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In February 1996 after an international tender process, the State Government selected Walsh Bay Properties (now Walsh Bay Partnership – ‘WBP’), to design a commercially viable scheme incorporating conservation. WBP is now a joint venture between Mirvac and Transfield, two of Australia’s top development and construction companies. The fact that it has taken WBP two years to finalise its design and investigations of the site, illustrates the enormous difficulties WBP have to overcome in order to create a viable solution for Walsh Bay.
WBP’s solution for Walsh Bay is brilliant. They have adopted the concept plan of internationally renowned French conservation architect, Philippe Robert, where new structures will sit in harmony with old and inject new life into a derelict area. Their proposal will generate a high level of economic activity to ensure it will be self-sustaining into the future.
It will include vast areas of public space, equal to over 3 football fields – and will combine restoration and clever adaptive re-use of the wharves with ultra modern new structures. In fact the proposal will open up the entire Walsh Bay foreshore to the general public for the first time this century. The new harbourfront promenade will provide a continuation of the foreshore walk from Wharf 10 at Walsh Bay to Woolloomooloo – certainly one of the most stunning and lengthy, continuous harbour walks in the world.
WBP will conserve or restore many historic features at a cost to them of over $100 million.
Pier 2/3 will be fully restored to its original state as a shining example of Walsh Bay’s maritime history and returned to public ownership for exhibitions and cultural uses. Pier 8/9 will also be conserved and adapted for use as a high quality hotel.
A new 1,000 seat drama theatre will be built and given over for public ownership. Other bonuses include new public parks and plazas, a public jetty and a new ferry stop at the end of Pier 4. There will also be foreshore restaurants, boating facilities and displays of industrial technology to illustrate this important part of Sydney’s maritime history.
There was no requirement in the Government’s tender document to retain all the wharves and a complete restoration of the wharves to their original condition would cost the taxpayer $20 million per wharf plus huge sums each year to maintain. It would also require devastating quantities of old growth hardwood and would create a huge largely unusable museum.
There is widespread support for this innovative and courageous scheme which complies fully with the provisions of the Permanent Conservation Order for the site. The Heritage Council has approved it and Sydney City Council and the Central Sydney Planning Committee have recommended approval by the final consent authority, the Director-General of the Department of Urban Affairs and Planning. The Sydney Theatre Company is also anxious to see the revitalisation of Walsh Bay happen so it can showcase its new 1,000 seat theatre during the 2000 Olympics and the local residents’ action group also strongly support the current scheme.
Not only were all negotiations between the developer and Government attended by an independent probity auditor, but ICAC have reviewed the negotiations twice (in May and October 1997) and given the process a ‘clean bill of health’.
This is the last opportunity for the Government to inject life into Walsh Bay and if this current proposal doesn’t go ahead, the future of Walsh Bay is very grim. Work needs to commence at Walsh Bay urgently as Howard Tanner of the Heritage Council said recently, ‘The whole place is falling down. The decay is obvious. The wharves are falling into the sea.’689
On 2 June 1998, Mr Piers Akerman wrote the following article in The Daily Telegraph:
The State Government has become the unwitting victim of a false and malicious campaign which has seen a dead hand placed on the redevelopment of Walsh Bay. For months, an unrelenting propaganda war has been waged by architectural interests close to failed tenderers for the project through the pages of The Sydney Morning Herald.
Yet it is 14 years since the NSW Government decided to act on Walsh Bay, 3 ½ years since expressions of interest were called, 2 ¼ years since the Walsh Bay Projects consortium won preferred proponent status and seven months since the Department of Urban Affairs and Planning started processing the required development application.
Phew! What an appalling message this record of delay and procrastination is delivering to potential investors in NSW.
Walsh Bay is that area of rotting, termite-infested wharfs and buildings immediately to the west of the Harbour Bridge.
It should be a thriving part of the arts precinct which now includes the Opera House, the renovated Customs House and the Museum of Contemporary Art.
Unfortunately, some of the city’s self-anointed architectural critics and arts gurus – take a bow Leo – have trailed a smelly red herring across the path of progress by attempting to like the overdue refurbishment with the disastrous East Circular Quay development. Hypocritically, some of those most noisily bagging the Walsh Bay project were barracking for the East Circular Quay building before it was deemed to be on the nose. But the works are totally different in approach and decidedly distinctive in style and aesthetics.
According to a press release issued by then public works and services minister Carl Scully last October, the $700 million project would provide almost 5000 jobs, 420 each year during the estimated seven-year construction period and a further 1970 through the operation of the facilities on the site.
The value of these jobs to the local economy would be almost $70 million a year. The project is a good one. It calls for the upgrading of wharves 2/3 for cultural and public uses, including new accommodation for the Australian Theatre for Young People, the Arts Council and the Sydney Philharmonia Choir.
Wharves 6/7 would be replaced with a sympathetic residential block, 8/9 would return as a sixstar hotel.
Everyone should benefit from the construction of a new, much-needed 1000-seat drama theatre and the provision of a continuous waterfront boardwalk stretching from Pier One to Wharf 10, Millers Point.
Nothing has changed on that front but four months ago, the consortium partners, Transfield and Mirvac, received approval for the project from the Heritage Council and The Rocks Residents’ Action Group.
The Central Sydney Planning Committee and the Sydney City Council have both sent their recommendations for approval to the DUAP.
All negotiations with the Government were attended by an independent probity auditor and ICAC has been kept abreast of the process.
Merchant banker Mark Burrows, the chairman of the Sydney Theatre Company, said the project was really the last opportunity for the area to be repaired, restored and rejuvenated.
‘The delays in starting work are starting to threaten the delivery of the cultural facilities in time for the year 2000,’ he said.
Wharf 4/5, which houses the STC’s existing facilities is the only wharf in use at Walsh Bay and stands out among the sagging and dilapidated structures. Its tenants, the Sydney Dance Company and the Bangarra Aboriginal Dance Company have also supported the urgent renovation of the Walsh Bay wharves.
Shirley Ball, a 50-year resident of Lower Fort St, chairman of the Residents’ Action Group, and author of two books, last week wrote a letter to Premier Bob Carr about the lengthy delay.
‘I’ve been dealing with developers for more than 40 years and these people have met on every point we have raised. They’ve delivered probably 90 per cent of what we wanted,’ she said.
‘People inside and outside of government say that the Housing Commission should sell up to finance the redevelopment but this area is the birthplace of our nation and I don’t believe it should ever be sold. It should be kept in the people’s possession.’ Mrs Ball said the beauty of the proposal was that it rejuvenated the area for ‘all stratas of society’. ‘That’s what a community is about,’ she said. ‘The Government has to bite the bullet now, the closer they get to an election the more we’ll hear from that git Leo Schofield.
‘If this plan doesn’t get up then the taxpayers will be asked to pay the $110 million necessary for conservation work – remember it’s your pockets, babes,’ she said.
The report is languishing with the director-general of DUAP, Sue Holliday. It may be released this month, but sources have been saying that since the beginning of the year. The seemingly endless bureaucratic process is generating unlimited scorn in the city, largely directed at those who have been manipulating the media and tying in the East Circular Quay debacle.
The theatre-loving, conservation-minded Premier shouldn’t have any difficulty accelerating this project.
Let’s see what happens next.690 Material Broadcast by Mr Jones
On 2 June 1998 Mr Jones broadcast the following:
I have to confess to, yet again, agreeing with Piers Akerman, which doesn’t bother me, I think he’s a highly intelligent man who writes beautifully, writing in the Tele today about the redevelopment of Walsh Bay. Something, which I regret to say, I’ve only just stumbled upon.
I mean this is something that I should have done something about long ago. Walsh Bay, you know the area, that’s as you go under the harbour bridge. If you go right down to The Rocks, come past the Park Hyatt, under the harbour bridge. That area is Walsh Bay. That’s the area on the bottom end of town, the far west of town. You can in fact come to the city that way. So if you virtually came underneath all those fly overs as you go to the harbour.
In other words, if you’re coming from the west of Sydney, from Ultimo and that area, to go over the harbour bridge and you don’t and you turn around, and then keep turning left and go right around the front, that’s all that Walsh Bay stuff where all those piers are. A pigsty as you know, an absolute eye-sore.
Pier One, Pier One is the farthest end, that’s near Neutral Bay. But then if come back to two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight and nine, absolute eyesores, falling into the water and around them all these 19th century terraces and cottages which are pigsties and eyesores.
Well, that is to be re-developed, at the cost of some $650 million. And Piers Akerman today talks about an unrelenting propaganda war, waged by architectural interests close to failed tenderers for the project, through the pages of The Sydney Morning Herald.
100% correct Piers Akerman. This is an unbelievable development project. Now, let’s face it, if it doesn’t go ahead all those piers at Walsh Bay will just collapse into the harbour. What do you do then, throw a tarpaulin over them, and put a sign on which says too ugly to do anything about and too frightened to try?
Now, I can assure you I’ve seen the detail of this and it’s to my eternal shame that I hadn’t looked at it all earlier. A magnificent project. Basically, as I said, if you come around the back of Sydney, its there under the harbour bridge. Pier One going to be Pier One West. It’s going to be two theatres, restaurants, walkways, the lot.
But a Piers Akerman says, and he says this quite unfortunately, ‘some of the city’s self appointed architectural critics and arts guru’s have trailed a smelly red herring across the path of progress by attempting to link the overdue refurbishment with the disastrous East Circular Quay development.’ Well done Piers Akerman, 1000% correct. And then he argues ‘hypocritically, some of those most nosily bagging the Walsh Bay project were barracking for the East Circular Quay building before it was deemed to be on the nose.’ That’s right too and if they keep carrying on we’ll name them here.
Piers Akerman is right. East Circular Quay is an eye-sore and it’s how it shouldn’t be done.
Walsh Bay is how it should be done. Carl Scully, Minister for Ports has done a magnificent job initially putting the whole thing together. The Heritage Council have approved it, so have the local residents at Walsh Bay. And it’s now just acquiring the go ahead by the Government.
Piers Akerman, ‘Critics White-Ant Harbour Renewal’ in The Daily Telegraph, Edn 1 – Tue 02 Jun 1998, p.
If I was Bob Carr I’d be out on the starting blocks immediately. Piers Akerman said ‘the project is a good one. It calls for the upgrading of wharves two, three, for cultural and public uses, including new accommodation for the Australian Theatre for Young People, the Arts Council and the Sydney Philharmonic Choir’.
He says ‘wharves six and seven would be replaced with a sympathetic residential block. Eight and nine would return as a six star hotel. Everyone would benefit from the construction of a new, much needed 1,000 seat drama theatre and the provision of a continuous water front board walk, stretching from Pier One to wharf ten, Millers Point’. And as Piers Akerman says the Central Sydney Planning Committee and the Sydney City Council, both have sent their recommendations for approval to the Department of Urban Affairs and Planning.
That’s Craig Knowles’ bag. Away you go Craig, get the thing on the run. As I said, I’ve only just stumbled upon it.
It is a terrific project and the mob bagging it and trying to tie it to East Circular Quay I can assure you when you hear them, they’ve got a hidden agenda.691 The Panel’s Findings The Panel finds that this broadcast is a current affairs program. It purports to concern matters focussing on political, social and economic issues of relevance to the community.
The existence of Mr Jones’ agreement with Walsh Bay Finance was not disclosed in the broadcast. The Panel finds the available fact of Mr Jones’ commercial relationship with Walsh Bay Finance was withheld during broadcast.
The Panel finds that this available fact was relevant because:
♦ the broadcast was favourable to Walsh Bay Finance. Mr Jones praised the proposed
development at Walsh Bay saying: