Williamstown piers in urgent need of saving

Press release: 01 September 2020

Parts of Williamstown’s much-loved foreshore are crumbling and in urgent need of funding.

 
A section of Boyd Jetty in Williamstown has collapsed, with one side of the pier subsiding, leaving all three piers at Seaworks closed amid concerns for public safety. Commissioners’ Jetty has ceased to operate as a berthing facility due to concerns for structural issues; and likewise, Workshop Pier has recently needed to close to vehicular access, with berthing tenants notified of the changes this week.
 
Seaworks Foundation is working with both Parks Victoria and the Victorian State Government, via the Member for Williamstown and Minister for Ports & Freight, the Hon. Melissa Horne, and the consultants undertaking the Williamstown Maritime Precinct Study to identify infrastructure needs for Williamstown as a key maritime precinct.
 
Seaworks Foundation has been leasing the former Melbourne Harbour Trust site which includes Boyd Jetty, Commissioner’s Jetty, and Workshop Pier from the State Government through Parks Victoria since 2006.  Boyd Pier was initially constructed in 1920, reconstructed in 1950, and although under state government ownership has had no significant infrastructure work undertaken from the late 1990’s onwards.
 
Glenn Jones, Executive Officer of Seaworks, said the condition of the piers has been deteriorating for some time but in recent months have become significantly worse.  “We have taken the drastic step of barricading Boyd Pier off and have erected notices warning of the danger posed”.
 

“It is unrealistic to think that jetties and piers around the bay, including those at Seaworks, can be adequately maintained without significant and ongoing investment by government and other agencies”.
 

“The safety and wellbeing of our staff, tenants and community members is absolutely paramount” said Mr Jones.
 
“As part of our ongoing commitment to the foreshore and public safety we are currently investigating measures to ensure the ongoing integrity of the existing structure.”
 
Reviews of the pier infrastructure undertaken by Seaworks in 2017 indicated that the Boyd Pier was in a poor condition, and it was subsequently closed to unrestricted public access.
 
Although Workshop Pier will continue to provide berthing facilities to a number of craft, Seaworks has long identified that all three jetties in the precinct require significant multi-million dollar investment to enable continued operation as a working maritime precinct.
 
Works required are extensive and include repairs of piles, crossheads, bearers and decking and replacement of capping and ladders. These piers, ramp and jetties currently provide berthing to commercial operators, private vessels community organisations plus some tourism-related vessels.
 

Over 100,000 visitors per annum spend time on the Seaworks site, visiting piers accessing vessels, fishing, and attending events.

 
Additionally, various community groups use the piers, including school groups, university students undertaking research, Metropolitan Fire Brigade, Water Police, Search and Rescue, Parks Victoria, and performance artists.
 
Seaworks Foundation is a not-for-profit community organisation, generating limited revenue through berthing fees and venue hire, falling far short of what is required to save these iconic maritime landmarks.
 
Glenn Jones acknowledges that whilst the repair costs are substantial, “once work is undertaken and the piers and jetties are reopened, the increase in tourism revenue and the significant benefits to the Williamstown community will far outweigh the rebuilding costs.”

About Seaworks Foundation
 
Seaworks Foundation was developed as a not-for-profit community foundation in 2006 to manage the 2.74 hectare site known as the Seaworks Precinct. The site is vested in Parks Victoria, who lease the site back to the Seaworks Foundation.
 
Seaworks is governed by an independent Board of eight independent Directors. Melbourne is a maritime city and the Seaworks site played a significant role in its growth and expansion. The site was developed to service the increasing number of ships that berthed in Williamstown from the late 1800’s onwards, as Melbourne’s international trade was booming. This progress required extensive port facilities including slipways, piers and workshops. Two periods in particular – the 1920’s and the 1940’s – saw buildings relocated to this site to ensure that the city’s maritime needs could be met. Seaworks today still reflects those uses and there are sheds and other evidence of this long history scattered across the site and Seaworks is a working port through the activation of the piers.

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