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Year in Review 2020

This review will not dwell on the ebbs and flows and ups and downs of COVID 19 which were covered, albeit briefly, in last week’s visual summary. Instead it will focus on decisions made and directions taken this year that will continue to shape Port places.

Let’s begin:

Fishermans Bend

In 2020 the scale and extent of the significant transformation of Fishermans Bend presaged in 2012 became tangible as several projects began construction.

Towers on Normanby Rd from Kirrip Park

The two towers on Normanby Rd grew level for level opposite one another to frame the entry from Port into the City. Three further developments in the Normanby Rd area1 were approved by the Minister for Planning this year after the scrutiny of the Fishermans Bend Standing Advisory Committee. These applications had been in the pipleline since before the Fishermans Bend Framework became the guiding planning document in 2018.The proposals were all improved through the process but reflect the more generous development permitted before the Framework was adopted in 2018.

R Iconic, a two tower development on the former Oxford University Press site, began construction in the latter half of the year.

The P.M. development (Plummer x Prohasky) was completed and people moved in. New residents make their way across Williamstown Rd to the beach while some Garden City locals cross the other way to enjoy the newly opened cafe and restaurant.

The P.M. development viewed from Webb Dock

The upgraded Murphy Reserve Pavilion was completed and celebrated with a virtual opening in September. A new playground complements the Pavilion.

The generous veranda of the refurbished J L Murphy Reserve pavilion

From the first sod being turned on 15 January, the Fishermans Bend Secondary School is taking shape.

Fishermans Bend Secondary School from Murphy’s Reserve

A Woolworths supermarket was approved on the s/w corner of Plummer and Graham St, over the road from the Secondary School, and will be open by the end of March.

Uber vacated its garage in Plummer St in a year when precarious, casual employment was shown to be a public health as well as an employment issue.


The median price of a house in Port Melbourne in 2020 was $1,457,000 and $715,000 for a unit. (source: accessed 17 December 2020)

In 2019, it was $1,295,000 and the median unit price was $715,000.

From being an idea that has worked successfully in other jurisdictions, the first build to rent development in Fishermans Bend will proceed at 118 Bertie St after receiving planning approval.

Housing affordability and the crisis of homelessness receded as COVID 19 occupied every moment of attention and people were housed to keep them and others safe.

Out of the COVID crisis has come the opportunity for the creation of more affordable and social housing with the Government’s November funding announcement of $6b. Hopefully, some of that package will make its way to Fishermans Bend.

One of Port’s oldest houses at 114 Dow St was demolished in July to make way for a three level dwelling.

114 Dow St, Port Melbourne

Station Pier and Waterfront Place

The Viking Orion was the last cruise ship to leave Station Pier on 9 April. It was a relief to see it go following COVID outbreaks on other cruise ships. VicPorts forward calendar show only one cruise ship booked in for March 2021, but with a fuller calendar from October.

The Viking Orion off Princes Pier

in April, TT-line announced that the Spirit of Tasmania will move to Corio Quay, north of Geelong, when the lease at Station Pier runs out in 2022, or even earlier if their new site is ready ahead of time. In making the announcement, TT-Lines Chairman Mike Grainger was candid, to say the least: ‘Our operations are often negatively impacted by significant congestion in the greater Port of Melbourne area, particularly when cruise ships are in port. That in turn causes delays in loading and discharge of passengers’.

That raises the question of the future of TT Lines hard stand truck parking area when the Spirit departs.

On 7 August, a fresh planning application was made for blighted 1 – 7 Waterfront Place. In an online information session, the architect for Elenberg Fraser stressed the scheme’s compliance with the provisions of the Port Phillip planning scheme but that remains to be assessed by planning officers and decided by the Council in the New Year. The application includes a ‘provodore’, a coffee shop and a wellness centre facing on to Beach St.

After very extensive and sophisticated engineering of the underground basement, the redevelopment of the London site emerges rom the ground.

The former Beacon Cove Foodstore at 103 Beach St received a planning permit late in 2019.

The stage is set for significant change around Waterfront Place.

Will cruise shipping resume at its former level?

If shipping was to vacate Station Pier in the future, what would Port become?

Might Port settle into a quiet premium housing suburb by the Bay or will it retain its ‘Port’ identity? This will become clearer over coming years. Beacon Cove, once the new kid on the block, is now mature, staid even. Is the centre of gravity moving to the west of Port Melbourne/Fishermans Bend?

Bay St and community

Bay St reached its lowest ebb around September with many shops for lease. A series of conversations with the Port Melbourne Business Association, community leaders and the Council galvanised many initiatives.

Parklets replaced car parking outside hospitality venues when the COVID lockdown ended with a minimum, (absence?) of resistance as Council supports traders to recover from the hit of the lock down.

On December 12th, the Bay St traders hosted a triumphant Christmas artisan market life suggesting there is life in Bay St yet.

The attraction of the new Woolworths, and its associated car parking, in Fishermans Bend will pose challenges for Bay St which not only supports Coles but associated businesses including bakery, chemist and coffee shops.

The Port Melbourne Focus facebook group with 7,000 members has its finger on the pulse of community mood and feeling. Complaints about hoon driving and jetskis have followed the expressions of mutual support and community gratitude that flowed during lockdown.

Will community appreciation of the local be sustained and become a commitment?

Port of Melbourne

Throughout the year the Port of Melbourne carefully prepared for and successfully executed the access of ever larger ships at the Port of Melbourne.

The OOCL Rotterdam set a new benchmark for the highest container exchange in one single call with 6,516 containers, equating to 11,037 TEUs, when berthed at Webb Dock on 20 November. The challenge is now squarely on the land side. As CEO of the Port of Melbourne Brendan Bourke put it: ‘At present much of the port’s latent capacity is at Webb Dock, but there is no on dock rail connectivity. To remain competitive and provide an efficient supply chain over the longer term, a comprehensive portside rail network is necessary.’

The Port released its final 2050 Port Development Strategy in September. The strategy includes a rail link connecting Webb Dock across the River to the Dynon area. There is an urgency about rail in the strategy that has not been heard before. The proposed route for the railway line is along the outer edge of Webb Dock east and through Westgate Park.

Port Places will pay close attention to how this strategy is implemented over coming years.

Symbol of 2020

The mask would be the obvious choice but instead I am going to nominate the sculpture outside Gasworks Arts Park on Graham St – Man, Dog, Boat. Anyone who knows boats picks up straight away that the man is rowing the boat backwards, stern first, rather than forward, bow first.

Man, dog, boat by Henry Smith at Gasworks Arts Park

One of the sager observations about COVID 19 was that ‘we are all in the same storm but not in the same boat’ – the circumstances of each person and their response to COVID 19 is very personal and particular.

The sculpture seems to me to express possible future directions. Where are we heading? Will we heed the cues of the experience of lockdown to embrace new ways of living and working and generating energy, or will we expend useless energy in attempting to return to the old normal? It also suggests that we have agency, we have to row the boat.

The sculpture also allows for a celebration of the animal companions that lent so much support and comfort through lockdown.

The preparation of this annual review coincides with the 5th anniversary of COP 21, the Paris Climate Agreement. This week 75 world leaders who had made sufficiently bold future climate commitments were invited to participate. Australia was not one of them.

Fiji was the first signatory to the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015. Right now, Category 5 Tropical Cyclone Yasa is bearing down on Fiji where over 850,000 (95%) of Fijians are in its direct path. A State of Natural Disaster has been declared.

Just a few days ago, Fiji’s Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama, said at the climate talks ‘when it comes to climate change, I’m fond of saying every nation is in the same canoe. Currently, that collective canoe is taking on water and there are too few of us trying to patch the holes’.

Pressure will continue for action on climate in 2021.


1The developments approved by the Minister for Planning, after review by the Standing Advisory Committee, are at 2-28 Montague Street and 80 Munro Street, 118 Bertie St, 256 – 262 Normanby Rd and 203 – 205 Normanby Rd.


  • Bitty Muller

    Great summary of the year Janet, really thoughtful ending on the climate change challenge ahead. Thank you.

    • JanetBolitho

      Thank you again Bitty, I love that we exchange and get to know our respective places in the world.

  • Dear Janet, My annual public thanks are also due at this time. Trust that each of your 48 weekly labours (of love) have been greatly appreciated for their thoroughness, clarity, relevance, informativeness, deftness and moral weight. I admit to not knowing a bow from a stern. Thus, typically, your knowing eye and wise reflections regularly fuel my learning by broadening and deepening my interests. You also sharpen my instincts, provoking me to think and act more purposefully and meaningfully both locally, and with respect to the wider human (and non-human) community. Enjoy your summer recess Janet. We will, no doubt, need you more than ever in 2021. Gary (Levy)

    • JanetBolitho

      Dear Gary, thank you for being such a faithful and encouraging supporter of the PP project. You are the words man, and I hope you will write more pieces.

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