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Ditching Eveleigh agreement robs the future by discounting the past

The efforts of the head of the Redfern-Waterloo Authority, Robert Domm, to evict the blacksmith from the heritage Eveleigh Technology site should alarm all communities in NSW - not just heritage supporters ("Battle stations for Eveleigh," August 2-3) writes Brian Dunnett in this letter to the Sydney Morning Herald of 4th August 2008.

There is a long-standing government agreement that the Eveleigh site be retained for heritage purposes.

In the mid-1980s the then State Rail Authority and the state government argued that the railway workshops at Eveleigh were outdated and the 4000 employees should be either retrenched or moved to more modern workshops at Chullora. Naturally these proposals, affecting so many, caused no end of debate, including among NSW unions.

Eventually an agreement to divert industrial disputation was reached between all concerned and endorsed at a mass meeting of Eveleigh employees. The terms of settlement included an understanding that heritage features of Eveleigh would be protected for future generations as an example of what pioneering NSW industry had achieved, and that it be used to provide young people with training in traditional skills (like blacksmithing), which still have a place in our society. Thus the idea for Sydney Technology Park was born.

In line with the terms in this agreement endorsed by Eveleigh employees, the community and the State Government, the National Trust (NSW) placed a heritage order on the site which has up until now acted to protect some of the 12 original heritage Eveleigh locations. Before the last of the 4000 employees left Eveleigh, plaques were placed upon every remaining machine (most of which were more than 100 years old and some the only ones of their kind in the world still in working order), indicating the machines were of heritage value and should not be removed. People can look for these tags on the open day to be held on August 17 at the blacksmith's workshop.

Fortunately for NSW, the blacksmith, Guido Gouverneur, and organisations like 3801 Limited have respected that agreement and some of the heritage locations and items remain in good working order and still provide the opportunity for a modern, heritage-based technical park that fits in with plans for other parts of the Eveleigh area now being discussed by Sydney University and the City of Sydney.

As this battle for Eveleigh heats up it should be remembered that had the various NSW governments kept to the terms of agreements they reached with the Eveleigh workforce and others along the way, Sydney would not need to rush to the battle stations to defend the site. We could all be enjoying a stroll in a much needed technology park that combined NSW's past industrial achievements with the current demand for a skilled Australian workforce.

Brian Dunnett Former Eveleigh employee, Kurnel

Source: Ditching Eveleigh agreement robs the future by discounting the past