Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Sydney's stone, cold heart

We're saddened by the weekend's news that Sydney's iconic Sirius Building will not be listed on the NSW Heritage Register, despite the unanimous recommendation of the Heritage Council of NSW back in February.

Minister for Environment and Heritage, Mr Mark Speakman, announced on Sunday that he would not list the site on the Heritage Register, as to do so would reduce its resale value and deprive the State - or perhaps more specifically, pockets of Sydney's west - of money to build more social housing. This is despite the higher than anticipated earnings from the sale of other properties around Millers Point, and the remaining properties that would see in excess of $880million brought in if prices continue at current trends.

Minister Speakman says:
I am not listing it because whatever its heritage value, even at its highest that value is greatly outweighed by what would be a huge loss of extra funds from the sale of the site, funds the government intends to use to build social housing for families in great need.
This is a slap in the face for the community of public housing tenants who have made their homes in the purpose-built Sirius Building, which is part of what has given it its Heritage value in the first place. And it's a huge blow to the remaining tenants of Millers Point who still look to Sirius with hope that it could hold what's left of their community together.

It also raises that nagging question about social mix in New South Wales - why do we fall all over ourselves to open up "welfare dependent" communities of public housing in Sydney's western suburbs, by handing it over to private interests for "renewal", while clearing low-income tenants out of those parts of Sydney we'd rather just flog to the highest bidder? It's not like they couldn't benefit from a bit of social and economic diversity in those parts themselves. No, scratch that. It's not like they haven't benefited, with Millers Point recently finding its way into the top-ten of a "liveability index" for Sydney's suburbs, on account of its "rich history and culture". Although how you can define a suburb as "liveable" while most of its long-term residents are in the process of being shipped out by a cash-strapped landlord is perhaps a matter for debate.

As for Sirius, we'll always regard it as part of what makes Sydney great. The lives, the characters, the community that is attached to that building must never be forgotten, even if they are to be lost. True, the Government hasn't quite sold it yet, and there's still time for them to reconsider their plans. But the decision not to list it on the Heritage Register is as clear an indication as you'll get that they would allow all this to be destroyed.

So who will buy it? What will they do? There are calls for a new Green Ban to be imposed on the site, again reflecting part of its very history that gives it Heritage value. We'd like to see that, if such a thing is possible in this day and age. Because even if you leave the question of heritage aside altogether, the day the Sirius Building comes down is the day Sydney's loses its heart.


  1. "The end is nigh" for all those properties.The State Government says all proceeds will be used to increase further Public Housing properties. If that was true then I will believe it when the State Government is transparent showing a "sinking fund" from all property sale proceeds, and the disbursement therefrom to create/increase the Public Housing supply. Realistically it won't happen as the State Government expouses !!!!!!!

  2. It would have hurt the system less if everybody had a chance to live in Sirius. Lucky them! Inequity of social housing once again...


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