Late last year, the Royal Historical Society of Victoria published Remember Melbourne 1850-1960. The book details the loss of more than 320 grand buildings across our city.
Many of these buildings were spectacular examples of period architecture which have been replaced, for the most part, with rather bland blocks of steel, concrete, and glass dating from the 1960s and 1970s.
We have much to be concerned about when it comes to heritage protection. Far too often, cherished icons are reduced to rubble in the face of developer greed. Developers will eagerly raze historic buildings or pierce quaint streetscapes just to make a quick buck.
Recently, we saw one of the most brazen developers illegally demolish the Corkman Irish Pub in Carlton. Following huge community outrage (which I was happy to be a part of!) at this despicable act, the Heritage Bill 2016 was introduced into the Victorian Parliament. It’s a step in the right direction as it increases the penalties for developers who ignore heritage values and provides a more transparent application and review process for Heritage Victoria.
However, this is not enough. There is much more that needs to be done.
Stronger heritage protection
I would like to see local government empowered with much stronger heritage protections instead of having to rely on malleable planning overlays.
We must also reassess the role of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. Its arbitrations too often reflect developer interests rather than community will. Unfortunately the changes promised by the Victorian Labor Government to give the community more influence over VCAT have not made any difference, as we pointed out before the election.
The community often faces many difficulties in dealing with Heritage Victoria. It’s no coincidence that these difficulties arose when Heritage Victoria was gutted of funding by the previous Coalition Government.
Heritage Victoria lost its capacity to process heritage registration applications or to intervene when breaches of the Heritage Act 1995 occurred. The current Government has provided $30 million in funding to try and fix the many problems but this funding has been largely used for administration, not to rehabilitate the budget and to expand the capacity of Heritage Victoria.
The Victorian Greens are working at all levels of government to protect Melbourne’s heritage. Greens Councillor for Melbourne, Rohan Leppert recently gained the Heritage portfolio, and the City of Melbourne has recently embarked on more heritage reviews than have been undertaken in a generation.
Stronger local controls cannot come soon enough. Protecting our heritage is an integral part of not just building a city, but building a welcoming community.
Ellen Sandell is the State MP for Melbourne. Please get in touch with Ellen's office on 03 9328 4637 or at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to discuss the work we’re doing to protect the heritage of Melbourne.
Note: Ellen will be on maternity leave until mid-year, after the birth of her first child. Her office will remain open and her staff and Greens colleagues can help local residents with any concerns or issues you have, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Image by Annie Callaghan.