Obituary for our local boating industry

Editorial comment by Shane Scanlan

It’s just so sad that no one in authority cares about our local boating industry.

The few operators who are left have hung on for decades now, encouraged by periodic but brief acknowledgements of their contribution and promises of better treatment in the future.

But they’re tired – worn down by a litany of betrayals that now looks terminal and spells the end of the dream – not just for the individuals involved, but for Melbourne as a whole.

There are two stories about this in this edition, but they are essentially variations on the same theme.

At the end of my Parks Victoria rant (below), I conclude that the government might as well fill in Victoria Harbour and subdivide the land. It might surprise readers to know that this concept was actively considered not so long ago.

And this mentality lives on at all levels of government in Melbourne.

We see this clearly in the other story about Shed 21 (page 1). Development Victoria has effectively stolen this facility and gifted it to the hip, young urban fringe sports enthusiasts. It’s like telling a cancer patient to wait five years before treatment can begin.

There’s no doubt these sports are cool. Rock hopping and skating and climbing, etc. They’re great, right? We all agree. And they should be supported.

So some bright spark has thought it cool to give them water frontage at South Wharf under the Bolte Bridge. That makes Development Victoria cool too. Uber cool.

The tragedy is that no one has defended the site for the boaties.

Urban fringe sports can be located anywhere – from Dandenong, to Doncaster, to Diamond Creek, to Deer Park.

But onshore boating facilities can only be in one place, on the waterfront. You need water – a river bank or the edge of a harbour. The options are extremely limited and now look exhausted.

On the other side of the harbour the government is giving the AFL 1500sqm of waterfront at NewQuay West. How strategic is that? Footballers need water as much as a duck needs a bicycle.

Had the state acquiesced to industry demands in 2015 and established a single, independent, local waterways authority this pending disaster would probably have been averted. The industry would have had someone in its corner to say: This site is reserved, hands off. They might have even had their onshore facilities by now.

But they HAVE no one and there IS no one supporting them. And they will leave.

The commercial operators will leave and the heritage fleet with leave too.

And the government will proceed with its three new bridges to choke the life out of our river and harbour.

And we’ll sit there looking at the water. And it will be still, because there will be no boats moving around. And waterfront restaurants in Docklands will continue to close and re-merge as storage spaces or offices, because there will be no visitors because there is no buzz – no life on the water.



May 4th, 2022 - Abby Crawford
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