Yarra Street Pier
Early last century Geelong’s waterfront was abuzz with ships and cargo sailing across the bay. Yarra Street Pier was one of the busiest ports, transporting wool and other commodities to markets near and far.
There were sailing ships, steam powered vessels and a wide range of interesting crafts bustling for a berth at one of the many piers along our waterfront. Wool was brought to the waterfront by oxen, horse, very primitive trucks and rail. The work was heavy and conditions were harsh.
With the need for larger facilities and to cater for modernisation, ports were established on the northern shores of Corio Bay and the shipping on Geelong’s waterfront slowly declined. The Moorabool Street Pier was demolished in the 1950’s, and need for Yarra Street Pier and later Cunningham Pier was virtually nil by the early 1980s, as was much of the land around the waterfront precinct.
In November of 1981 a concept called “City by the Bay” was launched, turning Geelong’s waterfront and outdated city area into a modern tourist and shopping driven city. The concept saw Yarra Street Pier be developed into a tourist icon, with a marina, restaurants and other services.
A few later proposals tweaked the plans and there was even a test of a giant floating marina made from recycled tyres strapped to the pier for testing. There was lots of controversy who would fund the redevelopment, and what would actually happen. Some wanted it demolished while others could see potential in redevelopment.
By the time the revised “Steampacket Place” concept for the waterfront came around the pier was no more. It mysteriously burnt down in October of 1988. Faulty wiring on a navigation signal was given as the likely cause but some suggested at the time that the story might be a little more than that, but we will never know. The historic green cargo shed was destroyed and many of the wooden pylons burnt beyond repair. When it was decided to remove the remains of the damaged pier, much of the good timber was salvaged and some was reused by local artist Jan Mitchel for the waterfront bollards project.
Today little remains of the Yarra Street Pier, other than the former entrance ramp that is used by the joy flight helicopter service. There is still a ghostly outline of Yarra Street Pier that is visible from the air, and can also be seen on aerial photographs like Google Earth where the pier stretching some 200 metres out into the bay.
In 2011 a new proposal to rebuild the pier was floated as an idea to further enhance the Geelong watefront. The plan included rebuilding the pier to a similar size as the previous pier and provide a mooring for cruise ships and berths for 78 smaller craft.
In the three years since the plan has gained strength a revised plan is now one of the city’s biggest priorities. They have allocated funding, as have the Royal Geelong Yacht Club. Now they are seeking funding from the State Government of Victoria to build what will not only be a major landmark and icon for Geelong but a cruise ship terminal right in the city.
Several exciting concepts have been shown to the public including a visionary plan that contains a high rise convention centre and an incredible pier building resembling more a piece of art, a design that would be a stunning sight to visitors of Geelong’s magnificent waterfront.