Businessman Paul Little has announced that on May 16, it will start an eight-week trial of a ferry service between Point Cook and Docklands that won’t include a stop on the Bellarine Peninsula.
In the trial, a catamaran will ferry 400 passengers indoors from Wyndham Harbour near Point Cook, to Docklands' Victoria Harbour in the CBD in the morning peak time; and will return during the evening peak time. Mr Little's Little Group has established a new company - Port Phillip Ferries – to run the service, which will take around 70 minutes each way. The new company wants to reduce the travel time, which it says is due to low speed limits on the Yarra River.
An adult return fare will cost around $20 during the trial, while the normal cost will be $25 for an online booking and $29 if bought on the day, with discounts for seniors, children and concession cardholders. Parking at Wyndham Harbour marina will be included in the fare and ferry passengers will have free wi-fi access.
Still no ferry for the Bellarine
When Mr Little first floated his plan for a ferry service in October 2015, it included a stop at Portarlington, but Mr Little said more work was needed to allow ferries to berth there. "We'd be very happy to run the ferries out of Portarlington if the demand was there", he said.
The infrastructure for a Portarlington ferry stop will be completed in the months after the Port Phillip Ferries trial. The 2016 state budget includes money for Stage Two of the $15m ‘safe harbour’ at Portarlington, which includes docking for ferry services and is due to be completed in the 2016-2017 financial year. The budget also includes $107m to build the long-awaited Drysdale bypass which, once complete, will make a Portarlington ferry a more attractive option for people from the western Bellarine who commute to Melbourne.
Begging the question
Point Cook residents who have to spend hours a day travelling to and from jobs in the city would welcome a ferry between Wyndham Harbour and Melbourne’s CBD. Similarly, Bellarine Peninsula residents forced to commute to Melbourne would welcome a ferry between Portarlington and the CBD – either as part of the proposed Port Phillip Ferries service or in addition to it.
However, such ferry services solve a problem that shouldn’t have been created – insufficient business and jobs for the expanding population of Geelong and the Bellarine Peninsula. The City of Greater Geelong has actively encouraged the creation of ever more housing estates, home to many thousands of residents, without ensuring that there are jobs to support them. The result is the creation of 'dormitory towns' as an increasing number of people on the Bellarine joining commuters from Geelong on the hours-long commuter trek to and from central Melbourne.
For example, when the Curlewis ‘growth area’ on the outskirts of Drysdale is completed, it will house around 16,000 people, yet the area is virtually deserted during the day (apart from builders and tradies building more houses), because so many of its residents are commuters. The only jobs are at the small shopping centre, with its Woolworth supermarket and a handful of ‘speciality’ shops and even these will be at risk as the Leopold shopping centre expands from its present 5,000m2 to 65,000m2 by 2021. (See “More shops, no vision” [13 October 2013] on this blog.)
Creating a jobs drain
An expanded Leopold shopping centre will drain custom from elsewhere on the Bellarine, just as shopping centres in Waurn Ponds and Corio Village have drained custom from central Geelong. The shopping centres provide some new jobs, but most are relatively low-skilled, low-paid and with very limited career paths. Why are there no plans to provide other sorts of jobs?
CoGG's drive to expand the population of the Bellarine must be accompanied by plans to expand and diversify employment. As a rule of thumb, a new job should be created for each house built. That would at least start to match economic growth with population growth.