Tree shift ‘Christmas killer’, warns Lyons

'THREAT': Fireworks light up Geelong's floating Christmas tree.

by Luke Voogt

Moving Geelong’s “iconic” floating tree to accommodate a new ferry service could “kill Christmas”, former mayor Darryn Lyons has warned.

His warning followed council announcing plans to move the tree closer to shore for the Geelong-Melbourne ferry, at a total cost of $110,000.

“If the ferry was left there overnight it would just destroy the tree,” said Mr Lyon.

The decision will see the Christmas tree move 45m from its original position 70m out on
Corio Bay to 25m from the foreshore.

The ferry will moor at Steampacket Quay about 15m to 20m west of the tree, according to council.

The move forward would block views of the 25-metre-high spectacle and have other unintended effects, said Mr Lyons, who devised the tree during his mayoral term.

“The council officers probably haven’t worked out that the reflection is as beautiful and creates an amazing selfie.”

But council would likely want to keep the tree due to its “huge” economic benefits, Mr Lyons said.

Geelong’s 2018 Christmas program generated an estimated $18.5 million for the local economy and attracted more than 330,000 visitors, according to a council report.

Mr Lyons supported the “fantastic” ferry but suggested mooring it elsewhere overnight.

“I’m no engineer but if it was just pick-up and drop-off I don’t imagine there would be many problems.”

He suggested rebuilding the former Yarra St Pier or even moving the tree to the Bellarine Peninsula to give its traders “a crack”.

Councillor Kylie Grzybek also supported the “fantastic ferry” but opposed mooring it overnight at Corio Quay.

She suggested extending Thompson Alexander Jetty, which was suggested as an alternative in a council report.

Port Phillip Ferries could also moor the vessel at other locations such as St Helens or on the Bellarine Penisula, Cr Grzybek said.

She joined councillors Anthony Aitken and Eddy Kontelj in opposing the plans, which council approved five votes to three. Three councillors were absent.

Planning documents indicated the ferry would block views from the west and Cunningham Pier, while The Carousel would block views from Steampacket Gardens following the move, Cr Grzybek said.

The ferry-mooring would cost $90,000 but Cr Grzybel was “told verbally” that new infrastructure for the tree would cost a further $20,000, she said.

But Mayor Bruce Harwood said moving the tree closer to shore would give “a closer view than ever”.

Council’s solution for the tree and the ferry to co-exist was “fantastic”, he said.

“The economic return from the service and tourism will far outweigh the initial minor cost.”

Deputy mayor Peter Murrihy said the ferry would bring an expected 55,000 visitors to Geelong, create 43 jobs and generate $9.5 million for the city’s economy.

Steampacket Quay was the most-suitable and cost-effective of the options that council investigated for berthing the ferry, a City Hall spokesperson said.

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