Development Victoria

Docklands history

Indigenous history

The area now known as Melbourne Docklands is part of the Lower Yarra Delta, a low-lying area that spreads from Princes Bridge to the sea. This was originally a wetland area containing swamps, low-lying vegetation, waterfowl and fish. For many thousands of years, this marshy land between the mouths of the Yarra and Maribyrnong River was used as a hunting ground and meeting place by several Aboriginal communities.

European settlement

The first European settlers arrived in 1803, when New South Wales Surveyor General Charles Grimes sailed into Port Phillip Bay. There was little further exploration of Port Phillip Bay and the Yarra River until 1835 when John Batman and John Pascoe Fawkner founded their illegal settlement, later named Melbourne.

Early industry

Early ships visiting the new settlement anchored in Hobson’s Bay (now Williamstown) and transferred freight by boat up the Yarra River. By 1860, Docklands was home to the West Melbourne gas works, railway industry, an explosives magazine and pottery works. Abattoirs, fellmongeries (dealers in animal skins and hides) and tanneries also set up in the area.

Development of the port

Construction of Victoria Dock commenced in the late 1880s and was completed in 1892. Excavating the dock involved removing 2.3 million cubic metres of earth that was used to improve the land around the dock and to fill the West Melbourne Swamp.

Port operations and decline

By 1908, Victoria Dock was handling an estimated 90 per cent of Victoria’s imports. Between the early 1900s and the late 1950s, Victoria Dock was Melbourne’s busiest dock handling a wide range of cargo including coal, steel, animals, wool and wheat. In the 1960s, the Harbour Trust began using containerised cargo which required very different storage to the long sheds lining the docks. New docks and transport infrastructure were built west of Victoria Dock in the 1970s, rendering the dock and the wharves both sides of the Yarra redundant. By the end of the decade, these new docks were handling around 68 per cent of the port’s cargo.

Indigenous history

The area now known as Melbourne Docklands is part of the Lower Yarra Delta, a low-lying area that spreads from Princes Bridge to the sea. This was originally a wetland area containing swamps, low-lying vegetation, waterfowl and fish. For many thousands of years, this marshy land between the mouths of the Yarra and Maribyrnong River was used as a hunting ground and meeting place by several Aboriginal communities.

European settlement

The first European settlers arrived in 1803, when New South Wales Surveyor General Charles Grimes sailed into Port Phillip Bay. There was little further exploration of Port Phillip Bay and the Yarra River until 1835 when John Batman and John Pascoe Fawkner founded their illegal settlement, later named Melbourne.

Early industry

Early ships visiting the new settlement anchored in Hobson’s Bay (now Williamstown) and transferred freight by boat up the Yarra River. By 1860, Docklands was home to the West Melbourne gas works, railway industry, an explosives magazine and pottery works. Abattoirs, fellmongeries (dealers in animal skins and hides) and tanneries also set up in the area.

Development of the port

Construction of Victoria Dock commenced in the late 1880s and was completed in 1892. Excavating the dock involved removing 2.3 million cubic metres of earth that was used to improve the land around the dock and to fill the West Melbourne Swamp.

Port operations and decline

By 1908, Victoria Dock was handling an estimated 90 per cent of Victoria’s imports. Between the early 1900s and the late 1950s, Victoria Dock was Melbourne’s busiest dock handling a wide range of cargo including coal, steel, animals, wool and wheat. In the 1960s, the Harbour Trust began using containerised cargo which required very different storage to the long sheds lining the docks. New docks and transport infrastructure were built west of Victoria Dock in the 1970s, rendering the dock and the wharves both sides of the Yarra redundant. By the end of the decade, these new docks were handling around 68 per cent of the port’s cargo.

Timeline

8000BC:

Tribal land used by Aboriginal people as a hunting and meeting place

1803:

First European visitors arrive in Port Phillip Bay

1835:

John Fawkner and John Batman arrive in Melbourne

1837:

Melbourne becomes a city

1852:

Melbourne Chamber of Commerce investigates need for better wharf facilities in Melbourne

1857:

Melbourne gasworks are developed at Docklands

1860:

Intensive industrial development leads to a pollution problem at Docklands

1878:

Sir John Coode retained to advise on how to achieve improved wharf facilities for Melbourne

1887:

Excavation of Victoria Dock commenced

1892:

Victoria Dock completed

1912:

First Australian bank notes are printed at the Queens Warehouse in Docklands

1916:

Central Pier at Victoria Dock completed

1925:

An entire American navy squadron docks at Victoria Harbour

1930:

Spencer Street Bridge opens leading to more intensive use of Victoria Dock

Mid 1930s:

Introduction of the first electric wharf cranes

1940s:

Between 1920 and 1940, Victoria Dock and North Wharf collectively handle about half of the total Port of Melbourne trade

Early 1960s:

Containerisation of cargo commences

Late 1960s:

Changing nature of shipping and cargo handling causes Port activity to start moving west

1975

Construction of Charles Grimes Bridge

1980s:

Docklands gradually falls into disrepair and disuse as port activity continues to relocate west

1989:

The Victorian Government releases 'Melbourne's Docklands: A Strategic Planning Framework' for public consultation

1990:

Docklands Task Force established

1991s:

Docklands Authority established to oversee regeneration of Docklands

1995s:

Victorian Government releases a plan for Docklands and commits to developing the area

1996:

'First Expressions of Interest' for development are called for

1997:

First Development Agreements signed for the stadium and Yarra's Edge. Stadium construction commences

1998:

Municipal powers transferred from the City of Melbourne to Docklands Authority

2000:

The stadium, La Trobe Street Bridge and Bourke Street Bridge open. Construction begins on the first apartments at Docklands

2001:

First residential apartment tower completed

2002:

Webb Bridge opens. Construction of NAB office commences

2003:

The Docklands Authority merges with the Urban and Regional Land Corporation to become VicUrban. City Circle tram extended through Docklands

2004:

Collins Street Bridge opens, extending Collins Street into Docklands. NAB office opens

2005:

Tramlines extended to north west Docklands

2006:

Docklands is the venue for three Commonwealth Games events and a stopover point for the Volvo Ocean Race

2007:

Construction starts on ANZ and Fairfax Media headquarters. Municipal powers transferred from VicUrban to City of Melbourne

2008:

The District Docklands (formerly Harbour Town Shopping Centre) opens at Docklands. Docklands residents can vote in City of Melbourne elections

2011:

VicUrban becomes Places Victoria and remains master developer of Docklands

2012:

Docklands Community and Place Plan is launched at the new community garden

2013:

Melbourne Star Observation Wheel begins operating in Harbour Town. Docklands' multipurpose sports courts open. Last parcel of land is contracted to developers

2014:

Library@The Dock opens. Extension of Collins Street tram line to Victoria Harbour is completed and Collins and Bourke streets meet for the first time at an iconic new intersection

2015:

Docklands is 60% complete, has attracted more than $10 billion private sector investments, has more than 10,000 residents and 53,000 jobs

2016:

Docklands attracts more than 13,000 residents and more than 58,000 jobs; sustaining an estimated 2,500-3000 jobs annually

2017:

Places Victoria and Major Projects Victoria are merged to form Development Victoria, which remains the master developer of Docklands.

2017:

LendLease receives Ministerial approval to proceed with plans to create a new waterfront residential neighbourhood in Victoria Harbour. The Collins Wharf development will be one of the last residential developments in Docklands.