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Wrought Artworks Rebuttal of Robert Domm's Statements

The following statement from Wrought Artworks responds to various statements made by the RWA and ATP Managing Director Robert Domm about Wrought Artworks. The initial statements are in bold and the response of the Wrought Artworks Director's follow.

Rebuttal to Roberts Domm’s statements by the Directors of Wrought Artworks 14.08.08

“The private business in question is currently operating at the ATP without paying any rent and without having any legal lease”.

  • The business was set up as a company at the request of Government as they wanted to deal with an incorporated body
  • It does not pay rent or have a lease because the Govt did not countersign lease publicly signed by Wrought Artworks.The attached photographic evidence was in 1996 with the CEO of the ATP-Tom Forgan and a Minister, and other ATP staff and tenants.
  • Wrought Artworks Signing Lease
  • The pre-existing lease and the unsigned lease included pepper corn rentals in recognition of the conservation work being done by the business  
  • Wrought Artworks does not pay rent or have a formal lease because the ATP did not countersign the License Agreement signed by Wrought Artworks. This was probably because the previous management of the ATP feared that Wrought Artworks might vacate Bays 1 & 2 at the end of the term of the license. The previous management preferred the license to be open ended and that may be why no formal license agreement was countersigned.
  • The lease with the State Rail Authority provided for a peppercorn rent. The license proposed by the ATP may not have required any rent at all (a copy of the document signed by Wrought Artworks has been requested from the ATP and has not been produced).
  • The actual agreement with Wrought Artworks has never been denied by the ATP. The agreement was that if Wrought Artworks: 
    • ran the forge as a proper working business;
    • maintained heritage equipment
    • then Wrought Artworks could remain in Bays 1 & 2 for as long as it wished, free from any rent.  

“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”.

  • The Development Approval for the establishment of the Technology Park required the arrangement as an ongoing heritage measure
  • There have been no attempts by the ATP to change the arrangement or negotiate any change
  • The Government / ATP have not met their commitments to fund and maintain heritage on the site which was to compliment the businesses activities  
  • It is open to question what the ATP means when it says the situation is "untenable".
  • The arrangement has continued for 14 years so one is left wondering why the arrangement can no longer continue.
  • Around 1997 Wrought Artworks signed a license agreement which the ATP preferred not to proceed with.
  • In 2000 Wrought Artworks wrote to the ATP setting out its understanding of the arrangement. The ATP never rejected what Wrought Artworks said at the time.
  • The only explanation as to why the situation has become untenable is because the ATP has other plans for Bays 1 & 2.

“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”  

  • The existence of Blacksmith was written into the Development Approval for the Technology Park
  • The landowner has an obligation to operate in accordance with the development consent
  • The landowner is part of the Government which made undertakings about the preservation of the Blacksmith shop and the heritage equipment on the site  
  • Wrought Artworks has never denied the rights of ATP. It is the ATP which is denying the rights of Wrought Artworks.
  • The arrangement which ATP made with Wrought Artworks should be understood in the context of the following matters: 
  • By using Wrought Artworks to carry on the forge, the ATP satisfied expensive and onerous conservation requirements that had been imposed by the Minister in the conditions of the development approval of the ATP.
  • At the time that the development approval was given, the ATP could not find any person willing to conduct the black smithing forge and the officers of the ATP were delighted that Guido Gouverneur & Wendie McCaffley were prepared to take on the onerous obligations.
  • The ATP recognised that substantial costs would be incurred by Wrought Artworks in carrying out the repair and maintenance of heritage items. The ATP also accepted that Wrought Artworks suffers operational difficulties conducting a 19th century blacksmith forge in a 21st century technology park.
  • It was for these reasons that the ATP made it clear that it was not interested in receiving rental from Bays 1 & 2 and the ATP did not consider Bays 1 & 2 as being commercially significant. The significance of Bays 1 & 2 was for conservation and heritage.

Attempts by the ATP to resolve these issues have not been successful.

  • There have been no approaches by the ATP to resolve these issues. Only a notice to quit which itself places any future discussions under duress  
  • The attempts by the ATP to resolve "the issues" may have been unsuccessful because as far as Wrought Artworks is aware, no dispute ever previously existed between Wrought Artworks and the ATP about the terms of Wrought Artworks' occupation of Bays 1 & 2.
  • Previous managers of the ATP have accepted the existing arrangement by which Wrought Artworks occupies Bays 1 & 2. 
  • If, as the ATP is now suggesting, the issues are about the payment of a commercial rental - why did not officers of the ATP approach Wrought Artworks before serving the Notice to Quit ?
  • At no point in time during the period the ATP has been under the control of the Redfern Waterloo Authority has any officer of the ATP approached any person from Wrought Artworks about Wrought Artworks paying commercial rent or signing a commercial license agreement. 
  • When Guido Gouverneur and Wendie McCaffley arranged to meet with Robert Domm of the Redfern Waterloo Authority in July (after the Notice to Quit had been served) Robert Domm never mentioned the possibility that a license was on offer. 
  • The first time that the ATP has stated that it is willing to offer a lease to Wrought Artworks (on unknown terms) was only last week when that offer was made by the media.
  • The suggestion that the serving of a Notice to Quit means that future negotiations are conducted under duress is not really appropriate. The service of the Notice to Quit has terminated Guido Gouverneur's and Wendie McCaffley's right of occupation at law. It is possible for negotiations to be made with the ATP where the Notice to Quit is withdrawn. We understood, however, that the Notice to Quit constitutes the termination of rights of occupation. Thus, Wrought Artworks can bring an action against the ATP for damages or for injunctive relief but serving any occupant with a Notice to Quit is an extreme act on the part of the landlord that terminates an occupancy. 

“The ATP needs to resolve these issues and has accordingly instructed its solicitors to commence legal action so that they may be appropriately resolved."

  • There is a clear need to resolve the situation as the ATP is seeking to unwind aspects of the development consent and the Governments undertakings for the site  
  • If the ATP was acting bona fide why did not its officers attempt to negotiate a commercial arrangement with Wrought Artworks prior to serving the Notice to Quit. 
  • A solution has to address both the Government and the Blacksmiths heritage obligations for the site into the future

“This commercial issue is being misrepresented as a heritage issue”

  • The Government undertakings for the site including the operation of the heritage equipment, peppercorn rents etc were entered into as part of the heritage preservation strategy for the site not as a commercial enterprise. This is very definitely a heritage issue being misrepresented as a commercial issue.

“Should the current business be required to vacate, the ATP will keep the heritage equipment in place and establish an alternative blacksmithing operation sympathetic to the history of the site”. (The ALP Meredith Burgman Petition is in line with this undertaking)

  • The current business has already been required by the ATP to vacate without any offer of a lease
  • Given the way the ATP has handled this how any new party could come into the Blacksmith Shop with any long term security to build another business. Does this mean it will then cease to operate as required by the original development consent. An alternative operator is an irresponsible outcome. many of the machine parts to make the equipment operational belong to Wrought Artworks. Removal of these 'grafted' parts and the electrical supply will render the workshop in-operable as it was 17 years ago.
  • None of this was stated when the Notice to Quit was issued and has only come out after the campaign to save the site started
  • It is encouraging that the ATP has now committed to keeping the heritage equipment in place rather than removing it as has been allowed previously by ATP management. The Henry Berry Wheel shop crane that sits rusting outdoors for 15 years at the ATP as an example of this heritage vandalism.
  • Irrespective of who operates the blacksmith Shop there has to be an agreement for how the equipment will be maintained and what is expected of the ATP and operator to ensure the governments heritage undertakings in setting up the technology park are preserved.  
  • It must be understood that the ATP has been in egregious breach of the conditions imposed upon the ATP under the current development approval. Examples of these breaches are as follows: 
    • The development conditions require that the ATP satisfy the Godden Makay Eveleigh Management Plan for moveable items.
    • In 2000 a campaign was conducted by Wrought Artworks (with other stakeholders) to bring to the attention of the government that the ATP had not carried out its responsibilities under this plan. It was around this time that City West was replaced by SHFA.Many heritage items referred to in the Eveleigh Management Plan have been removed from the site and dumped.
    • A business plan for the blacksmith forge has never been undertaken (as required by the development conditions).
    • The Godden Makay report recommended that heritage equipment in the forge that had run on steam should be converted to air pressure. This has never been done.
    • A grant of $300,000 made by the Minister for heritage conservation has been allegedly diverted for other purposes (the ATP has never given a proper accounting as to how this money has been used).
    • A person was to be employed by the ATP for the purposes of managing conservation items. The person was employed and their position has been terminated.
  • In light of the foregoing, no stakeholder with a responsibility for conservation & heritage in NSW, is prepared to trust the ATP to carry out its heritage obligations. Commitments made by the ATP that they will operate the forge as a going concern (should Wrought Artworks vacate) have to be viewed in the context of the failure of the ATP to meet these heritage obligations in the past.
  • If the ATP is not able to secure another blacksmith operation to occupy Bays 1 & 2 for commercial rent (and there does not appear to have been any attempt by the ATP to find out if such a blacksmith exists) then what is the point of getting rid of Wrought Artworks who have been in the premises for over 18 years. How will the ATP satisfy its commitment. Are Robert Domm and Frank Sartor suggesting that they will come down, put on their blacksmithing outfits and carry on the forge ?
  • If the ATP is genuinely committed to preserving the blacksmithing forge, why did they not approach Wrought Artworks if the question was about the payment of a commercial rent - why is the ATP not prepared to look at negotiating the terms of the commercial rent (such as a phase in over time).
  • It should be understood, that if the blacksmith forge remains vacant - it will be possible for the ATP to apply to the Minister (Frank Sartor) to change the existing conditions on the development approval. The Minister under the Redfern Waterloo Authority legislation, only has to consult with the Heritage Commission. The Minister is not bound by the existing conditions and can overturn them. This will mean that Bays 1 & 2 could be converted into office space.
  • There is also the suggestion that the ATP may wish to use the forge as some sort of heritage exhibition so that school children (and others) can see a blacksmith at work.
  • The recommendations of Godden Makay specifically stated that the forge was to be a proper working forge. This was the commitment that had been made to the former workers of the Eveleigh railway yards. The blacksmithing skills were to be maintained. Wrought Artworks has undertaken this obligation by employing 3 apprentices. Godden Makay made it clear that the best way of ensuring that the equipment remained operational was for a serious working forge to be conducted from Bays 1 & 2. If Bays 1 & 2 are to be turned into a historical exhibit (and not be a working forge) then the equipment will deteriorate.
  • Godden Makay were so strong in their views on this point, that they actually recommended in the Management Plan for the conservation of heritage items that Guido Gouverneur/Wendie McCaffley be allowed to continue conducting the forge. They were named in the report.

Source: Wrought Artworks