URGENT: SAVE OUR HAMMERHEAD CRANE!

The federal government and Department of Defence are putting forth an ultimatum to scrap Sydney Harbour’s disused Hammerhead Crane at Garden Island on defence land, citing high upkeep costs and safety concerns as the major issues.

The crane, opened in 1951, rises a lofty 61 metres over the harbour and makes a spectacular backdrop to the Royal Botanic Gardens and Woolloomooloo. It is the largest dock crane in Australia and one of only 15 still in existence worldwide built to service ships of the Royal British Navy.  Five others in Scotland have been awarded the highest heritage protection. It is a tangible reminder of our naval and industrial links with England and the British empire. At the time it was the largest crane in the southern hemisphere. Cranes such as this have even been turned into tourist attractions elsewhere in the world. It has been classified by the National Trust as one of our nation’s top ten heritage items at risk, a concern that has proven quite valid now as the federal govt. push is on to scrap this towering icon, simply to save the ongoing maintenance costs currently estimated at $770 000 per year, however Graham Quint of the National Trust believes this figure would be greatly reduced if the crane were properly assessed, conserved and maintained, rather than being left to rot away.

Andrew Woodhouse, president of the Potts Point & Kings Cross Heritage Society has stated “It does not cost $770,000 per year to maintain as claimed by Defence. In fact, this figure is all that’s been spent on it in over 50 years as far as we can see and includes costs for consultants and the enquiry.” A letter from David Feeney, Parliamentary Secretary for Defence, dated 29th November 2012 seems to back this up, quoting $770,836 in maintenance costs over the financial year 2011-12 only.

The crane also falls within the 2.5km radius of the world heritage listed Sydney opera House buffer zone, an area that was set up under the Sydney Regional Environmental Plan (SRPE) to allow protection for the world heritage listed building, and, according to the Heritage Impact Statement by Godden Mackay Logan, “to recognise that views and vistas between the Opera House and other public spaces within that zone contribute to its world heritage value.” The removal of the hammerhead crane would significantly alter views from several vantage points around the harbour, diminishing the harbour’s heritage values as a whole, and affecting considerably the standing relationship between the Harbour Bridge, the Opera House and Garden Island, thereby contravening the SRPE to the highest level. If this is to be broken then why have an SRPE at all?

Heritage Impact assessment photos, before and after, Goldan Mackay Logan

Heritage Impact assessment photos, before and after, Goldan Mackay Logan

Heritage Impact assessment photos, before and after, Goldan Mackay Logan

Heritage Impact assessment photos, before and after, Goldan Mackay Logan

In addition, heritage consultants Godden Mackay Logan conclude in their heritage impact statement that “the removal of the hammerhead crane will have a significant impact on the historic heritage environment of the Garden Island Precinct. The removal of the hammerhaed crane will be irreversible, changing the skyline of Sydney by removing an historic element which has been in place since its construction commenced in 1944 and use in 1951.” Considering the Garden Island precinct is a location strewn with heritage buildings, it would be of benefit to the people of Sydney to remain in the short term as a working naval heritage precinct and in the longer term become open to the public in the fashion of Cockatoo Island, which is a wildly successful precinct of similar standards and now a big drawcard for festivals and art events as well as heritage tourism. And a major asset to the city of Sydney.

So why are we so desperate to rid our shores of this iconic, working harbour link to our Naval industrial past? Perhaps it’s the “old is bad and new is good” mindset we seem to have developed here in Australia over the decades that allows new development to go ahead unabated with scant regard for any form of heritage no matter how big or small. Perhaps it’s the influx of dollars transforming our little harbour into a millionaires’ playground that leaves no place for such a rusting hulk of iron even as a historical monument or throwback to times when we weren’t accustomed to lives as prosperous or luxurious as the ones we find ourselves in today. It’s almost with an air of shame that the words ‘working harbour’ are uttered nowadays. Perhaps it’s to make way for the big cruise ships bringing in thousands of tourist dollars every season that PM Julia Gillard so recently announced would gain access to Garden Island as a second passenger terminal for Sydney. And how the tourist industry rejoiced at the idea, while my first thought was ” I wonder how much industrial heritage will suffer on the docks as a result?”

Maybe this could have been avoided if Barangaroo stayed as it should have, a second passenger cruise ship dock, rather than being turned into high-rise condos for the rich and Packer’s Sydney casino licence holy grail. Remember when Bob Carr promised the land at Barangaroo would be opened to the public and that in the near future Sydney would be blessed with another iconic structure, along the lines of the Opera House or Harbour Bridge, something truly great… And what are we getting, Bob? Well, a lot of high-rise, another casino and as a result of giving away all that precious waterfront ‘public’ land yes, we are LOSING a harbour icon here, Bob, not gaining one. That’s an unfortunate outcome that would make me deeply ashamed of our city and its role as custodian to our maritime industrial heritage.

Image by Inheritance

Image by Inheritance

At least we can be grateful that we get the right of public submission, as even that is becoming a thing of the past for certain levels of government. So, you have until Monday 18th February to get it in. Follow this link, share it with your friends, spread the news, let’s save an icon or be damned forever for not trying. This one runs parallels with our world famous Harbour Bridge, and would we pull that down for the sake of saving a few hundred thousand dollars a year in maintenance costs from a defence budget of, oh I don’t know, gazillions? (26 billion to be precise, but you get the point). In any event it should be coming from a separate heritage protection budget, as the Defence budget clearly has a conflict of interest here.

This issue has not only national but international significance. It will be sorely missed from our city’s skyline. Don’t allow it to happen.

National Trust site link here.

Quick link to writing a submission here.
It takes one minute, please make the small effort.

Main image by Inheritance. P.S. I took a walk around Mrs Macquaries Point to take a few photos of the condemned crane and happened to have some visiting relatives with me from Europe. I asked what they thought of the crane… “I’ve never seen anything like it. They want to get rid of it?” was the reply.

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7 responses to “URGENT: SAVE OUR HAMMERHEAD CRANE!”

  1. National Cranes says :

    Thanks for sharing your insights. Hard to find good information on construction equipment in blogs usually, so I am happy to find your website. I agree with you 100%.

    I look forward to reading more in the future and if there is anything I can ever do for you please don’t hesitate to call or email my friend.

    Truly yours,

    Rob
    Stephenson Equipment

  2. National Cranes says :

    Great insights on line. We have similar beliefs here at Stephenson Equipment when it comes to anything crane or construction equipment related – whether it’s Maintenance, sales or service we stand behind our word, just as you have here. Great post my friend.

    I look forward to reading more in the future and if there is anything I can ever do for you please don’t hesitate to call or email my friend.

    Truly yours,

    Rob
    Stephenson Equipment

    • inheritanceorg says :

      Dude. Stop trying to put advertisements on my blog… otherwise I will have to start charging you for it, or worse still …UNAPPROVE… No-one who is reading a heritage blog about a 1950’s crane actually feels the need to go and hire a crane…

  3. Andrew McLennan says :

    Strange that the much older and rather similar Finnieston Crane in Glasgow still stands and bears witness to Glasgow’s maritime history. It recently featured as a musical instrument at the Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow.

    • inheritanceorg says :

      …And what a beautiful sight it makes standing on the banks of the River Clyde. Do you know who owns and runs the Finnieston? We in Sydney should be equally as proud of our Great British Empire maritime history, but something is truly missing here in our knock-down mentality. In our race to ‘get ahead’ we will totally be left behind with regards to culture, heritage, history.

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