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Heritage blacksmith workshop told to close

History could be torn from its roots in one of Sydney’s most historic precincts if the Redfern-Waterloo Authority’s (RWA) eviction of the blacksmiths at the Eveleigh Railway Yard substantiates reports Emma Kemp in City News of 5th July 2008.
Heritage blacksmith workshop told to close

The Eveleigh Railway Yard's blacksmithing bays are an important part of Sydney's industrial heritage, Lord Mayor Clover Moore says (Photo: Australia Technology Park)

Tenants at the Eveleigh Railway Yard have been told to leave by the Redfern-Waterloo Authority (RWA) despite their ongoing efforts to preserve heritage value of the site.

Wrought Artworks have been operating the original blacksmithing bays at the Eveleigh Locomotive Workshop since 1991, running their business and maintaining the heritage and old machinery of the workshop under the heritage requirements of the Australian Technology Park (ATP).

The RWA is not obliged to adhere to heritage orders because it has powers to override the Heritage Act. The Redfern-Waterloo Authority Bill was passed in 2004 as part of Planning Minister Frank Sartor’s vision to redevelop the area.

Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the Eveleigh Locomotive blacksmithing bays are on one of the most important sites in Sydney in terms of its archaeology, social history and importance to Sydney’s industrial past.

“Retaining this workshop is essential to protect and preserve Sydney’s industrial heritage,” Ms Moore said.

She said she has written to the Minister for Redfern-Waterloo requesting he review the decision to evict Wrought Artworks and consider alternative arrangements to maintain the workshop.

The RWA notified Wrought Artworks of their eviction and termination of their licence after they installed a section of new concrete flooring to remedy a potential walkway hazard at their own expense – a task which had been left incomplete after the ATP upgraded the blacksmithing workshop as part of a site hazard review in 2005.

Joint partner of Wrought Artworks, Guido Gouverneur, said the action showed the RWA is not taking its position as stewards of the national estate responsibly.

“Rather it treats the largest and most integral steam powered blacksmithing machinery collection known in the western world as a play thing, to be tossed about and destroyed like a cat plays with a mouse,” Mr Gouverneur said.

He said the RWA has got “dollar signs in their eyes” and sees the site as valuable land they can develop once the tenants have been evicted.

The RWA mission statement says the Authority aims “To establish Redfern Waterloo as an active vibrant and sustainable community by promoting and supporting greater social cohesion and community safety, respect for the cultural heritage and orderly development of the area in consideration of social, economic and other sustainable developments.”

The proposed eviction also threatens the employment of four blacksmith apprentices, an increasingly rare industrial trade.

Greens councilor Chris Harris said it is a “bit curious” that the RWA had made this decision given that an acoustical wall shields the surrounding buildings from any noise.

“I’d like to know what’s motivated all of this, obviously there’s been a change of heart, and we’d like to know why,” Mr Harris said.

In 2001 Mr Gouverneur was awarded National Australia Day Citizen of the Year from South Sydney Council for his dedication in conserving the machinery at Eveleigh.

In a statement to The City News, Robert Domm said, "The private business in question (Wrought Artworks) is currently operating at the ATP without paying any rent and without having any legal lease or licence.

"This is obviously not a tenable situation in the long run and the ATP has tried on a number of occasions to resolve this issue,” Mr Domm said. "The private business asserts that it has a right to remain at the ATP in perpetuity on a rent-free basis and refuses to accept that the landowner has effective rights over its own property.”

Mr Gouverneur said his letters to board members of the RWA have been met with a “customary code of silence”, and that they would not meet to discuss their aspirations for the future of the blacksmithing shop.

Wrought Artworks is currently seeking legal advice.