HAZZARD AND HERITAGE: A MATCH MADE IN HELL

On the Australia Day Weekend and in light of the recent news of the historic Jolly Frog hotel in Windsor being gutted by fire, we take a look at the dire state of heritage in one of our most treasured precincts and the case Planning Minister Brad Hazzard has to answer for…

Brad Hazzard has been at the helm of the Planning Department in NSW for a number of years now, and the crowning factor of his tenure has been his ruthless insistence to push through overbearing developer-biased planning reforms on to an unsuspecting public on every front, with scant regard for residents’ wishes or indeed what were once considered commonsense controls.

In a clearly sneaky and contentious move, Minister Hazzard approved the controversial Option 1 road project through Thompson Square at Windsor just five days before Christmas 2013, obviously trying to sneak another trick beneath the public’s wary gaze just as everybody was gearing up for the summer holidays.

Thompson Square is Australia’s oldest surviving public square, and the attempted push-through of this project goes some way to highlight the contempt this government has for the heritage of NSW. A total lack of heritage knowledge, a combined political bully-boy mindset of which pure ignorance is at the heart, a ‘leave nothing to the people’ thuggish mentality is the only way I can describe it.

It reminds me of an old example in Vienna, Austria, where in the late 1980s a large postmodern glass sheeted building known as Haas Haus was inflicted upon Vienna’s most important public square, Stefansplatz, directly overlooking the Stefansdom, Vienna’s grand Gothic-Romanesque cathedral. The building was roundly criticized at the time and still remains ridiculously out of place and in fact completely unnecessary in the context of the historic Baroque-lined market square. The point here is, what may seem like a good idea by a small group of hard-nosed bureaucrats at the time, has long lasting consequences and in fact can severely scar or even totally deface an important historic precinct long after those few decision-makers have waltzed out of parliament with their golden pensions in hand.

Haas Haus in Vienna, infringing on Stefansdom Cathedral. Photo by Rory Hyde.

Haas Haus in Vienna, infringing on Stefansdom. Photo by Rory Hyde.

At least in Vienna, they seem to know when to stop… Closer to home, in Sydney’s Circular Quay, a similar issue, with the so-called ‘Toaster’ building occupying pride of place next to our iconic Opera House and crowding the shores of the famous harbour with square glass and metal shapes. And more recently, the Museum of Contemporary Art building extension, the so-called ‘Mordant Wing’ (or ‘moron wing?’), causing even more conflict with the surrounding heritage of the public space, introducing oversized flat black and white cubes into a maritime precinct that was characterised by sandstone Georgian and Art Deco architecture. This wing was added without the usual input from the Heritage Council, the very overseer that Hazzard and O’Farrell’s government are trying so hard currently to stifle.

Windsor’s Thompson Square is equally under threat, not from any one particular unsympathetic building, but rather a ghastly modern road cutting through the side of the square and continuing over the historic crossing on a suspended concrete byway replacing the oldest bridge on the Hawkesbury River.

Riders approach the Square. Image CAWB.

Riders approach the Square. Image CAWB.

Raising the Flag.

Raising the Flag. Image CAWB.

The Eureka Flag flies in defiance, Austrailia's oldest square.

The Eureka Flag flies in defiance over Australia’s oldest square. Image CAWB.

Residents’ action group CAWB has fought hard to keep this destruction at bay, enduring six months of continuous occupation of the square, and raising awareness of the need to protect such a historic site as their beloved Windsor. Noted historians and heritage architects such as Clive Lucas and high profile celebrities have added their voices to the campaign, the latest being Wendy Harmer on Australia Day 2014.

The CAWB, in its media release, says “In approving this strategically inept project, Minister Hazzard has ignored the overwhelming evidence of the government’s own experts…evidence that demonstrates this project fails to deliver on traffic, flooding and heritage.”

Unfortunately, in another blow for local heritage, the nearby heritage-listed and historically linked Jolly Frog hotel, unoccupied for a year, was gutted by fire on 20th January in unusual circumstances. Fire crews were called to the blaze around 9.45pm to find the building well alight, and a crime scene has since been established to determine the cause of the fire. CAWB fear this may pave the way for a wider road leading in to Windsor and through the Square, and say the hotel should and must be rebuilt, not demolished thereby further eroding the heritage values of the area.

The Jolly Frog hotel up in flames. Image NSW Incident Alerts Facebook page.

The Jolly Frog hotel up in flames. Image NSW Incident Alerts Facebook page.

Brad Hazzard, the Minister for Planning, and Robyn Parker, Minister for Heritage and the Environment, as well as Barry ‘the wrecker’ O’Farrell, should be standing up and working towards viable solutions for situations such as Thompson Square, not bulldozing their way through the tide of public angst currently on show. They are clearly ignoring their elected responsibilities as a government for the short-sighted aims that don’t really make any sense to the average Australian citizen.

Why are they intent on destroying this historic square, this wonderful vestige of Governer Macquarie’s legacy, this scenic and picturesque river crossing, this peaceful place bathed in colonial history? Why are they intent on replacing a two-laned bridge with another, uglier, more brutal, out-of character, two-laned bridge? Is it for CSG mining trucks to get more easily to the western escarpments as some have suggested? It defies logic.

Hazzard, O’Farrell, Parker and co.; you have so much to answer for in only your first term. You are a failure of government. You are intent on bulldozing our irreplaceable heritage at every turn, rather than performing your sworn duty of protecting it. You should be ashamed of your actions, and just because you are wielding the axe of power at the present moment, doesn’t mean your time of judgement won’t come soon enough. Tens of thousands of us are already judging you, we are casting a watchful eye over your actions in the fields of heritage, the environment, and sustainable development, and without surprise, you have unanimously failed in every respect in just your first term. We dearly hope, that you won’t be allowed to enter a second term, for the sake of what little is left after your torrid demolition spree over the entire state.

Do you trust this man with protecting OUR heritage?

Would you trust this man with protecting OUR heritage? That would be Hazzardous.

Main title image: Hazzard and Heritage, Inheritance 2014.

Read about the Government’s Planning Reforms here.

Read original Thompson Square post here.

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4 responses to “HAZZARD AND HERITAGE: A MATCH MADE IN HELL”

  1. June M Bullivant OAM says :

    In my experience in the past two years fighting for our heritage, I am very dissappointed in the treatment that people in the community like myself fighting to retain Lennox Bridge Parramatta and the Windsor Bridge, Thompson Square, have received from the NSW Government members, I bring to your attention the latest outburst from Bart Bassett on CAWB Facebook page, the emails that I have received from a senior member of the NSW Government and a local member. I refer to this attitude as bulling. see……………My answer to Mr Bassett.

    My opinion Mr Bassett is out of his depth, the only time people accuse others of belonging to a political party is used when they haven’t got an accurate assessment of the problem, they lash out like a bully, what they do not fully realise is that it shows themselves up. I have personally experienced this with other members of the NSW Parliament in my work with the Lennox Bridge, when you hit a raw nerve they strike back like a bully. It is a shame that bullies of this calibre, have been elected to run a million dollar business like the State of NSW. This is a sad reflection of the state of the decision making in NSW, and that is in every aspect of the environment, planning, heritage, mining, open cut or gas fracking. I am sad that the community of NSW are out fighting on many fronts and our concerns are being put aside, and we are called names. I have never belonged to a political party, I have not even assisted a political party and I have been accused of the same thing by a senior member of Parliament, is this the trend?

    • inheritanceorg says :

      Yes I have seen the letter you speak of from Bart Bassett. For anybody who hasn’t i would suggest looking at CAWB’s facebook page… This letter is further illustration of as you say June bully-boy tactics by a head-in-the-sand government who just don’t understand the nature of things they are dealing with… It is very distressing for groups like ours or CAWB trying to deal with these people at a professional level and receiving idiot-like schoolroom responses like that particular one, or often not receiving responses at all. Heads in the sand…

  2. shamaroo says :

    Brilliant article and the lead image is a perfect representation of how many of us feel about this issue. Hazzard hangs like a pall over Windsor and many other areas. I read an article of his a while back and he said that everyone wants to live in high and medium density housing. Hazzard and his cronies won’t be happy until their warped vision is enacted everywhere. Thank you for the article.

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