The new Draft City Plan confirms the very obvious lack of concern shown by Redland City Council for matters of cultural heritage – in particular our rapidly disappearing heritage buildings.
The Plan’s section on Environment and Heritage has almost nothing to say about preserving our built heritage. By saying nothing, it speaks volumes.
The sad plight of our most important pioneer farming property, Willards Farm in Birkdale, is a case in point. Shame Redland City Council, shame!
Relocation of the Willards homestead
In its dealings with heritage properties, Council is supposed to be guided by the Burra Charter (a surprisingly easy to read document). Section 9 states:
The physical location of a place is part of its cultural significance.A building, work or other element of a place should remain in its historical location. Relocation is generally unacceptable unless this is the sole practical means of ensuring its survival.
Relocation is a poor second option. Willards Farm is far superior to Mayes Cottage at Logan, which is protected and valued by Logan City Council.
Willard’s Farm could be used as an educational precinct for school children/tourists etc. to show how the Redlands began. School teachers are now required to teach local history as part of the National Curriculum.
Soon we will have nothing to show the children (or the tourists) because it has all been scraped off for developers. The tour guide will have to say something like:
This nondescript townhouse complex used to be the site of our first (insert building). If you are lucky someone might have an old photo to show how it looked – no, wait, that was demolished before anyone had a chance to get a photo. Well children, just try to imagine!
At least when someone demolished G J Walter’s historic bakery in the early 1990’s the Shire Chairman of the time, Len Keogh was so outraged by that event that he wrote to the paper about it. As a result a Heritage Library was established. How the tables have turned!
It is encouraging that Cr Mark Edwards recently brought an urgent motion to Council requesting that the Redland Investment Corporation investigate the purchase of Willards Farm in a bid to save it. It’s about time Cr Paul Bishop had some support. All credit to him and to the Birkdale Progress Association for their valiant efforts to save this property.
How did we get to this desperate stage?
I would like to know how things have been allowed to get to this desperate stage? Council could have chosen to protect Willards Farm – one of the most valuable and oldest heritage properties in the city – by adding it to their Heritage Places Register years ago. This would not have cost anything – a lot less expensive than trying to purchase the property at the eleventh hour.
This is an utterly shameful state of affairs! Perhaps it is not widely known that other than a few State Listed properties, hardly any privately owned dwellings are listed on Council’s current Heritage Places Register. A similarly inadequate list of heritage protected properties constitutes Schedule 7 of the Draft City Plan (page 407).
Council’s failure to protect privately owned properties which have heritage significance is undoubtedly due to fear of a backlash from owners. People are under the false impression that owners of listed properties will be severely restricted in what they can do. But this is not necessarily so.
Putting a pretty heritage sign out the front is not enough either – in fact, it is false advertising by Council. I wonder how many people realise that those signs don’t mean a property is protected. Even more ironic is the fact that those signs are now falling apart and being neglected by Council!
This alone sends a clear message to tourists that the Redlands doesn’t care about its heritage.
Save our places of cultural significance
The Burra Charter preamble states:
Places of cultural significance enrich people’s lives, often providing a deep and inspirational sense of connection to community and landscape, to the past and to lived experiences. They are historical records, that are important expressions of Australian identity and experience. Places of cultural significance reflect the diversity of our communities, telling us about who we are and the past that has formed us and the Australian landscape. They are irreplaceable and precious.
These places of cultural significance must be conserved for present and future generations…
Come on Mayor Williams, it’s time for Council to start listing our valuable private heritage dwellings before it’s too late. We know that many properties of heritage significance were identified by the Council in 1995, by Urbis in 2002, and by RPS in 2012.
Had listing been done sooner, we might have avoided the disgraceful drama playing out over Willards Farm.
If this property is lost, or even relocated away from its current historical context, the current Redland City Council will be indicted as the one that failed to honour the pioneers who laid the very foundations of this city!
Redlands residents concerned about heritage preservation should check out what the Draft City Plan 2015 has to say. It won’t take long because there’s not much there. Try doing a Ctrl F search on “heritage’.
Then make a submission asking the Council to include a proper assessment of the Redlands local heritage including privately owned properties. The deadline for submissions is 27 November 2015.