Cr Thalis pointed to the sale of sandstone public buildings in Bridge Street in Sydney’s CBD, the disposal of Millers Point public housing, the lease of NSW Land and Property Information and «the atrocities along Anzac Parade, one of our very few commemorative avenues».
«For us, without war, fire, flood or pestilence, this recent period has been perhaps the most voracious of booms in our city’s history,» he said. «It’s been self-inflicted.»
Cr Thalis also attacked the federal government’s «fire sale» of the GPO, which he called the most important 19th-century public building in Sydney and said had been «sold off for a song without consultation or even a tender».
Cr Thalis expressed concern not only about the loss of heritage, but also about the quality of building construction.
NSW Special Minister of State Don Harwin, also at the awards, did not respond at the time but later said in a statement: «The NSW government is committed to working with communities to strike the right balance between celebrating our past and building for the future.»
Also present at the Awards was Labor’s acting leader Penny Sharpe, who said Cr Thalis’ speech was a «wake-up call» about how heritage laws had been eroded.
«In NSW, the notion that public buildings are under the custodianship of government across generations no longer applies,» she said.
“Heritage laws need to be overhauled and importantly must be at the heart of a planning system that puts public interest ahead of private profit and short terms fixes of state budgets.”
«Does this signal the era of disposable public buildings, built on the cheap to be knocked down every 30 years or so – a throwaway city of junk buildings?» he said. «Is this the best we can do?»
The heritage of western Sydney was also under assault, Cr Thalis said, pointing to the threat posed to Willow Grove and St Georges Terrace by the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum, the «cavalier demolition» of Parramatta Memorial Pool and the intrusion of a new football stadium, Leagues Club and hotel into Parramatta Park.
Cr Thalis also expressed concern about turmoil within the Office of Environment and Heritage and the failure to appoint a new NSW government architect following the departure of Peter Poulet last September.
National Trust Heritage Awards 2019
The National Trust handed out 14 prizes at its annual Heritage Awards, including:
- The Lifetime Achievement Award: Dr George Gibbons
- Heritage Skills Award: Ron Lodewijks
- Cathy Donnelly Memorial Award: Mary Knaggs
- Conservation Built Heritage: Oldbury Cottage, Berrima and Kingscliff Community Buildings restoration
- Adaptive Re-use: Fenwick Stone Building
- Conservation Landscape: AILA NSW Landscape Heritage Study
- Conservation Interiors & Objects: The Melocco Room, Central Station and NSW Railways Remembers: Central Station Honour Board Reinstatement
- Education & Interpretation: Sisters of Mercy
- Heritage Resources: True Australians and Pioneers: Chinese Migration to the Orange Region of NSW
- Heritage Publications: MidCoast Stories and Paddington: A history
Andrew Taylor is a Senior Reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.