Rather than a fair review and reworking of its proposals, Mirvac’s current response makes only minor modifications and fails to address the issues causing deep community concern.
Issues fall broadly into three categories:
- Development plan impacts on the heritage fabric and industrial character of the building
Mirvac is proposing to locate a loading bay with storage, waste and other back-of-house functions in Bays 1 and 2 North of the locomotive workshops to service a supermarket and other retail functions. This proposed use severely disrupts the significant heritage interpretation space and access to the Davy Press assemblage – a rare and iconic piece of industrial machinery. The loading dock will also pose significant safety risks to pedestrians and cyclists using the busiest thoroughfare in the ATP.
Mirvac argues on economic grounds that the loading dock, despite its manifest drawbacks, has to be located in Bays 1 and 2 North to attract specialist retail businesses. No analysis was undertaken of the costs and benefits of relocating the loading dock elsewhere or the potential impacts on Mirvac retail yields. Yet again the drive for developer profits at the ATP site is set to provide second-best heritage outcomes for the NSW community. The public interest must outweigh the returns for shareholders.
Mirvac also argues that the proposed travelator from CBA Building 2 carpark to the supermarket proposed for Bay 4 is an economic imperative. This will severely compromise the industrial fabric and integrity of the locomotive workshops building.
Yet the economic analysis used by its consultants to justify the travelator is razor thin. There is no analysis of the impact on revenues and profits if the travelator does not go ahead. Intuitively, the answer is very little since the primary customer base for the proposed retail stores will be the ATP workforce. Eighty per cent of the ATP workforce will travel to work by public transport and have no need to use the travelator to access the car park. Public interest must prevail and the travelator must go the way of the dinosaur.
- State-significant movable heritage machinery collection
Numerous submissions expressed alarm at the Mirvac proposals relating to the movable heritage machinery collection. The Department of Planning and Environment submission highlighted the lack of detail about the heritage interpretation and conservation work, the scope of works, timing of delivery, funding, consultation and ongoing curation of exhibits. Mirvac provides no meaningful detail on this core list of essential requirements for any significant heritage development.
Funding for the heritage interpretation is a key issue that Mirvac continually avoids. It is an issue that must be front and centre.
Many submissions from the public rightly describe the Eveleigh machinery collection as the most important in the state and an integral part of NSW and Australian industrial history. The collection needs to be accessible and housed in its original setting to show its purpose and historical significance – to design, build and maintain the Australian locomotives that drove a new era of accessible rail travel and transport for NSW.
Mirvac has so far provided only the most basic concepts about how the machinery collection will ultimately be displayed.
Instead of providing detailed plans for the proposed heritage interpretation, curatorial programs and preservation of the history of the workshops, Mirvac argues that the many generalised “framework documents” and “design principles” it has developed should be sufficient for it to be given approval to proceed by the Planning and Assessment Commission. This is not acceptable and should not be allowed to go ahead.
Many community organisations highlighted the dramatic loss of public access to the movable heritage machinery collection if the current majestic exhibition hall in Bays 9-13 is effectively privatised and leased to one commercial tenant. This will leave only Bays 1 and 2 to display a reduced part of this significant heritage collection.
The community must be involved in the detailed planning for the future of the movable heritage collection. It is too important to leave to a high-level, non-representative, behind-closed-doors process.
- Eveleigh social and labour history
Eveleigh was the cradle of the NSW Labor Party and the union movement. Unions and community organisations are at loggerheads with Mirvac over the interpretation of Eveleigh’s rich social and labour history. This includes the struggles for improved wages and conditions and better workplace safety, and the role of migrant, Aboriginal and women workers.
Even though there has been progress on the “ghost train” exhibit and the interpretation of the 1917 Great Strike, many important issues remain unresolved. A tribute to the former workers at Eveleigh in the form of a “workers’ wall” which recognises their commitment, skill and sacrifice and provides a source of pride to workers’ families and future generations has been opposed by Mirvac. This is not acceptable!
- Next steps to ensure heritage values are truly preserved
Mirvac’s consultative process on heritage issues has been second rate – no agendas, no minutes, a refusal to provide information to union representatives and no follow-up discussions. The company has established a high-level heritage sub-panel with no community representation to examine and comment on interpretation of various heritage issues.
The next step in the Mirvac DAs is for an examination of the proposal by the Planning and Assessment Commission.
Unions, community organisations and members of the public need to continue to pressure the various political parties to ensure the public covenants, which were part of the sale of the publicly owned ATP site to a private corporation, are complied with in their entirety.
An independent public inquiry should be undertaken to ensure compliance with the conservation management plan and other heritage preservation conditions.