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Developers not the only heritage threat
Russell Degnan

Who'd be a public transport operator?

Saddled with an unrealistic contract, a dodgy system, (even more) heavily subsidised competition, and a government that gives only token support for infrastructure improvements, the only thing keeping Connex here is a prop in the form of a giant cheque.

Meanwhile, Flinders St. station is falling around their ears. The opposition claims that four years ago they were asking too much for rent. So much in fact that apparently it is better business to keep it empty for that long. The government insists that "Connex are obliged to maintain Flinders Street Station under the agreement they signed with the Kennett government."; still toeing the line long after "The Guilty Party" should have been put to rest. Whereas the Connex boss insists that "he would hand over the space rent-free to a suitable tenant". Given the ballroom has been closed for 25 years and the roof (apparently) leaks, we can translate the last statement as saying that it is unusable without a large investment. An investment that the impoverished operator is unable to make.

There is a larger issue here. Melbourne has hundreds, if not thousands of heritage buildings. Most of them are privately owned, and many are in a state of disrepair. It is all very well saying that we should look after our heritage, and we should; but it is unrealistic to expect private owners to be able to provide the necessary capital for these improvements, because they won't all have it. Particularly if it means forgoing a more profitable venture, like tearing it down and building a 40-storey apartment block.

If we are to keep our heritage buildings it has to be cheaper to keep our heritage than new buildings - and by keep, I mean "own and rent" not just keep it standing. Which means, ultimately, that if the people of Victoria want heritage buildings, the people of Victoria have to subsidise the owners of heritage buildings. However they plan to do it. But it has to be done now, because a lot of them are now 150 years old. And it shows.

Planning 30th December, 2003 14:52:30   [#] 

Comments

Our former Transport Minister....
Robin Cooper used to openly brag that the promise to re-open the ballroom made in the 1996 election was one that Kennett, the day after the election, told him that they would be breaking.
Mr Cooper of course put up no fight to 'Chairman Jeff'.
Average Joe  14th January, 2004 12:49:12  


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