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Reactivating NewQuay will require a team effort

By Farah Hassim

“Living through the pandemic has been a very unusual experience to say the least. We have all suffered in some way, not seeing family and friends, many people out of work and businesses closing,” Margaret from NewQuay said.

As we hopefully reach the end of our Melbournian lockdown, other residents also offered their perspectives to questions about the future of our suburb and our precinct …

What Ideas do you have to get businesses running again in NewQuay? What ideas do you have to get the community back on its feet? How do we activate our precinct? What lessons are worth sharing from our experience of living through the pandemic?

A few NewQuay residents have appreciated the pace of life slowing down due to restrictions and they shared some learnings.

“I had the chance to stop and enjoy the beauty of nature, in the witnessing of sunny days and spectacular sunsets. Without this pandemic, I would not have had ever worked from home and had missed out on the little things that life has to offer,” Pamela said.

Another resident said, “I discovered that we do not need a lot to survive”, while yet another remarked, “I have learnt to retain patience and optimism.”

Margaret added that a positive for her had been “to get take away from the lovely restaurants around Docklands” and helping them a little to stay afloat.

“They have been here for everyone. I have also walked around the Docklands area and enjoyed and explored the beautiful gardens we have in Melbourne,” she said.

Although the pandemic has demonstrated the resilience of our residents, being homebound and isolated has taken its toll for many in the area. And, our fellow residents continue to voice their concern about the continued spread of the virus. Despite this, there is an outpouring of ideas to break out of social isolation through physical activity and promoting community connectivity when circumstances permit. A local resident suggested that yoga, Pilates and Zumba in NewQuay could help to get the community back and break the isolation. As the weather warms up these activities could take place outside if there were ongoing health concerns.

There are also suggestions for better facilities. For example, Pamela said, “I would like to see the Ron Barassi Senior Park being more developed. There is a grass area closer to the carpark under the bridge that can be upgraded to a rubber court for the use of basketball playing, roller skating or gymnastic training.” Another resident added, “I met my bestie Nikki at the dog park five years ago. This is why I think the dog community should go for group dog walks. A Facebook page could be set up, where we can all keep connected.” 

Although resident voices tended to focus on what was good for residents, many responses acknowledged the joint interest of residents and businesses in rejuvenating NewQuay. For example, one view was that if the businesses were not open, NewQuay residents would lose out financially as well through the likes of loss of rental and increased owners’ corporation (OC) fees in apartment buildings. One resident felt that it may be time for the apartment managers or OCs to rethink their rental and space allocations so new businesses could occupy the many vacant spaces in NewQuay. “We can use this downturn as an opportunity,” he said. 

A number of local dwellers put responsibility on government for regenerating businesses, some of whom were angry at the negative economic impact of the strict lockdown in Victoria, and in Docklands particularly. These felt strongly that government-led initiatives must support and uplift businesses. Simply put, one resident said, “businesses must be allowed to open”. Another resident, Peter, expressed concern at the lack of political consensus on meeting the challenge saying, “people are extremely resilient as has been shown. However, politics being politics, it would be nice to have the pollies united. Unfortunately, this is impossible. A bipartisan political approach from all parties is paramount to people’s health and mental state, currently this is not happening.”

Yet other residents felt that businesses themselves should initiate local support. One indicated that businesses should have loyalty promotions for locals, open day specials, and “making the Docklands Christmas the biggest yet with a Santa for pets and children’s photos.” Another local said, “cooking classes could be a promotion that restaurants can provide to the local community.” Margaret, a longstanding local resident agreed, suggesting that these businesses could “have a special deal, for instance Eat Out to Help Out (i.e. eat local) - with per person discounts for food and non-alcoholic drinks” and that this business initiative “should be subsidised by government”. 

Some residents thought that the business and community integration could be taken up a notch. One local said, “I would love if there was some sort of street party, with food stalls, live music etc. like an expanded version of the Sunday Markets. It would help bring some much-needed celebratory spirit when we finally get out of this.” Another, Peter, suggested that government and businesses could “arrange a large carnival at the Ron Barassi Senior Park area, [where] the food stalls can be from the local restaurants only.” He added, “bring back the market on a larger scale with free parking, there is an argument for turnover of cars to allow people to attend, at the very least the multi-storey carparks should be 100 per cent free with extensive advertising.”

Although many responses were stimulated by the pandemic lockdown, many interesting and exciting ideas from the past few years have resurfaced from NewQuay occupants. Monique, a veteran who has resided in Docklands for 18 years said, “I moved here knowing at some point the waterfront vistas and allure of the harbour would catch up to worldwide expectations. We still have a long way to go and for me the major sticking point is Central Pier. It’s been an eyesore since I’ve moved here and sits decades behind what other major global destinations have on their harbours. It’s a perfect highlight focus for a peninsula into the harbour, a park, an arboretum, even an indoor dome focused on Australiana.”

So, as we all emerge from a punishing lockdown period, it is clear NewQuay will need a combined effort from government, businesses and residents to regenerate our great area •

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