Jane’s Walk 2012: On Derelict Boats

So-called “Derelict” Boats near Banfield Park

Yesterday, I led a very successful Jane’s Walk (more information and links here) through Vic West. Almost thirty people (and two dogs) showed up, and we had some excellent conversations at various points along the Galloping Goose Trail.

Despite my prediction that the privatization of public space and the selling of city owned properties would be the most controversial items during our conversations, it was actually the so-called “derelict” boats moored near Banfield Park that inspired the most passionate discussion. The major issue of contention was whether the boats should be allowed to stay as a form of housing or whether they are a dangerous eyesore that should be completely banned from the harbour.

As I see it, there are three major problems with the boats moored there:

One participant on the walk made a passionate argument that for these reasons, all boats should be banned from mooring in the the bay long term. She was particularly concerned with the pollution, and expressed fear for herself and daughter when using the park because of the potential for violence.

Another participant pointed out (quite rightly, I think) that many of the boats are providing housing to people who would otherwise be homeless. Rather than simply banning boats from mooring there, there are other ways to solve the major problems listed above.

  • A sewage pumping station could be installed somewhere nearby, and all the boats could be required to have on-board holding tanks to prevent run-off into the environment.
  •  Regular police patrols could help minimize violence, criminal activities and the perception of threatening behaviour.
  • Regulations and enforcement could keep channels open to allow access for other users.

These are more subtle and effective ways to deal with the actual problems that come with the boats, than the more heavy-handed suggestion that they simply be banned. Simply banning them would move the problems elsewhere, and would require a huge investment in social housing to prevent increasing homelessness in the area.

Yet another participant also pointed out that social housing isn’t even a solution for all the people living on such boats. Owning a boat provides a certain pride of ownership and the ability to control your own space that many local home-owners ought to understand. It is very difficult (and perhaps impossible) to replicate such intangibles with social housing, which often requires strict regulation to maintain safety and security.

Strictly regulating the boats thus seems like one way to maintain diverse housing stock, create the conditions for an economically inclusive neighbourhood and solve the admittedly important problems that they bring to the area.

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This entry was posted in Crime, Development, Economy, Events, Gentrification, Homelessness, Housing, Infrastructure, Jane's Walk, Land Use, Law, Newspaper Coverage, Parks, Pedestrians, Policing, Public Space, Redevelopment, Uncategorized, Vic West, Victoria, Walking Tours. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Jane’s Walk 2012: On Derelict Boats

  1. Robin says:

    Hi, Vincent.
    Thanks once again for organizing and leading the Walk, and for instigating the conversation(s).
    I think you have been fair to each of the stances you summarize, just as I am sure there are many shades and subtleties in between them. I also appreciate your ‘full disclosure’ of your own stance: fair and balanced reporting- Fox News take note!

    One thing that I think isn’t emphasized here is that there were several voices present that day, but that none of them belonged to the people on the boats. I think that ‘we’ (being concerned neighbours on all sides of the issue) should at least approach the people who are living down there, present our concerns (versus demands) and see what they themselves think about resolving the problems and tensions. I tried to point to ideas like that when I talked about building capacity and community within that group. Participation rather than dictation.

    Lots more to talk about around this issue, not to mention the others your Walk!

    • vincentgornall says:

      Robin – Thanks for coming on the walk. I genuinely appreciated your presence and the discussions you contributed to. I was impressed at the “break-out session” you led after we left the bridge – thanks for doing that. Your idea for consulting with those most affected by this issue is a great one, and would seem to fit with the philosophy of other participants in the “derelict” boat discussion. I’ll post on the blog (and email you) when I announce upcoming walks.

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