Millers Point Under Threat

National Trust of Australia (NSW) says the sale of 293 heritage buildings in Millers Point is the most devastating attack on Australia ís nationally significant heritage since The Rocks were saved in the 1960s.

National Trust of Australia (NSW) CEO Brian Scarsbrick warns rare heritage – some buildings dating back to 1820 – are being sold with no contractual heritage protection. He says all political parties should state their policy on this issue highlighting a ‘test sale’ of nine of these precious heritage properties which has produced disturbing results.

The Millers Point sale of 293 heritage buildings is the most devastating attack on Australia’s nationally significant heritage, since Jack Mundey working with the National Trust, saved The Rocks’ unique heritage during the 1960s.

Australia’s rare heritage provides a vital “sense of place” for communities. Selling off heritage buildings, some dating back to 1820 (only 32 years after the First Fleet arrived), with no contractual heritage protection, exposes that precious heritage to destruction and loss

Brian Scarsbrick AM, CEO of the National Trust of Australia (NSW)

Irreplaceable properties that go back to Sydney’s colonial roots are being sold without full protection. The Millers Point area is not just built heritage, it is social heritage. For 200 years, it has been the home and workplace for merchants, shipping companies and waterfront workers and many of the people still there are descendants together with a range of public housing tenants.

“We are deeply alarmed at the damage facing the 293 State heritage listed properties located at Millers Point because State Heritage Register Listing alone has been proven not to be sufficient protection,

A “test sale” of nine of these heritage properties, sold outright before Christmas on freehold title with no contractual obligation to protect their heritage value, has produced disturbing results.

Already a third of the properties sold in the “test sale” are subject to unauthorised works and Sydney City Council is issuing stop work notices”, said Mr Scarsbrick

The National Trust of Australia (NSW) is calling on all political parties to clearly state their policy on the protection and conservation of our nationally significant Millers Point/The Rocks.

The National Trust is not against the sale of the Millers Point properties- but it is against the inadequate conditions and manner of sale which fails to protect the heritage values of the properties. This heritage destruction must be stopped and the Trust is asking the community to stand up against this inappropriate selling off of public assets.

“History shows that selling properties in The Rocks area on 99 year leases results in only a 5% – 10% discount and the assets can return to the public estate at a greatly increased value after the lease expires”, stated Trust Director – Advocacy Graham Quint

More than $700 million worth of public heritage assets are being sold freehold and not as in the past, on 99 year leases where approvals to undertake works had to be obtained from the owner – the government. The current freehold sales of the properties have no contractual obligations to ensure that conservation works are approved and no Compliance Bond to ensure that works are carried out  in a timely manner using qualified heritage architects.

Brian Scarsbrick stated “these properties could easily be sold on 99 year leases which would involve purchasers being contractually obligated to protect the properties’ heritage values. They should remain ‘in the public estate’ and return to the Government in 99 years at massively increased values. Properties could be sold and the Government and the NSW public benefits now and later. This area is a rich part of the heritage fabric of Sydney located close to The Rocks and its wealth of State Heritage Register listed buildings”.

The heritage significance of the oldest surviving, continuously inhabited urban residential precinct in Australia’s European settlement history deserves the better protection that 99 year leasehold sales can provide.