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Goodbye to history - heritage laws won't apply here - 29.11.2004

History will be swept aside in one of Sydney's oldest areas to clear the way for the massive remaking of 340 hectares of land covering four suburbs under NSW Government plans.

The minister responsible, Frank Sartor, has already revealed that heritage laws will no longer apply to four sites around Redfern: the Australian Technology Park, Eveleigh railway workshop, the 23-hectare public housing estates, and the Block.

However, secret documents reveal that the Government is proposing to lift heritage protection from a swag of other sites by declaring them to be "state-significant" under the Redfern Waterloo plan, making them exempt from the Heritage Act.
These include an area covering Lawson, Abercrombie, Cleveland and Eveleigh streets, another in Redfern Street and the Gibbons-Regent street area.

"Future surplus government sites" could also be declared state-significant if the new Redfern-Waterloo Authority wants to sell or develop them. Redfern Public School, Rachel Forster Hospital and Redfern police station sites would also no longer have heritage protection.
Sydney's oldest surviving toilet, in Redfern railway station, is among the heritage items under threat. "Several aspects of the station are subject to a permanent conservation order," the documents state.
"Optimal redevelopment of the station would require the demolition of a toilet block ... and one that is understood to be the first public toilet in Sydney. Relocation of the toilet block is not regarded as practical."

The lifting of heritage protection "ensures that the authority is free to develop infrastructure for the benefit of the local community", Mr Sartor told Parliament on November 19.
"For example, the Redfern railway station has been identified as an appropriate location for a town centre, as called for by the local community."

The independent member for Bligh, Clover Moore, who is also City of Sydney's Lord Mayor, said in Parliament: "This authority was set up so that the Government had an unfettered opportunity to develop the area. No indication has been given of precisely what sites will be targeted in the operational area. This is not about social improvement for the area; this is about this minister becoming developer and consent authority, and the Heritage Act not applying."

Mr Sartor said: "The simple fact is that the Government has moved to intervene where for a century local government has failed."

By Debra Jopson and Gerard Ryle

Originally published in the Sydney Morning Herald
November 29, 2004