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Background to ATP Heritage Issues

This background on the ATP heritage issues was presented to the Eveleigh heritage meeting on 28th October 2008 by Wrought Artworks. It outlines the history of the blacksmith and the failure of the government to impliment the Conservation Management Plan which was supposed to "protect its cultural significance, continue its useful life and contribute to the activities of Eveleigh as both an engineering and educational resource".

The transition of Eveleigh

Between the Railway workshop’s closure and the rebirth into the ATP Wrought Artworks convinced State Rail on heritage grounds to allow them to occupy and make operational machinery the 4 blacksmithing bays. 

The Regional Environment Plan and the Conservation Management Plan & the CMP for Moveable Heritage Relics commissioned by the Government of the time reflected the philosophy that the blacksmithing shop be operational.

It was also desirable that other significant items of machinery on the site were conserved with the potential to be operable. To safe guard against insensitive commercial development of the site the ATP s Development Application consent conditions incorporated the findings and advise from these reports.

The operating blacksmithing shop was easy for the initial developer of the ATP because he already had a self-funding company operating the blacksmithing shop; it was considered at the time the most economical option for the Gov’t. The hard bit for the developer was the advice that 4 bays be allocated to allow the opportunity to have a museum. 2 bays for the dirty trade and 2 bays for other equipment associated with train manufacture. And to utilize an existing wall dividing the old and (soon to come) new technology.

Unfortunately most of the desired outcomes from all the well meaning reports were never realized. The developer convinced the Gov’t to shrink the operating machinery museum to 2 bays. Immediately the opportunity to make something of a historical attraction of Eveleigh was considerably weakened. The machine tools got dumped in the northern blacksmithing bays for several years. The Wheel Press shop was demolished just about over night and the machinery it had housed was dismantled and stored in an outdoor compound. These machines are included in the CMP for Moveable Relics. So they come complete with interpretation and conservation strategies. To make room for Channel 7 s monster new building they have been moved recently to the last vacant area, out in the elements near Henderson Road. It is a blatant example of demolition by neglect.

In an effort to help get the heritage machinery operational the largest single Heritage Grant was given by the then Minister of Planning in 1996 for $350,000 to be matched $ for $ by the ATP. As per the CMP a specialist conservator (David McBeath) was finally found & appointed. But the allocated funds proved extremely difficult to extract. A small portion of the grant got used to move the dumped machinery out of the dirty environs of the blacksmithing Bays into Bay 8. The rest of the grant funds either never got released or got used for other purposes on the ATP.  After a year or so the conservator left out of sheer frustration. Another opportunity was lost to make something of the collection. The machinery in Bay 8 is inoperable and without being able to witness its purpose is boring to the uninitiated. That’s if you can get in to view it. Not what you’d call a successful outcome.

The only machinery that is dynamic is the forges, furnaces, power hammers and presses in the blacksmiths shop. As you know in March of this year we were rewarded for this with an eviction notice from the Government. We were not given a reason. The RWA had not been attempting to negotiate with us for a lease as they said they had. We were written to later by Robert Domm that we were evicted for fixing a section of the floor.

As a result of a strong media- campaign, which culminated in a very successful Open day in mid August Wrought Artworks was given a “Heads of Agreement” document to sign. The actual lease contract has yet to eventuate. We were told if we didn’t they would find someone ‘sympathetic’ that would.

The license period granted is for 12 years. Whist it is affordable now, it is of concern the annual 5 % rental increases along with a 20% capped increase every 4 years will compromise the viability of the Heritage Workshop operating in perpetuity. It is not known why the Government requires the workshop to have such a substantial overhead in years to come. The true value of their asset lies in it succeeding as a heritage restoration facility with the right people running the show. 

The issue that lead to the eviction – an uneven floor surface as a result of services being laid during the refurbishment of the Australian Technology Park has been resolved with the landlords agreeing to not only give the requested approval for the floor to be repaired, but are now also prepared to undertake the works themselves. We will see if this eventuates or remains a matter to be ignored.

Non-the-less the focus it has bought to this important historical Railway site has been a positive one. The requirement, in the Development Consent Conditions for the ATP, of a self-funding operating heritage blacksmithing workshop has now been recognized by the Government.

Long overdue, the NSW Planning Department and the overseeing State Authority must also recognize the guidelines of the Regional Environment Plan and Conservation Management Plan for the other heritage machinery on the site, in accordance to the Plans statement -a 'comprehensive package' for the machinery was to be prepared ..."in ways that protect its cultural significance, continue its useful life and contribute to the activities of Eveleigh as both an engineering and educational resource".