resident Graham Mercer, one of 13 Docklanders to submit questions to councillors at the November 8 FMC meeting, asked, “when can residents expect some relief from this untenable situation?”
“Nearby residents are severely impacted by this business, young residents and children in general aren’t able to sleep until 1am,” Mr Mercer said.
Docklands Representative Group (DRG) chairperson Ben Ball questioned the suitability of ATET operating in a high-density residential area, while another resident said “disturbing noise” was causing stress and anxiety for residents. “Residents are unable to open their doors or sit on their balcony,” she said.
Another resident asked why the council supported ATET as a way of bringing people to Docklands, while others pointed to the validity of the approval process, antisocial behaviour and whether a more suitable location could be found for the business.
The council’s director of planning and building Julian Edwards said it approved the use of the barge as a place of assembly at the location as it “met all of the planning requirements” within a mixed-use environment.
However, he added that the council had formed the view that noise from the venue during its opening weekend was “likely to have been excessive”, but that ATET had since demonstrated compliance following acoustic testing.
“On this basis, council currently has no grounds to start proceedings to seek the venue be discontinued,” Mr Edwards said, adding that any issues relating to antisocial behaviour should be directed to Victoria Police.
Mr Mercer responded to Mr Edwards by saying, “I would invite Julian or anybody else that can make a decision to come to somebody’s apartment on a Friday or a Saturday night at 1am and listen to the rubbish that residents have to put up with. It is no way able to meet some theoretical noise limit.”
Lord Mayor Sally Capp replied, “the noise limit is certainly not theoretical; it is set by the EPA, and we are responsible for monitoring and managing that. And, we do have a resident Cr Hakim here and he has certainly been monitoring activity there.”
Deputy Lord Mayor Nicholas Reece said antisocial and dangerous behaviour would not be tolerated in the City of Melbourne, and told residents, “We have heard you, loud and clear”.
“The recognition that public amenity concerns in Docklands do need to be responded to and I think that the top of that list includes the City of Melbourne committing to work with Development Victoria and others to identify a location for this barge which is sustainable,” Cr Reece said.
While noise from ATET’s barge has dramatically reduced since its infamous opening weekend, many locals have continued to experience issues, with one Yarra’s Edge resident reporting that their furniture was vibrating during the weekend of November 12.
As recently as Victorian Election Night on November 26, many were still claiming noise from the barge was “too loud”, and the council told Docklands News it continues to receive an average of 10 to 15 ATET-related complaints each weekend.
Resident Bill Thompson attended the council’s most recent FMC meeting in Southbank on November 22 asking several questions of councillors, including whether sound measurements had been made from inside apartments.
Mr Edwards said acoustic testing was “not required inside of residential premises to determine if a venue is compliant with the protocols”, adding “if levels are compliant outside of a building, then they will be compliant inside”.
He also confirmed that ATET’s request to amend its permit to include Sunday trading would be considered at the December 6 FMC meeting, with the council having received a total 448 submissions at the time Docklands News published its December/January edition.
Cr Reece sought to assure Mr Thompson at the meeting that the council was “all over it”.
“As councillors we’ve made multiple site visits at quite late hours of the evening I should say, just to satisfy ourselves that what we’re hearing is correct,” he said.
“We have also had numerous discussions around the independent acoustics, and I can say I have verified for myself that acoustics framework that we’ve put in place.”
“We’re also in discussions with multiple parties and agencies about the location of the venue as well – we’re working on it.” •