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By: April Forward Nelson

After six years of negotiation, the City of Port Phillip Council has approved plans to extend St Kilda Harbour. This should be welcome news to the residents of the area, most of whom are in favour of the development.

The plan calls for an extension of the seawall, which will increase the size of the marina, including space for an extra 250 berths, and provide a safer harbour.

The original development plan was released be Martin Foley, MP for Albert Park, in 2008. The project was to be funded by both the State Government and private developers. The Royal Melbourne Yacht Squadron Club was to be responsible for the Marina, the spine, the wave attenuation and the relocation of the berths. The State Government was to have financed the repairs and improvements to the pier.

Rod Austin, the new General Manager of the Club, believes that the breakwater development will offer greater protection from the southern storms.

The structure is to be a rock wall that will blend into the current rock pier and create a natural looking environment. It will make it safer for public access.

The new wall will also be good for the ecology of the area by providing further nesting protection for penguins and other marine life.

Zoe Hogg, of Earth Care, says she is happy with the new plans.

“The penguins will soon have a new sheltered section of the breakwater to come in to land. Also, the seagrass will flourish, and this will enable young fish to breed in safety. Many of the indigenous sea stars and anemones will have new places to explore, and as long as we keep removing the Northern Pacific sea stars, we will have a thriving underwater habitat. The rakali will also have more to eat.”

Serge Thomann, councillor for the Catani Ward at City of Phillip Council, explains that the construction of the new wall, as well as the building of a new pier, a sea pool and a penguin platform, were part of the original plans.

Private developers of the Yacht Club have agreed to finance the $40,000,000 building of the new harbour. Parks Victoria is responsible for the pier reconstruction, which is affected by concrete cancer.

The only setback with the project is that the State Government has not committed funds to the rebuilding of the pier.

“As the asset owner,” claims Mr Foley, “the council has missed the change to pressure the State Government to renew the pier as per the original St Kilda Harbour concept plan.”

Mr Thomann says the State Government is looking at the project but don’t have the finance this year.

The council found that the new plans were consistent with the draft plan and that the Victorian government will pay for part of the breakwater where a pool, at the end of the pier, will be eventually constructed. The pool wall offers the pier greater protection against wave splash and will also provide a public swimming area.

Mr Foley is concerned about the private ownership of the new marine harbour, but Mr Thomann has explained that the area is Crown Land and is only leased to the Club. All its assets remain the property of the Government. Rod Austin of the Yacht Club says that the harbour would eventually be handed over to the Government.

The original St Kilda Pier was constructed in 1853. The breakwater at the end of it was built for the 1956 Olympic Games, to provide a safe harbour for yachts.

Peter Tzambazis, manager of the pier restaurant, Little Blue, says that he looks forward to the construction of the extended harbour, despite the inconvenience that the building of it will cause. He claims that it will provide one of the best views of Melbourne.

“The pier won’t happen unless the Yacht Club starts the process.” He said.

St Kilda Pier is a Melbourne icon. Visitors stroll its promenade for the fine views, fishing, sailing, penguin-watching and dining. If the development goes ahead, the public will also be able to enjoy swimming in the new sea pool.

At the time of writing, the fate of the pier remains uncertain, however.

“Boat owners will have to swim to their boats,” Mr Thomann quips, “if they don’t build a new pier.”

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