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Clover Moore Address to the Rally to Save Eveleigh's Blacksmithing Workshop

This is the text of Clover Moore's address to the Rally to Save Eveleigh at the Blacksmithing Workshop Open Day - 17th August 2008.

I acknowledge the Gadigal people of the Eora nation, the traditional custodians of this land. 

Eveleigh is an extraordinary heritage site which is threatened with more of the same mindless development that has diminished the history and character of so many significant parts of our City.

Behind the loss of the “Working Harbour”, or greed on “the Hungry Mile”, or exploitation at Eveleigh, is the common theme of the State cashing in on valuable and harbour foreshore public land.

It’s against our interests and that of our city.  

This open day is to show Sydney what remains here.

And it enables us to protest about the continuing erasing of the heritage values of this and the nearby Carriage Works sites by the State.

This diminishing of history and heritage is being done by insensitive redevelopment, the removal of rolling stock and associated rail artefacts, and now by the eviction notice to working blacksmith Guido Gouverneur.

It’s not a matter of rent as claimed by Mr Domm, it’s the continuous erosion of heritage which stands in the way of big bucks.

Guido Gouverneur understands the value of what is here.

For 17 years, he has worked to conserve and maintain the valuable equipment. He has also acted as a concerned watchdog in a climate where the government is not interested in the complex beyond its land value.

Using the abandoned equipment here, he is passing on his traditional blacksmithing skills to a new generation.

We keep hearing about the skills shortage in this country. Well, here are a group of young people learning under a master craftsman all the skills needed to maintain and preserve Sydney’s heritage metalwork.

Eveleigh is designated by the Smithsonian Institute as one of the world’s finest remaining industrial precincts. At its peak, it was one of the largest industrial complexes in the world.

The work done here helped open up an entire continent, and played an important role in building the wealth of the Nation.

Here, Australian workers built and maintained the locomotives and rolling stock, the tracks and equipment for the vast NSW railway network. It employed the leading technologies of its time and it gave work to many thousands of people.

How ironic it is that one of those people was the father of former NSW Premier, Bob Carr!

I wrote to Premier Carr in 2002 after an earlier open day, and again in 2004 urging Eveleigh’s importance and asking him to include heritage preservation and opportunities as part of the future of the site. But he failed us – now we must urgently request Premier Iemma to step in.

Because bit by bit the remaining heritage has been squeezed. On this, the main Eveleigh site, the sheds are being emptied out.

On the North Eveleigh site, the Redfern-Waterloo Authority proposes cramming the site with apartment blocks up to sixteen stories, including over the fan of tracks, and up through the middle of the historic paint shop. The collection of historic carriages housed and probably built there, are rumoured to be buzzed off to Thirlmere where the land is not so valuable.  Their connection with the site is to be severed, diminishing the value of what remains.  

Apart from heritage considerations, there is no significant open space proposed in any of the RWA plans to serve increasing population densities, and counter low ratios of open space. The so-called “public spaces” on the plan are small, narrow and fragmented, and read as forecourts to individual buildings rather than genuine, usable public space. The site flanks rail lines and is close to a major station, yet over 2000 car parking spaces are proposed.

And despite our urgent need to deal with global warming, the redevelopment sets no sustainability targets such as local energy generation, heat re-use and water self sufficiency.

So much for a site which neighbours Australian Technology Park.

The meeting I organised on the 26 July was to alert the local community and interested people about the Redfern Waterloo Authority plans for North Eveleigh. It was also in support of Guido Gouverneur and his team for the continuation of the blacksmithing operation on the main Eveleigh site.

At that meeting the State’s brave new world of dictatorial development was revealed. Plans were prepared without community knowledge or consultation by the Redfern Waterloo Authority. The consent authority is none other than the RWA’s own Minister, Frank Sartor, and the so-called “advisory group” set up by the RWA, hasn’t met the Minister once in three years. They were notified to “advise” on the plans only after they were ready for public exhibition.

Also at the meeting were representatives from Sydney University who are also interested in the North Eveleigh Site, and I have arranged a meeting between the University and the Premier on 26 August to talk about better alternatives, which I hope would include adaptive reuse of industrial buildings and expanded education opportunities; Guido’s continued blacksmithing; significant open space and integration with surrounding neighbourhoods.

My fear is that the Redfern-Waterloo Authority will get away with exploiting this important complex, because only former workers and local residents are aware of this mighty legacy in the heart of our City.

I hope you will all spread the word and continue to lobby State and Federal Ministers for a balanced approach to Eveleigh’s future including the preservation of what’s best from the past.

The people who built this place, and those who worked here, thought for the long-term.

They were building a nation, not looking for a fast profit.

We need to bring back that kind of thinking so that the legacy we leave future generations will be something more substantial and meaningful than row upon row of tacky apartment blocks.

Thank you. 

Also see: Clover Moore - Railway Heritage Handout 17th August 2008