Two opportunities for Docklanders …

Jackie Watts

Firstly, anniversaries are always fun – 90th anniversaries in particular! Docklands residents and visitors are in for a treat in Victoria Harbour at 12 noon on Sunday, June 25.

The venerable Steam Tug Wattle will be independently steaming around Victoria Harbour on its 90th anniversary. There are only two such heritage steam-powered vessels in Australia and thanks to the stalwarts restoring the Wattle, we now have a rare steam-powered tug in Docklands.

After such courageous, painstaking and arduous maritime restoration project, what an achievement! Melbourne Maritime Heritage Network (MMHN) congratulates all those concerned. Wattle is not yet permitted to take passengers, but we look forward with great enthusiasm to seeing her tootling about Victoria Harbour on June 25.

Secondly, an invitation for you! MMHN is grateful to Heritage Victoria (HV) senior archaelogist Danielle Wilkinson, for her recent presentation on the multiple wrecks on Port Phillip Bay at the City of Melbourne, Waterways Branch.

This splendid presentation whetted our appetite for shipwrecks. MMHN is delighted to announce for a rare opportunity to tour Heritage Victoria’s (HV) Artefact Research Centre. HV is responsible for regulating the Victorian Heritage Act and the Commonwealth Underwater Cultural Heritage Act, which both protect maritime wrecks, objects and infrastructure throughout the inland waters, coastal waters and within the sea off the coast.

The HV Artefact Research Centre (ARC) is a working lab and storage facility where objects recovered by maritime archaeologists are housed along with artefacts recovered from land archaeological sites. The ARC is where researchers, archaeologists and members of the public can come to view and study the objects and add to the history and knowledge of the objects themselves and the wrecks they have come from – the process of heritage curation and conservation of the fragile objects recovered from the seabed. Heritage curator Bronwyn Woff will conduct the tour, which is free but numbers are limited so we encourage you to register by email [email protected].

Turning now to a more mundane matter. Docklands residents will be aware that litter in our waterways is constantly offensive – and MMHN would argue, poorly managed by the responsible authority Parks Victoria (PV).

But PV is trialling something new in the form of a weird “machine” from Queensland. Even more weird is that PV has named it “Geoff”. Geoff is an automatic river cleaner that will be moored on the Yarra River for a six-month trial. MMHN fervently hopes this will indeed be an efficient and effective addition to PV’s litter operations.

MMHN has often called upon PV to “lift its game” in disposing with vast seemingly stagnant quantities of floating debris in PV litter traps and left to rot in seemingly the most visible stretches of our waterways.

Litter, according to PV, habitually accumulates in certain highly visible locations. This is no doubt correct but the PV explanation fails to satisfy. PV has the job of dealing with this unsightly mess more efficiently.

Though apparently not exactly rocket science Geoff may indeed help. According to PV it is an “old-fashioned looking water wheel that drives a conveyor belt to collect rubbish. Solar panels also provide power when the [water] current is low. Floating debris is captured by two floating boom arms and guided towards the conveyor belt mouth. The conveyor deposits the rubbish in a bin, which is monitored by cameras (powered by the solar panels) and notifies rangers when it’s full”.

While MMHN observes that any litter news is good news, we remain concerned that Geoff simply adds the existing (and failing) PV litter traps now operating. We can all see when existing litter traps on our waterways are full day after day. The key issue is removing it more promptly.

After three months in the Yarra, Geoff will tootle over to the Maribyrnong River for a further trial period. •

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