Don’t blink, you may miss it… The future of this iconic Sydney structure is on the chopping table of the Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, The Hon Tony Burke MP. Removal has been recommended by the Department of Defence, as outlined in a Media Release in response to public submissions, many of which were, conveniently, in favour of removal.

The Department intends introducing new Hobart Class Destroyers to the Garden Island site by March 2017, and these ships are larger than the Adelaide class they are replacing and have helicopter landing facilities onboard, and it has been noted that the Garden Island Crane may get in the way of business for the RAN. Also, maintenance and restoration costs have been labelled prohibitive under the Defence budget. “Every centimetre of compromise given to this crane takes away from our Navy’s ability to use Garden Island to its best possible advantage… It is a liability that costs over $700,000 just to keep it standing there safely. This is money that comes straight out of our Defence budget. Every year the crane stands, that’s $700,000 or more that our nation loses to real Defence capability” said Senator David Feeney, Parliamentary Secretary for Defence. In reality, this figure has been refuted and may in fact be the total spent on the crane’s upkeep over a number of years.

So heritage is the loser once again. A Victorian bureaucrat singing the praises of demolishing a Sydney landmark… One that is listed as a state significant item, one that is part of the very fabric of the Commonwealth listed Garden Island Precinct, one that is coveted by the National Trust as well as the greater public, and one that is located well within the World Heritage listed Sydney Opera House buffer zone, and forms a clear visual link between, thereby contravening UNESCO standards to remove such a heritage item from its said location. The Defence-commissioned heritage assessment itself concludes 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 hammerhead 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.”

On top of that, in Scotland similar cranes have been given the greatest heritage protection afforded, some being adapted as successful tourist attractions. Here in Sydney a development application was proposed to turn the crane into a restaurant, but that was quickly skuttled. Lord Mayor of Sydney Clover Moore graciously submitted a letter to the Prime Minister outlining the value of retaining such a marvel of postwar industrial heritage as a symbol to the people of Sydney – this crane is really our Sydney Harbour Bridge’s little brother for crying out loud, there is a visual and contextual living and breathing link there… we have already lost one heritage crane The Titan in the 90’s and the story of that ending up at the bottom of the sea somewhere between here and Singapore is truly saddening. Well here goes another.

If the location of the Hammerhead poses such a logistical issue, then it should be relocated to Cockatoo Island or somewhere similar where it could be cherished in a post-industrial heritage dockside environment. It’s really a giant Meccano kit so it should be able to be dismantled and moved by all those brainy naval engineers without posing too much of a challenge. C’mon Australia, use your technical know-how for once.

Equally important as the Hammerhead crane, maritime industrial vestige, is the Hammerhead crane as a piece of urban art and one that may provide inspiration to new generations of artists and art-lovers alike. Remember they simply don’t build things like this anymore, and there are only a handful worldwide, so when they disappear from the skyline, they aren’t coming back again, and the realms of industrial art as a muse or simply a backdrop to our modern ‘evolved’ lifestyle are constantly shrinking.

“…this crane is really our Sydney Harbour Bridge’s little brother for crying out loud!” – Inheritance

I strongly urge members of the public, whether you live in Sydney or not, to contact Minister Tony Burke with your concerns over the intended removal of our Hammerhead crane ASAP. This is the eleventh hour now, it’s your last chance to get behind this piece of engineering history before it is gone forever. It will only take a minute of your time.
Please feel free to use my letter below as a template, alter it as you wish or copy it word for word, and send it to the link below.

Dear Mr. Burke.
It is with great alarm that I have heard the Royal Australian Navy intends to remove the famous Hammerhead Crane at Garden Island. This is an iconic landmark for our city and a great reminder of our naval indusrial past. It is a link to the great British Empire and a visual tie to our working harbour past. On top of this, it is a National Trust listed item as well as being located within the World Heritage Listed Opera House Buffer Zone and would contravene direct protocol of UNESCO guidelines to remove such an important landmark from the skyline surrounding Sydney Harbour.
I would like to ask you to consider the heritage value of this important historical monument above just a maintenance dollar value. All great buildings require a maintenance and/or restoration budget, this is not a unique example. If we continue losing so much of our heritage we will lose our entire identity as a nation.
Yours faithfully,
(Insert your name here)

Follow these Links:

Contact Minister Tony Burke here.

Department of Defence Media Release here.

Tragic story of The Titan here.

Story of the restaurant proposal here.

Clover Moore’s letter here.

An older post on the mighty Hammerhead here.

If we continue losing so much of our heritage we will lose our entire identity as a nation.” – InheritanceHHstampHammerheadcraneBRUSH HHdiffuse HammerheadcraneoutlinesinkHHdot HammerheadcranecutoutHHreticHammerheadcraneplastic

Going, going, … All images copyright 2013 Inheritance.


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  1. National Cranes says :

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    Stephenson Equipment

  2. inheritanceorg says :

    Under the Kevin Rudd cabinet reshuffle. Mark Butler is the new Minister for climate change, environment, heritage and water. He is the one to campaign now. His email address is

  3. inheritanceorg says :

    Inheritance letter to Tony Burke, Environment Minister, and Julia Gillard, PM, 16 May 2013, regarding decision on Hammerhead Crane Removal…
    (No reply received):

    Dear Mr. Burke,
    It is with a sense of horror I read that the Defence Dept. has decided to scrap Sydney’s magnificent Hammerhead crane. I have written about it in my heritage blog:

    I now have decided to contact your office to plead for a sensible heritage outcome here. The upkeep costs have been misrepresented by media, and the heritage value for the people of Sydney grossly understated.

    People love this crane, it is a Sydney landmark, and we as Australians should feel proud to have such a reminder of our naval industrial past.

    It would be a disaster for out city to lose such an icon, so I therefore ask you to please consider the ramifications of simply dismantling such an important landmark item within the World Heritage landscape of the Sydney Opera House.

    Please consider the alternatives, including possible conversion of the structure for tourism or hospitality. The crane still has so much to offer our city.

  4. inheritanceorg says :

    Inheritance letter to Mark Butler, new Environment Minister, 10 July 2013, regarding decision on Hammerhead Crane Removal.
    Forwarded to Kevin Rudd, PM on 4 August…
    (No reply received as yet):

    Dear Mr. Butler,
    Firstly let me congratulate you on your new posting as Environment Minister. I trust you will accomplish the best for us all during your Ministership.
    I have been in contact with Tony Burke over concerns I held regarding the removal of the Hammerhead Crane at Garden Island Naval facility in Sydney.
    This is a significant piece of maritime heritage and I have written about it on my blog on two occasions.
    Since that time the navy has made it clear that they would like the crane removed from the site of Garden Island for reasons of cost and practicality.
    It is my opinion that if the crane has to be moved form Garden Island, it should be relocated to somewhere such as Cockatoo Island rather than being simply scrapped.
    This would be the best outcome for both the community and the Navy outside of leaving it where it is.
    To lose the crane altogether would be a complete failure of our heritage, and I believe we as a nation are far better than that.
    We owe it to the next generations to bestow upon them some things of real heritage value, some tangible reminders of how things were built before our time, tools of history that we all can learn from.
    I also believe it would be a beneficial exercise for naval Engineers to dissemble and re-assemble the crane at another location if that is what is required to keep the crane alive.
    I realise it is past its use-by date as an effective means of doing what it was intended to do, but actually, this applies almost universally to all forms of heritage, it doesn’t give us the right to simply do away with it.
    Mr. Butler, I hope in your newly elected post you can take the time to examine and weigh up the value of such a crane to our culture, our history, and our heritage.
    Thank you for hearing our concerns.
    My second blog entry on the crane can be read here:

  5. inheritanceorg says :

    It was announced today (8 Aug 2013) that clearance has been given from the Environment Minister’s office to dismantle the Hammerhead Crane at Garden Island. The grey dreary weather over Sydney seemed to echo this sad state of affairs.
    Our letters to both ministers, both Prime Ministers over the course, UNESCO, the HHT, and Art Gallery of NSW remain unanswered. We as a city will be the poorer for the loss of this true icon of our maritime-industrial past.
    In the end, I believe moving the crane to Cockatoo Island or elsewhere, or maintaining it on site were both feasible options. For an outgoing government to tick this off just weeks before a Federal Election is both reckless and unjustified.
    A sad day for Sydney and the unique heritage of our so-called working harbour… but now I ask, would we expect any more?

  6. inheritanceorg says :

    Also announced by Planning NSW… Port Kembla will be losing its iconic 205m high former copper smelting stack, one of the tallest such structures in the world. Another great loss for the industrial heritage of NSW.

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