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10 May 2008: Extraordinary General Meeting at the Mission to Seafarers
The meeting was called to enable the members to hear and discuss the decision by the National Trust management not to proceed with the building of a new maritime museum at the Polly site.

Some 40 members attended. The Trust was represented by C.E.O. Martin Purslowe and Heritage Development Manager Tanya Wiliams. Also present were Trevor Huggard, Nigel Porteous (Deputy President, The Mission to Seafarers) and MHAV committee members. Ralph McDonell and John Wroe made presentations on behalf of the PWVA, these were followed by a response from Martin Purslowe, the meeting was then thrown open for questions and responses.

There was criticism of the Trust management for not advising or consulting the PWVA before making the decision not to proceed with the new museum building. That the two additional sections of Shed 2 should be roofed and clad. That an additional building should be erected on site so that there is space for a small maritime museum display dedicated to the river and docklands area and the maritime library which is now (partially) housed at Tasma Terrace. That the bluestone currently stored on site should be utilised for paving on the site. That the signal mast should be re-erected in a prominent position. That any funds coming from Plenary should be entirely spent on the Polly and projects on the Polly site.

There was no substantial response to our criticism of a lack of consultation. However, the point was made by the C.E.O. that there needs to be better communication between the Trust and the PWVA (editor's note: I do not think that the PWVA can be accused of a lack of communication). There is to be no new museum building on site. The $3 million+ from Plenary which was to be spent on the new building will now be spent on the ship. A further $2 million "landscaping budget" is to be spent on refurbishment of Shed 4, fitting out of Shed 2 and general "landscaping".

Shed 2 is to be re-erected and the two extra sections of Shed 2 are to be roofed and clad. It is to be fitted out with a 300 sq m exhibition gallery, workshop, offices, reception and toilets. Shed 4 is to be refurbished and leased out for 25 years to a cafe/restaurant enterprise and the annual income of $60,000+ will go to the National Trust. The engineering report from BMT has been received and includes short, medium and long-term recommendations on conservation and restoration of the ship. Ballast is to be reduced and repositioned. There has been a verbal commitment by the Department of Major Projects to fund the $8 million to $10 million required to refurbish the dry dock which will probably include a cradle in which the Polly is to be housed. The pumps are to be housed in a largely glass building.

It was stressed that the maritime library and photo collection should be returned to the Polly site, not Tasma Terrace where it is now housed. Maritime artefacts (600 cu m now in store in Footscray) to will have to remain in storage pending possible use at a proposed Williamstown site. The whole site should be managed as one from public's view in interest of overall viability (MP agreed with this). Concern was voiced about having a critical mass of attractions on site to make the whole site viable. Concern was voiced about parking for volunteers. The signal mast must be re-erected (this is to be investigated).

GENERAL Minutes were taken and whole meeting taped. The taped minutes are to be transcribed and located on our own PWVA website (now being developed) in the future so these commitments are there for as long as we deem necessary.

Since the EGM, the PWVA committee has sought further meetings with the Trust management to outline our suggestions for the site. However, we have been informed by the Trust that everything has been discussed and that there is no need for any further meetings (what happened to the idea of "better communication"?). It is unfortunate that the spirit of cooperation between the Trust and the PWVA which prevailed until recently, seems to been at least temporarily abandoned.

25 March 2008: No New Maritime Museum at the Polly Woodside Site

On March 25th 2008, the PWVA committee and ship volunteers were given the staggering news by the National Trust C.E.O. that building of the new Melbourne Maritime Museum is not going to proceed.

The Trust has elected instead to use the three million dollars which had been allocated to the new museum to refurbish the Polly and to fit-out a re-erected Shed 2 as a visitor centre, retail outlet, workshop and "interpretative centre" dedicated to Polly. Two additional frames ("trusses") are to be erected, but for reasons which have not been adequately explained are not to be roofed or clad.

On a positive note it is understood that substantial funds have been offered by Major Projects Victoria for refurbishment of the dry-dock which will enable vital work to be carried out on Polly.

It appears that the Trust has decided it cannot afford to have a refurbished ship and dry-dock and a new maritime museum, and so after some 30-odd years there will no longer be a Melbourne Maritime Museum at the Polly site.

In our view, the museum building that was planned for the site was unnecessarily extravagant when an additional (and more affordable) cargo shed-style building would have been more in keeping with the site's history. However, there is no evidence that this option was considered and our view was not sought.

Since the Polly and the museum site (not to mention Como, Rippon Lea etc.) are essentially assets of the people of Victoria, it is not unreasonable that the State Government should be providing both capital and ongoing funding to support a maritime museum on site. After all they subsidise every other museum in Melbourne. How vigorously was this and other funding options pursued?

It remains to be seen whether a refurbished ship and Shed 2 will be sufficient to attract the crowds, when there was a golden opportunity to have in addition a new museum dedicated to the history of the river, docks, wharves and shipping of Port Melbourne. Presumably most of the museum collection will remain in storage. The library, photo collection and lovingly restored Lloyd's Registers are to be moved to Tasma.

It seems that the thousands of hours of work of dedicated museum and library volunteers were not considered when the decision was made nor was the PWVA consulted or advised until after the event. The experience and expertise of the volunteers who have been the backbone of the workforce at the museum and ship were disregarded when this far-reaching decision was made. What does this tell us about the attitude of the Trust management towards the volunteers?

Those members who attended the AGM in February will recall that there was a unanimous decision to write letters to the parliamentarians to complain about the lack of progress with the museum and dry-dock and this was to be included in the March edition of "Wave". The letter was not included since we were under the impression that the new museum and dry-dock programmes were on track. Now that the new museum is not to be built, members may wish to register their opinions by writing to the Board and C.E.O of the Trust and perhaps to their MP's, although this would have been far more effective if we had been given the opportunity before the decision was made not to proceed with the museum.

This decision will leave Melbourne as the only maritime city in the developed world without a maritime museum. Sooner or later the State Government will wake up to this and proceed with a development at Williamstown but who knows how long that will take.

Over the past 7 years or so the museum and library have been moved 4 times and 6 site managers have come and gone. Those of us who have been directly involved may be forgiven for wondering if this latest proposed incarnation will be any more permanent than the previous ones.

The Committee believes that the decision not to proceed with the new museum is short-sighted and will ultimately be to the detriment of the site as a whole. We are endeavouring to reverse this decision and we seek the support of the members to achieve this goal.

PWVA Committee