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Bay St and Station Pier

It’s the 1st of December. Port’s pubs are busy with end of year functions. The church noticeboard gives suggestions for managing stress.

Bay St is gearing up for its annual Christmas Artisan Market tomorrow. Over 8,000 people attended last year. Paul Littman is the energy behind the Port Melbourne Business Association which builds on its flagship events year on year.

Preparation for Christmas begins with Bay Street’s white window stencils designed by the talented Roz Zweifel. This year’s theme is the twelve days of Christmas. The stencils find a way around ship signage. Shops for lease offer a bigger canvas.

Roz Zwefel with the lizards leaping photo Janet Bolitho

The stencils adhere. Important in Port Melbourne where Christmas trees have been defeated by the wind that gusts up Bay St.

Roz has been doing the stencil decorations for ten years now. No two years are ever alike. The white stands out. They’re stylish. But most of all, they are locally designed and locally responsive.

Kangaroos, galahs, brolgas and frilled neck lizards

All is not well on Bay St. Retail vacancies are high. At least the central median has been attractively planted with flowering plants after an accommodation was reached between VicRoads and Port Phillip Council. A weedy, unkempt landscape conveys a ‘no one cares’ message.

Recently, Coles withdrew staffed checkouts. The move was not welcomed by contributors to local facebook group, Port Melbourne Focus. Even those who prefer self checkout agreed that having a staffed option was desirable. Several contributors mentioned the relationships they had formed with the staff at the Coles checkout. Many people expressed their preference for Woolworths Fishermans Bend, which has both convenient parking and helpful staff.

It remains to be seen whether Woolworths follows Coles in withdrawing staffed checkouts.

We may be less aware of the extent to which Bay St retailers depended on trade related to the Spirit of Tasmania and cruise shipping. The loss of the Spirit to Geelong was strongly felt. This week Carnival announced that its cruise ships would not visit Melbourne in 2025 because of an increase in the fee per passenger from $28.50 to $32. The Minister for Ports, Melissa Horne, responded that the fee increase was needed to contribute to the maintenance of Station Pier.

The Spirit of Tasmania lease provided a steady income source for the maintenance of Station Pier. Now that revenue has to come from other sources. Maintaining old, wooden piled structures is notoriously expensive.

Everyone agrees that Station Pier and surrounds are shabby.

Brisbane’s new International Cruise Ship Terminal opened in 2020. It can accommodate the largest cruise ships in the world. Sydney has the Harbour and the Opera House. Cruise shipping was not ‘a thing’ when Beacon Cove was developed in the early 2000s so no plans were made for it. If Melbourne remains an attraction, Station Pier retains the advantage it had when first constructed in 1854, the most direct access to the CBD.

It remains to be seen whether Carnival’s laying down the gauntlet will cause the Government to back down, or whether it will prompt action to be taken on Station Pier. With the State Government already extensively committed with capital works projects, and Station Pier barely on the radar, this looks unlikely.

PS Steady rain was falling at 8 am on Saturday and the organisers made the decision to cancel the Artisan Market.


Navigating our Port Futures: The Victorian Commercial Ports Strategy, July 2022


  • Judy Stanton

    Thanks Janet for insights into impacts on Bay St and its functioning. Love the stencils Comments about staffing supermarkets thought provoking

  • Brian Bell

    I disembarked from Queen Elizabeth this morning and I can see why a Cunard person mentioned to me Melbourne was a port where they constantly get complaints , no infrastructure and minimal service.

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