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two perspectives on the Walsh Bay development on Sydney Harbour

from reflections; The National Trust Quarterly, July-Sept 1999

The decision by the State Government and the Opposition parties to combine to validate what is happening at Walsh Bay by passing the Walsh Bay Development (Special Provisions) Bill, is very disappointing. The Act terminates the National Trust's legal challenge to the Heritage Council's approval of the demolition of Wharves 6 and 7 at Walsh Bay and also validates past consents and approvals, even though they were invalid at the time they were given. Independents Clover Moore and David Barr were the only members of the Legislative Assembly who opposed the Bill. In the Legislative Council, a number of the independent members – Ms Rhiannon and Messrs Breen, Chesterfield Evans, Cohen, Corbett, Jones and Dr Wong – opposed the legislation and supported the stance taken by the National Trust. Thank you.

The National Trust has never opposed the creative redevelopment of this area but it has fought for the principle that the heritage listed buildings and features which have been identified in the Government's own legislation and studies should be protected. What is proposed is demolition, not protection.

The Trust took legal action to protect community assets in the face of acceptance by the Government, the Heritage Council, the Director-General of Urban Affairs and Planning, the Department of Public Works and Services and by the Government Architect, of demolition of heritage buildings it said it would conserve, permanently. What is happening at Walsh Bay gives little cause for confidence in the "protective" effect of a Permanent Conservation Order.

It would appear that in Government circles in New South Wales, the definition of the word "permanent" includes "impermanent" and "conservation" equals "demolition". When big business and government combine it means that heritage interests lose out even if they have legal "protection". These recent actions by the State Government and Opposition send a clear but regrettable message to the community. That is, on issues of heritage, developers are likely to get their way.

Walsh Bay, East Circular Quay, The Conservatorium... What will be next? Parliament House, The Hyde Park Barracks, The Mint?

Hon Barry O'Keefe, AM QC President

President, The National Trust of Australia (NSW)

Letters to the Editor

I don't agree with the views expressed by Trust President Barry O'Keefe, distinguished artist Peter Kingston and ACF President Peter Garrett, that the ‘built heritage’ of our country residing in the structures collectively known as the Finger Wharf at Walsh Bay should be preserved.

From an aesthetic point of view, as a passenger on the various public ferries where the structures can be seen against the backdrop of the CBD, they are an anachronistic eyesore – out of date, out of place and, dare I say it, out of favour with many of your readers who perhaps lack the temerity to challenge the Heritage hierarchy through these columns.

No doubt other arguments can be advanced for the demolition of the Wharf, and perhaps the best persons to forward these are the various State Government instrumentalities whose task it is to evaluate these concerns and to present them to the Parliament for its consideration. This has been done.

So I would suggest to the persons mentioned in my first paragraph not to get too knotted up about the decision. You have fought the good fight, now direct your energies to other, more deserving heritage considerations. And in this connection, may I respectfully ask you to give thought to the Constitution Referendum which is to be held in November. I think this is the most important Heritage concern to face Australians this century. Houses, historic sites, - precincts, our built heritage – all will eventually decay with the passage of time, but whilst ever we remain free, our Constitution will remain. And our historic link with England through the Governor General is an aspect of LIVING heritage – surely something that should concern the National Trust!

Not a single word from any of the Trust's office bearers on this subject.

Why then do you expect to be taken notice of in the matter of the decaying Finger Wharf?

WE. Darley, B.Sc, Agr, Leura

Reproduced with the permission of the National Trust of Australia (NSW)


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