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Anvil chorus sparks an overwrought row

IN BAY Two of the Australian Technology Park in Eveleigh, a scene from another century unfolds writes Sunanda Creagh Urban Affairs Reporter in the Sydney Morning Herald of August 8, 2008.

Dodging metre-long flames, blacksmith Guido Gouverneur plies 30-centimetre-long tongs to pull a glowing piece of metal from the jaws of a roaring furnace.

The metal is passed to a dreadlocked assistant, who conveys it to a steam-powered hammer that bangs and clangs it into shape.

These rare machines are ancient, and so are the activists who have emerged in a campaign against the State Government, which wants to evict Mr Gouverneur's company, Wrought Artworks, from the workshop.

"A lot of the ex-railway workers have come down for meetings here. They have been very instrumental in the workshop remaining a heritage site and the machinery maintained," said the co-director of Wrought Artworks, Wendie McCaffley.

"These guys are really, really pissed off."

The Redfern-Waterloo Authority says that because it is a commercial business, Wrought Artworks should pay to use the workshop it has had free use of for the past 17 years.

"Should the current business be required to vacate, the Australian Technology Park will keep the heritage equipment in place and establish an alternative blacksmithing operation sympathetic to the history of the site," said the authority's chief executive, Robert Domm. "This commercial issue is being misrepresented as a heritage issue."

For Bob Rhymes, 85, it is every inch a heritage matter. "I worked there for 30 years, starting in 1950," he said.

A former machinist, he recalls that workers would go to their Wilson Street homes for lunch when the work-whistle could be heard in Newtown.

"The issue is the heritage, not only of the building and the machinery but also the memory of the men who worked there. A good many died of industry-related disease. When I see those machines still working, it's like you imagine their ghosts."

Mr Rhymes is close to many of his workmates from 30 years ago, some of who will speak at an open day at the workshop on August 17.

The Government denies any conspiracy and says it simply wants a tenant that will pay rent.

But Mr Gouverneur says his presence on the site was a condition of the development consent granted when the former industrial area was turned into a technology park in 1996.

"What other blacksmith would move in here? The fact is, our presence here has made it impossible for them to turn the workshop into offices or something else. We could end up with a Meriton on the site."

Photo: Peter Rae Photo: Forging ahead … blacksmith Guido Gouverneur is prepared for a hot contest with the State Government over the heritage of this workplace.