‘Enormous potential’: Plan to bring life to the forgotten end of South Bank (2024)

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  • Queensland
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By Tony Moore



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Secret talks to reinvigorate the unpopular southern end of South Bank precinct have finally begun – but no one is saying where its long-term tenant will end up.

South Bank welcomes 14 million visitors each year, with just more than 4 million walking along the Brisbane River on the Clem Jones Promenade. It is one of the city’s biggest tourist drawcards and event spaces.

But the southern end of the precinct has become a pedestrian rat run, with fences blocking people from the river around the Goodwill Bridge. The Queensland Maritime Museum – which predates Expo 88 – is looking tired, and only 36,000 people pay the $18 entry fee each year.

‘Enormous potential’: Plan to bring life to the forgotten end of South Bank (1)

The Queensland government recently assessed the museum’s collection and is involved in talks about its future. But it remains to be seen whether exhibits, or the museum headquarters, will be forced to move, as South Bank is reinvigorated and given better connections to Kangaroo Point and Woolloongabba.

Under the South Bank Master Plan, the museum’s current headquarters inside the old Expo 88 Pavilion of Promise have been redesignated as “a walkway and a green lawn”.

“It’s currently the least-visited area in South Bank and has enormous potential as a major tourism destination and community precinct,” the masterplan states.

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The need to improve pedestrian access, including through the construction of a riverside boulevard across the mouth of the heritage-listed dry dock, were first outlined in 2006 in the museum’s own masterplan.

But the masterplans do not fully align: South Bank has set aside space for a future maritime precinct, however the Department of State Development on Friday acknowledged that did not specifically include the museum.


“The masterplan does not specifically address whether or not a maritime museum remains in this location,” a spokesman said.

“The department is looking at options to revitalise the museum site and surrounding area recognising the maritime heritage. No decision has been made as to the scope and timing of the Southern Gateway revitalisation.”

Queensland Maritime Museum board chair Captain Kasper Kuiper said the South Bank masterplan showed the museum would at least lose its buildings on the upstream, or cultural centre, side of the Goodwill Bridge.

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“We lose everything on this side,” said Kuiper, an honorary consul to the Netherlands.

“I am happy with that, I don’t own it. What choice do I have?”

With questions over the rest of the site, and a future headquarters, Kuiper said he believed the government would ultimately take over.

What the South Bank Master Plan sees for the southern end of the precinct

  • Extending the Clem Jones Promenade over the river in front of the dry dock to address a key missing link between Kangaroo Point and Kurilpa;
  • Establish a local river-based, fresh seafood experience; and
  • The buildings, museum area and vehicle routes could be reorganised to unlock more than a football field of new accessible public space, including a riverfront lawn beneath the Goodwill Bridge with an aspect towards Captain Cook Bridge and Kangaroo Point Cliffs.

The department undertook a four-month collection assessment to identify items of significance and what space they might require to exhibit. The spokesman confirmed the process would determine the best long-term exhibition and storage arrangements.

“This work is ongoing and will help determine any next steps the Queensland Maritime Museum Association may wish to take,” the spokesman said.

Kuiper suggested the museum could move into the nearby heritage-listed building on Vulture Street, which houses Griffith University’s film school.

But the university owns the building and said they had no plans to vacate the studios.

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Alternatively, Kuiper said, the museum and its collection could become part of a Queensland Museum Network, like the Ipswich Railway Workshops Museum, or Toowoomba’s Cobb and Co Museum.

The department spokesman said that was not up to the government.

“As the department does not have oversight of the museum, the department has not been investigating the inclusion of the Maritime Museum into the National Network of Maritime Museums and nor has the department had discussions with Griffith University,” the spokesman said.

The volunteer-run museum operates on Crown land and has a five-year sublease to Brisbane City Council that expires on May 25 next year.

Its operating costs are about $300,000 each year, but that covers basic maintenance, not for improvements to the collection, which include Jessica Watson’s 2010 round the world sailboat Pink Lady, and the WWII naval frigate Diamantina in the dry dock.

Its 2023 financial records show it has 92 volunteers, no paid staff, received grants of $99,000 and earned $878,763 from entry sales and functions, paid out $633,628 and has assets of $3.6 million.

Kuiper conceded a “museum-type body” was needed to look for grants to maintain the collection, which he estimates would cost about $5 million annually.

But that did not resolve the fate of the site at South Bank.

“Who is going to look after the Diamantina in the dry dock?”



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