Surprise! We’re removing your boardwalk
Editorial by Shane Scanlan
The City of Melbourne has started replacing the NewQuay Promenade boardwalk with bluestone paving.
And there may be some merit in this. The boards had become a trip hazard. And no one is pretending that a premium treatment is not expensive. But it’s a discussion that no one in Docklands was privy to.
My personal view is that Docklands is diminished by the replacement of the boardwalk with paving. A replacement with 100-year-old, recycled and re-milled Docklands wharf timbers would have been far more appropriate.
Hundreds of tonnes of wharf timber have recently been removed from the precinct. Apparently this timber is in storage awaiting an opportunity to return.
Bluestone pavers would complement wharf timbers and would be a great replacement for the cheap, broken and dirty concrete pavers along the promenade.
Be this as it may, the episode shouldn’t pass without comment about the way the City of Melbourne operates. Of note are:
This project is not in the council’s annual plan and budget 2016/17;
Now that work has started, reference appears in its third quarter financial report under a heading “Major streetscape improvements and design (excluding south end of Elizabeth St”.) It notes NewQuay as a location, but doesn’t mention removing the boardwalk;
Some traders were sent a letter by the council’s outsourced works arm Citywide only days before works started on May 22;
The council says the work was too urgent to allow broader consultation; and
Not only were Docklanders kept in the dark, Docklands News understands the council’s own events team was similarly unaware of the project which now threatens to derail the Docklands Firelight Festival, scheduled for June 30 – July 2. The council denies this, claiming the events team was notified in early April. Either way, it’s not a good look.
The City of Melbourne pretends to be a consultative organisation.
Only the day before the temporary fencing went up around the first hundred metres of boardwalk, its consultants were asking people at a Harbour Esplanade children’s event their views and vision for a Docklands of the future. Such a cynical and bitter irony!
The fact that it wants to replace wharf with stone also says it doesn’t get Docklands’ connection to the water and to its heritage.
Again, what the council SAYS and what it DOES are at odds. When launching new Harbour Town attractions (see page 1), Lord Mayor Robert Doyle talked about mistakes made in early Docklands. “One of them was, and evidence is here in Harbour Town, was distancing ourselves from the water rather than embracing the water,” he said.
Indeed, the Docklands Community and Place Plan says: “As Docklands flourishes into a business, residential and visitor destination, it’s important that its waterfront heritage is preserved, integrated, celebrated and made accessible to the broader community.”
And yet, time and time again, the City of Melbourne treats Docklands as an extension of the Hoddle Grid, without any character or personality of its own.
Tearing up the boardwalk is just the latest example. Removing the fireworks from the water is further evidence. Neglecting Harbour Esplanade also tells the same story. Failing to take the lead towards single independent authority for the waterways is another.
Refusing to fund the Fountains and Flames concept was another case in point. And merely talking about a home for our heritage fleet but not acting in time to prevent the tall ships seeking homes elsewhere is also symptomatic of the same failure to grasp a secure future.
Docklands cries out to be appreciated for its unique connection with the water. Bluestone is great. But timber wharves are better.
What do you think? Send your thoughts to [email protected]
Statement from the City of Melbourne
The existing timber decking on New Quay promenade has deteriorated due to age and vehicles driving on it while conducting deliveries and accessing events.
In 2014, the City of Melbourne undertook a structural assessment of the decking which resulted in the installation of load limit signage and vehicle movement restrictions (including emergency vehicles). In addition, council has spent almost $200,000 on maintenance works to the decking in recent years.
Despite these regular maintenance works and vehicle restrictions, a further structural assessment was undertaken in early 2017, which confirmed that the structural integrity of the deck has been compromised and significant decking repair works were required.
On advice from an engineer and an urban designer, we made the decision to replace the timber deck with bluestone as it is more durable and structurally sound. This will enable the promenade to be more fully utilised by members of the public, by emergency vehicles, and for future events.
Works have commenced at the eastern end of NewQuay promenade (stage one to be completed by June 30) and stage two works to complete the project are expected to be completed by September 2017. Where possible, the existing timber deck boards will be saved and recycled for alternative building and landscape purposes.
Communications were issued by the contractor to local stakeholders around a week before works began. We would normally do broader consultation on these works, including at the Docklands Community Forum but, given the urgency of the repair works, it was appropriate that we begin work as soon as possible. Our events team was notified of the repairs in early April in order to co-ordinate the work with other planned events.