On a golden Autumn afternoon in Sydney I decided to take a stroll around the Botanic Gardens with my little daughter in tow. To one side, the idyllic aspect that every tourist knows, a postcard scene – the Sydney Opera House with its gleaming sails of iridescent white, and the iron-clad Harbour Bridge, hanging over a dreamy jade body of water, ferries plying the glistening waves en route to Woolwich or Manly or somewhere similarly exotic. To the other side, a slightly less celebrated but no less beautiful vista of harbourfront workings – Garden Island with its sleepy naval fleet, grimy Woolloomoolloo with its workers’ pubs, pie carts and Finger Wharves jutting out from crowded streets, and standing above it all bathed in afternoon sunshine, the genuine industrial grandeur of the Hammerhead Crane that marks the spot so well and has been a permanent fixture on the Sydney horizon for more than fifty years…
Of course I knew all that was about to change. Mounted high on top of the Hammerhead Crane there are smaller demolition cranes already working away picking apart and lowering pieces of the giant icon one girder at a time. Like soldier ants crawling over a stricken carcass they rummage through at a steady pace and soon enough the entire structure will be nothing more than an unidentifiable decomposing pile of scrap.
It didn’t have to be like this…
Department of Defence bureaucrats set the wheels in motion some time ago, and the matter was put to bed by a former Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities Tony Burke who is now nursing his cushy job as The Manager of Opposition Business in the House, while another pack of equally inadequate politicians take hold of the reigns of power.
When the sad news broke, I tried to garner support for the retention of the crane. I wrote the successive Ministers, without response. I wrote the proprietors of similar cranes in Scotland who have turned their investments into feasible tourist attractions. I wrote the nearby Art Gallery of NSW for support from an arts perspective, the State Library of NSW, Sydney writer’s groups, all without success. I even tried UNESCO as the removal of the Crane poses a clear contravention of the World heritage guidelines for the Sydney Opera House which recognise that the views and vistas between the Opera House and other public spaces within that buffer zone contribute to its world heritage value, and should they be altered, the World Heritage status of the Opera House would be seemingly diminished.
But support was difficult to find in any quarters…
Andrew Woodhouse, President of the Potts Point and Kings Cross Heritage Conservation Society shared my concerns and offered his voice to the cause, but more opposition was needed… Much more, and it wasn’t forthcoming… I would certainly have expected more resistance, in a city of five million, pertaining to what many would consider the death of a city icon, indeed a very important piece of naval heritage – either it was misplaced or just wasn’t there at all.
On this day my daughter’s eyes were drawn to the crane from a grassy verge on the western side of the Botanic Gardens… “Crane!” she exclaimed. “Yes. Let’s go and look at it” I suggested, knowing it would probably be both the first and last time she would see it, or at least recognize it as a crane. We ambled over the hill to a pleasant view above Andrew ‘Boy’ Charlton Pool, and cast our gaze over the bay. As usual, a couple of old navy hulks were tied up to the wharves. The Hammerhead stood with as much effortless grace as ever, despite being infested by the demolition cranes, clinging hungrily to its massive frame.
My daughter watched in awe as I explained to the fragile mind of a two year old, that, as beautiful and significant as it was, she may not be able to see the crane again. “Big crane going down” she quipped, and burst into a shower of tears. “Yes,” I calmed her before lightening the tone… “Little crane going up” she consoled herself, but it became crystal clear in my mind, that a two year old girl seemed to have more respect and regard for the heritage of our working harbour than the knuckleheads who had anything to do with the demise of this icon – and they are knuckleheads, I couldn’t think of a less insulting term to conjure up for these bureaucratic buffoons who play silly games with things of state and national signidficance they don’t have the right to. Illustrative of this point, is the outrageous display of public money that was sunk into a fireworks display for the recent Navy Fleet Review to celebrate Naval ‘heritage’, a cashpot that would have gone quite some way into saving this crane, the tangible evidence of naval industrial heritage in Sydney harbour for half a century. Instead we had a fireworks display that lasted minutes.
We turn and walk into the fading sun. At this time of the day it dips sharply over the Domain and through the concrete shadows of the nearby city. Our return way meanders past the successfully re-purposed (and once slated for demolition) Finger Wharves, exuding maritime heritage, before passing right by the sandstone edifice that is the Art Gallery of NSW, and the shady Speaker’s Corner of the Domain before finding St Mary’s Cathedral and Hyde Park. Such a historic walk through the richly textured layers of old Sydney, a walk that will now be somewhat poorer for the loss of the Crane…
A plaque on top of the Speaker’s Box reads “Stand up and speak your mind.” If more of us don’t head this call, if we don’t stand up for our heritage, if we sit idly by and allow it simply to fall away, if we allow these knuckleheads and bureaucrats to win we will all be the poorer; much more will be lost until there is almost nothing left to preserve, and nothing will ever, ever change. We will all be the poorer for it. The unnecessary and negligent loss of the Hammerhead Crane will become lasting proof of that.
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.
(Insert your name here)
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“If we continue losing so much of our heritage we will lose our entire identity as a nation.” – Inheritance
Going, going, … All images copyright 2013 Inheritance.
21 October 2016
23 September 2014
Inheritance Society Inc. has officially endorsed the Better Planning Network’s Community Charter for Good Planning in NSW along with many other community groups and individuals. Click image below:
We are now on Facebook. Click the image below to link to our page:
10 December 2013
On Sunday 8th December we joined the Better Planning Network Christmas picnic at Alexandria Park. This was a good chance to meet other BPN affiliates and reflect on all the hard work by many that went in to the last year’s campaigning against Hazzard’s planning reforms.
Also present were Greens MP David Shoebridge, shadow minister for heritage Barbara Perry and of course the public face of the BPN, the lovely Corinne Fisher.
That afternoon our newly incorporated Inheritance Society became the 438th affiliate member group to officially join the Better Planning Network. Cheers to all the good work done by the BPN this year and the great success we’ve had making inroads into the often hostile and mountainous political landscape of state planning.
23 October 2013
More than just a blog, we are now a non-profit organisation based on the protection of heritage and education of heritage values. Inheritance Society was officially incorporated on 23 October 2013 and now operates for the benefit of heritage in NSW.
We are part of the NSW Heritage Network Inc. and affiliated with the Better Planning Network.
We are active in the protection of local and state heritage and promotion of heritage projects.
We are self-funded, and as such welcome new membership or donations to further our cause.
For annual membership details email firstname.lastname@example.org
People often look around and say “who really cares about heritage…?”
We care about heritage… We need you.
30 posts, 12 months, in May the blog turned one! Thanks so much for all your comments, likes and for your support. Especially thanks to Leesha from Kogarah Residents’ Association Inc. for your help and support.
I like many other proud Australians ventured into Sydney Harbour over the October long weekend to take a look at the marvellous celebrations based around the Royal Australian Navy’s centenary and Fleet Review. It was 100 years to the day on 4th October, when 7 ships of the original fleet of the newly formed Royal Australian Navy sailed through the heads and into Sydney Harbour. Now, tremendous festivities were held to mark this great occasion, including a re-enactment of the entry by modern warships of the RAN and a flotilla of international ships representing 17 nations, a parade of 16 historic tall ships from around the world, RAAF fly-overs, fireworks and light show spectacular and of course the visit of His Royal Majesty Prince Harry to review the fleet.
Considering the enormity of the occasion, marking 100 years of continuous service of the Royal Australian Navy, through two World Wars, Korea, the Cold War and more, with all the tradition this entails, I can’t help reflecting what a shame it seems now that the Hammerhead Crane at Garden Island, a perfect backdrop to the passing parade of warships, will be sacrificed by the Federal Government for the sake of saving a relatively small amount in maintenance costs.
When you look at the costs involved in putting on this Fleet Review, a whole lot of pomp and ceremony that lasts only a few days – and enormous costs they are, 40 million dollars to taxpayers including a 10 million budget to keep the ships tied up and open, it seems so deceptively wrong that the Australian Defence Force has cried poor this whole time not being able to find the relatively modest funding of $700,000 in maintenance required to upkeep the Hammerhead Crane. This after all, would be the ultimate lasting tribute to the heritage of the Navy in its 100th year – a full restoration of a Sydney icon and renowned symbol of the Royal Australian Navy… A distinctive feature of the Garden Island base and the Sydney Harbour skyline, a truly extraordinary piece of Naval engineering and an asset to the people of Sydney.
To spend just a fraction of what was outlaid for a ten minute fireworks display would have truly left a far more lingering impression in highlighting the longstanding heritage of the Navy in Australia and in Sydney Harbour. While the fireworks quickly went up in smoke like every other generic New Year’s display, the preservation and restoration of the famous crane would have been timeless and benefited Australians for far longer than just ten minutes.
Of course I am not anti-celebration… Just let’s make heritage part of the celebration… It is a celebration of Naval heritage after all…
I guess it may be just too much to ask, perhaps a little too illogical in today’s throw-away society, that a living piece of naval architecture be preserved for posterity as opposed to watching 3.9 million dollars worth of lights and gunpowder smoke go up into thin air.
Still, when future generations look back at 2013, the centennial year of service of our great Royal Australian Navy, and they see that the defence budget allowed for 40 million dollars of tax payers’ money allocated to a single weekend spectacular, while $700,000 couldn’t be found for the long term preservation of a heritage icon, they may just be scratching their heads and wondering if the spectacular Navy Fleet Review was little more than just an opportunity lost.
All images below Inheritance. Click on one for slideshow (not the 40 million dollar kind)… Title image of fireworks courtesy ABC.
The skyline of the southern NSW coastal town of Port Kembla will be forever changed when the iconic 198 metre Copper Smelter Stack is brought down by explosives. The State Government Planning Department has given final permission to remove the landmark, disused since 2003 but still a lingering reminder of the town’s industrial foundations, and visible from miles around and out to sea. For almost 50 years the stack has towered over the working class cottages of this city that hugs the rocky shelves of the Pacific Ocean, and is considered by many to be an icon of the area.
Certainly it is the most distinctive man-made object of the area, and one of the tallest chimney stacks in Australia. Whether it can be seen as beautifying or not, that is irrelevant in terms of heritage. Just because we may not think an object is attractive to the eye doesn’t mean its heritage value is not justified. On the contrary, heritage comes in many shapes and forms and the main point of reference is how it reminds us of how we once lived, worked, and grew as a nation. This constitutes true heritage, especially that of industrial heritage, where new techniques and ways of doing things are constantly evolving, thereby making redundant the old ways at regular intervals.
Steam locomotives, for example, are redundant as an effective means of transport, does that mean we should scrap all steam trains and not allow future generations the opportunity to lay their hands and eyes on them as we have had ourselves in the past? Many would argue that to see a fully working steam locomotive in the flesh is far more impressive than today’s electric equivalent. And there could be no arguement that this smelting stack in Port Kembla is similarly impressive.
The Hammerhead Crane at Garden Island is a recent example of redundant technology, and the sad decision made by the Federal Government to scrap this crane is a reminder of how out of tune we are with our industrial heritage, and how far we stand behind the rest of the world with regard to our dire lack of respect for heritage retention. With decisions like this being made time and time again here in Australia in the 21st century, we as a nation will be the poorer. When we erase these visible symbols of our industrial heritage, we erase the links to our past. The people who worked these things slowly disappear, their knowledge and workmanship disappears, and then the structures are taken away, we are left with very little to remember what once was commonplace.
What the powers-that-be are saying to us, by allowing demolition of our heritage items en masse, is that our heritage is not important. They are saying to us “we don’t need these reminders, we only want to look to the future, to growth, to prosperity, nothing else matters…” and that “it’s not important for our children to see these things, there is no relevance of these things anymore, they do not belong here and they add no value to these places…” I am one who disagrees with this philosophy whole-heartedly. I believe there is a place for these things, I believe they represent who we are, and where we have come from, and to lose them means we are losing an innate part of who we are, of our own identity, and we shouldn’t be allowing short-term financial decisions alone to govern how we treat these objects of our inheritance.
The copper smelter stack at Port Kembla represents Port Kembla… It is Port Kembla. Just as the Hammerhead Crane is Garden Island. When we strip these historic industrial places of their relevant monuments we are taking away something symbolic, and leaving behind a more generic display. Many people in Port Kembla and around the Wollongong area won’t feel a need to commiserate or even commemorate the loss of such an object. They may even be glad to see the end of it. But whether they like it or not Port Kembla is an industrial working town, a lively hub of coal and steel that has helped shape Australia’s eastern seaboard growth. And so the smelter, this towering concrete and brick edifice, deserves its place watching over the landscape, it deserves its rightful position as a centrepiece of heritage standing sentinel over the tapestry of south coast industrial workings it helped create.
A local lobby group known as Stack 360 would agree with me. They have the foresight to see that this industrial vestige can be much more than just a blight on the town as some believe. They have demonstrated what can be accomplished by lighting up the stack with sound and light displays, attracting the attention of locals and visitors alike, and turning the structure from an overdue relic into a tourist drawcard virtually overnight. With visions to go further and create viewing platforms atop the monumental tower (imagine the view), it seems that yesterday’s dirty industry can indeed be turned into tomorrow’s tourist industry as it has in many other countries around the world.
Unfortunately they may not get the chance. The site’s Japanese owners have declared they will not be saving the structure, which they claim suffers from concrete cancer, and demolition day had been set for 5 September. Port Kembla Copper had tossed up alternative techniques to demolish the stack after alarm was raised over the safe removal of asbestos within the expansion gaskets throughout the tower, and slower piece by piece removal was seen as a safer option to explosives. However explosive detonation was put firmly back on the agenda this year when a breakthrough occurred which could allow separate and safe removal of the expansion gaskets. Even now at this late stage, safety is of major concern for the Department of Planning & Infrastructure, the EPA, WorkCover and Wollongong City Council, who have stepped in to postpone the date of 5 September until all safety requirements can duly be met. “No demolition will occur until the Government is satisfied the work is safe, the methods are appropriate and all relevant concerns and issues have been fully addressed,” a joint statement said.
So for Port Kembla’s historic smelting stack, and industrial icon, the end, though not defined, is clearly near… Soon, maybe in September 2013, the stack will be felled and fall into a massive pile of rubble. Soon after that, the people who wanted it gone will have to find something else to talk about that they want gone. And soon again, after that, a meaningless business development will rise form its ashes. And then, when visitors ask the question, “what is there to see in Port Kembla?” where once we could have proudly replied “there’s a pretty impressive giant copper stack, one of the biggest in the country” now we will only be able to scratch our heads and throw up excuses. And not long after, this giant chimney will start to fade from our memories and we will even start to forget that it ever existed… Such is the way of the world.
Main image Pic by Andy Zakeli, illawarra Mercury.