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REDWatch submission on Ongoing mechanisms for Heritage Co-ordination across the Former Eveleigh Railyard Precinct

This is the text of a submission made to UrbanGrowth Central to Eveleigh on 19 June 2019 about ongoing mechanisms for heritage co-ordination across the former Eveleigh rail yard precinct. Discussions between UrbanGrowth Central to Eveleigh and the Heritage Office on this topic became apparent when it was referred to in development conditions for Mirvac's ATP development in 2016. These discussions are ongoing and UrbanGrowth is also in discussions with landowners across the former rail yards.

Submission to UrbanGrowth Central to Eveleigh - 19 June 2017

Ongoing mechanisms for Heritage Co-ordination across the Former Eveleigh Rail yard Precinct


In November 2008 REDWatch wrote to then Minister for Redfern-Waterloo, Kristina Keneally, calling for the establishment of a Heritage and Tourism Committee for the Eveleigh Railyards. REDWatch did so on behalf of a large number of heritage groups that had come together as part of a campaign to keep the Blacksmiths functioning at the ATP and to protect Eveleigh Heritage (see attachment).

The Redfern Waterloo Authority (RWA) had a number of Ministerial Advisory Committees composing relevant government and non-government bodies along with community representatives. The request was to establish such a mechanism to look at heritage issues across the former Eveleigh Railyards.

In late 2009, Kristina Keneally, by then Premier and well as Minister for Redfern Waterloo, requested the RWA to establish a Redfern Waterloo Heritage Taskforce (RWHT). This taskforce had a much wider scope than we had originally requested, covering heritage across the broader RWA area including Aboriginal and public housing heritage as well as Eveleigh railway heritage. It did however include a representative from Tourism NSW as originally proposed.

Among the problems with the structure were that none of the heritage groups that called for the establishment of the Heritage and Tourism Committee were involved in the new RWHT; REDWatch, the Redfern Waterloo Chamber of Commerce and City of Sydney being the only organisations represented from the initial group requesting the committee be established.

The RWHT held its first meeting on 9 December 2009 and had to report by March 2011, so existed for only a short time. With delays in finding suitable Aboriginal representatives and an independent heritage expert, the committee had little time to do its work with all members present. The approach proposed by the RWA was a call for projects that would be supported by the committee and where possible some resources from the RWA or ATP.

The Eveleigh Railyard precinct was dealt with by establishing an Eveleigh Steering Committee (ESC). ESC meetings were open to all interested people and while Guido Gouverneur from Wrought Artworks was unanimously elected as the spokesperson for the ESC, that position was not included on the RWHT. At the request of the ESC, the RWA CEO and RWHT Chair, Mr Roy Wakelin King chaired the ESC meetings.

It is important to understand that the RWHT and the ESC happened at a time when there was still considerable tension between the ATP and some of the people, who had a long term heritage interest in the site, over the handling of heritage on the site. The original letter to Ms Keneally had come from the Save the Blacksmith campaign the year earlier. The RWHT and ESC occurred at a time when heritage was moving from being seen as a liability, to being seen as an asset, and there was not a great deal of trust. This was on both sides. On one side the ATP put up projects without them being discussed through the committee and on the other side projects like LES War Memorial Project and Professor Lucy Taksa’s Book and Website Project not eventuating because of failures to agree on a basis to work together.

The major work to come through the RWHT was the Eveleigh Railway Workshops Interpretation Plan. The proposal for this plan was strongly supported by the RWHT; however the RWHT had been wound up by the time a draft was ready. RWHT members were given an opportunity to make submissions but not the opportunity to discuss with the RWHT areas where there were concerns.

In spite of its short comings, the RWHT showed that there was benefit in bringing together such a taskforce. One of the RWHT’s final recommendations was “To this end, this report recommends that a government and community based body be established to ensure that this collaboration continues into the future. There will be key issues of governance and access to funding to be resolved in the establishment of such a forum, however it is considered important that such a body be established for the foreseeable future to help maintain and continue the good work undertaken by the RWHT.”

With the winding of the RWA into the SMDA, the community aspects of the RWA were lost and all the Advisory committees ceased to function. The key issues of governance and access to funding have been given as the reasons for not setting up a new body.

In August 2013, at REDWatch’s urging, the City of Sydney Lord Mayor wrote to the Minister for Planning and Infrastructure requesting a community and government planning and heritage taskforce be convened to provide input into planning and heritage matters for the Eveleigh Railway Workshops.

Council also resolved that “in the event that a government heritage taskforce is not established within a reasonable time, the City will work with the Australian Technology Park, Carriageworks and UrbanGrowth and other members of the previous Taskforce, with a view to bringing the parties together to explore how a co-operative effort could strengthen heritage interpretation and promotion across the former Eveleigh Railway Workshops site for the benefit of all parties”.

REDWatch has continued to push at any opportunity with stakeholders the need for a heritage mechanism for Eveleigh.

Where to now?

We understand from the PAC approval for the Mirvac CBA development that there is an intention for a CMP that covers the entire Eveleigh site, which is being worked on by UrbanGrowth. While having not seen the detail of the proposal we welcome the move to have a mechanism that governs new, as well as existing, buildings and public space within the Eveleigh precinct.

While we do not have the detail of what is currently proposed REDWatch welcomes the opportunity to make some input to UrbanGrowth over how a new heritage mechanism might operate.

In REDWatch’s view, the sale of the ATP and its breakup of ownership along with the imminent work on North Eveleigh make it imperative that a heritage mechanism be put in place before the site fragments further.

Where site owners recognise their heritage as an asset we are hopeful that they will also see there is increased value for their site if their site is seen as a part of the precinct wide heritage offering rather than just an isolated offering. We have used this argument in the past to encourage heritage events to be co-ordinated across the Eveleigh site so that publicity can be maximised resulting in a larger turnout and an improved heritage offering.

We are encouraged by Mirvac, Carriageworks and UrbanGrowth working together around the 1917 Great Strike centenary to see how they can co-ordinate their activities and promote a wider co-operative heritage event. There are regular opportunities such as History Week, which could be used to leverage publicity out into widely promoted heritage events that could be looked at going forward. Regular heritage tours could be promoted to inbound tour operators and be part of Sydney’s tourism offering. This current cooperation can also be important for establishing a longer-term mechanism.

We were also encouraged by Mirvac’s preparedness to have their recent work on rebranding the ATP as the Eveleigh Workshops used across the former Railway workshop site. All this indicates to us that now is a good time to progress the Eveleigh heritage discussion.

Heritage has not always been seen as an asset at Eveleigh and as land prices escalate and market tastes change, a more negative approach to heritage may again re-emerge. We hence agree that there should be some heritage mechanism that applies across the entire Eveleigh site which recognises that all the developments are within an important heritage precinct and that there are ongoing obligations arising from being within such a heritage precinct.

It seems to us that the CMP will need to deal both with bodies that hold heritage buildings and assets, as well as new buildings that will be within the precinct. We assume this is the case given that the CBA building approval references the proposed UrbanGrowth CMP.

There is clearly a need for new buildings to be sympathetic to the former railway precinct and to interpret the history of the site within the new development. The question post construction is what role these buildings play in the ongoing development and promotion of heritage. Do, for example, the owners / strata bodies pay a levy towards heritage activities or do they just benefit from proximity to them with the costs being born by those that hold heritage assets?

While we think that it is possible to run a model based solely on the heritage asset holders, we think this might also limit what is delivered across the site. It is likely that we would see organisations funding heritage activities that primarily benefit their sites and potentially not funding broader activities needed to promote / interpret the entire precinct.

A couple of examples might be useful here.

What happens to Eveleigh Stories when UrbanGrowth moves away? Does it stop development of new stories and ways of connecting those stories to people, or will there be a mechanism for the stories to continue as part of say a digital or self-guided tour of the former railway precinct. To be preserved it could be handed over to someone; to continue development it will need resources from somewhere. If those resources are just from heritage building holders, it is possible that the stories will only be about people from their buildings or sites, and not the broader railyard heritage.

Eveleigh Stories are just one part of the rich social history that exists about the Eveleigh Workshops. It has long been suggested that there should be an official repository for such material on the site; maybe a place where visitors and family members can look up records of friends or family who worked on the site. This was part of the aim of liberating worker records held by Lucy Taska. But there will a cost associated with an official repository / welcome centre – if we really want to add this meat to the Eveleigh Workshops bone then it will need funding. Even if it is not done on site there should be an official repository nominated so there is a place where all the material can be collected.

Some levy arrangement on new developments, as well as on holders of heritage assets, would provide a basis for the development of heritage and tourism collateral that would add to the existing heritage offering which holders already have an obligation to maintain and make available to the public. The development of new heritage offering is also likely to be seen by non-heritage building owners as adding something new to the total area’s heritage offering rather than simply supporting the heritage building and asset owners.

There is also the possibility of some cost recovery through sale of items to tourists could be used to offset some of the recurrent costs. Such merchandising was used by Eveleigh Works at their launch earlier this year. It has not been a feature of earlier heritage events at Eveleigh.

We would not suggest a funded project approach like that undertaken by the RWHT. We would favour an approach that looks at developing the heritage offering, its interpretation and presentation and creating a tourism offering across the former Eveleigh site. An Eveleigh heritage committee itself could seek grant opportunities from the Heritage or Tourism funds to help develop particular projects or heritage offerings.

If the heritage co-ordination mechanism is of a purely co-operative nature then possibly only those that see a benefit from co-operation and can fund it will be at the table. They would cover their own costs and conceivably contribute to joint costs. Hopefully these would be the bodies that own / manage heritage buildings and their immediate public domain and / or heritage collections.

There are however, other stakeholders that need to be considered or have something to bring to the table in this discussions that may not be there in a purely cooperative venture. The Heritage Office and Tourism NSW would be two government bodies which might miss out, as well as a range of specialists and interest groups.

For this reason it would be much better if it was possible at the start to set up a mechanism that provided representation from the broader community as well as heritage custodians.

From REDWatch’s perspective a wider mechanism that has stakeholder representation sends a clear message that an Eveleigh Heritage committee is about Eveleigh more broadly and not just about the asset custodians.

We recognise that there are many different potential stakeholders and would suggest a representative mechanism being selected from an EOI process across different categories of stakeholders.

For example, we could say that in addition to heritage operators and state bodies, that the committee would have two representatives each from groups such as heritage operators, surrounding community organisations, heritage groups and retired workers, and heritage specialists. That would provide eight additional stakeholder members. Under split rotation with say terms of 2 or 4 years there could be turnover of half these representatives every 1 or 2 years in a way that retained corporate memory and stable governance. The EOIs and committee appointments could be made by the ongoing committee.

This is just one possible model, but we put it on the table as a suggestion.

Below I have mapped out some of the parties which currently, or in the past, have had an interest in participating.

Heritage site Owners / Operators / Under Licence - Mirvac, Carriageworks, UrbanGrowth C2E, Transport Heritage NSW (LES), RailCorp (North Eveleigh & South Eveleigh operational), City Rail (Redfern Station) City of Sydney (Proposed to manage some open space in the precinct – ideally represented by History people rather than heritage planners)

State Bodies - Heritage Office, Tourism NSW

Heritage Operators - Eveleigh Works, 3801 Ltd, Historic Electric Traction (HET), LES tour operators such as Lachlan Valley

Surrounding Community Organisations - South Sydney Business Chamber, REDWatch, ARAG, City West Housing, strata bodies of surrounding buildings such as Water Tower apartments, etc.

Heritage Groups and old Workers - ARHS, The National Trust, Retired RTBU, ATP Tour Guides

Academics and Heritage Experts - Don Godden, Dave McBeth, Lucy Taksa, Juliet Suich, Peter Phillips (ICOMOS)

Aboriginal Representation – on the broader RWHT, Dillon Kombumerri, Senior Architect Indigenous Design with NSW Government Architect’s Office and David Beaumont from the City of Sydney provided Aboriginal input. It is not clear where Aboriginal interest in Eveleigh Railway Heritage might come from.

Another model would be to have a committee of the heritage asset holders and a broader advisory committee of specialists. It is REDWatch’s view that as the Eveleigh Railway Heritage is a community asset as well as an asset of its custodians that the final mechanism should involve real input from heritage specialists and stakeholders in addition to heritage asset holders.

It should be emphasised that we are making these suggestions within a vacuum, as we are not aware of what conversations may have taken place between UrbanGrowth and the Heritage Office about possible mechanisms.

REDWatch however has had an ongoing interest in having an Eveleigh Railway Workshop heritage mechanism in place and we are prepared to be involved in discussions with all stakeholders to help determine a viable mechanism to deliver on this.

We look forward to the opportunity to discuss these comments and for further involvement in this important discussion.

Yours Faithfully

Geoffrey Turnbull                                                                      

REDWatch Co-Spokesperson

c/- PO Box 1567

Strawberry Hills NSW 2012                                           

Ph Wk: (02) 9318 0824                                                     

email: mail@redwatch.org.au



Letter to Kristina Keneally 2008

RWHT Final Report: www.redwatch.org.au/RWA/heritage/rwht/110222rwa/download