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(3008, Melbourne City)

Docklands is the name given to 200 ha of land and water immediately west of Central Melbourne, and to the development project located astride the straightened course of the Yarra River and the old Melbourne docks. By the mid-1980s modern trade and transport, including the increased use of containers, had seen many rail and sea freight facilities transferred or scaled down, and the Victoria Dock area targeted for redevelopment. A Docklands Taskforce set up in 1990 was succeeded in 1991 by the Dock-lands Authority to prepare and implement agreed strategies.

The challenge was to unlock an area hidden to the public and reconnect it to the city centre. An 1886 inquiry mooted the extension of city streets westward, but the Spencer Street Station and rail yards was a barrier. Latter-day impediments have included Footscray Road, the proposed Western By-pass (now CityLink) and the rail line to Webb Dock. Southbank's success as a redeveloped multi-purpose waterfront precinct spurred on the proposal. From 1993, the Kennett Government adopted Docklands as part of its plan to revitalise Melbourne, confirming the role of the Docklands Authority and sidelining the Melbourne City Council (MCC). In 1995 proposals were sought from the private sector for seven precincts, with different preferred land uses, ranging in size from 7 to 36 ha. In 1997, 20 developers were short-listed for five precincts: Stadium, Yarra Waters, Business Park, Victoria Harbour and Batmans Hill. Competing preferred bidders submitted proposals for each precinct with proposals such as residential, leisure, commercial, education and recreation activities. The 52 000-seat Docklands Stadium opened in 2000.

Envisaged benefits of Docklands include increased economic activity, with an estimated $3 billion to be spent over 15-20 years. Also, the re-creation of Melbourne as a waterfront city, with Docklands a new city asset, private enterprise's provision of valuable infrastructure, a redeveloped Spencer Street Station, decontamination of polluted land, and commercial development of the area for residents, workers and tourists. Concern has been expressed at the 'auctioning off' of public assets, limited opportunities for public input, and the possibility of Docklands becoming 'a white elephant'. Supporters have pointed to the advantages of planned infrastructure provided by private enterprise, claiming that public sector resources would not have been adequate to the task. The incoming Bracks Government in 1999 promised that the Docklands would be returned to MCC jurisdiction. From 1 August 2003, the Docklands Authority was merged with the Urban and Regional Land Corporation to form VicUrban, which is the development authority for the area. The development bears comparison with equivalent large schemes of other world cities, notably London, Kobe, Boston and Vancouver.

David Dunstan

Bentley, Philip, and David Dunstan, The hub of Victoria: A history of Melbourne Docklands, Docklands Authority, Melbourne, 1996. Details
Long, Colin (ed.), Private planning - private cities: Melbourne's Docklands, People's Committee for Melbourne, Melbourne, 1997. Details