Last weekend, the National Trust announced this year’s nominations for Our Heritage at Risk. It’s an annual ‘name and shame’ exercise to raise awareness about Australian places, objects and collections that it considers historically significant but urgently in need of conservation.
This year’s ACT nomination was led by the Lake Burley Griffin foreshore (also shortlisted last year). The Trust noted with particular alarm the proposed Immigration footbridge and the Kingston/Eastlake development, and indicated concern about the creeping privatisation of the open public spaces and vistas on the shore line, contrary to Walter Burley Griffin’s original plan. (Last year, the Trust complained about the construction of the car park off Commonwealth Ave.)
Sometimes it is easy to dismiss the National Trust as a bunch of NIMBYs and nostalgic busy bodies. Plus whatever you think about the heritage value of each nomination, the Trust has a pretty low success rate with shaming people into action. Previous ACT nominees have been substantially demolished, redeveloped beyond recognition, or merely neglected. The Yarralumla Brickworks is an example of the latter. The brickworks was has been on the risk list for the last three years (ranks with SA’s Coorong wetlands for dishonorable mentions).
Does heritage risk nomination suitably ‘name and shame’ into action the people who matter? Not really. We seem to approach heritage conservation with the same sense of urgency and purpose as climate change…
The 2008 citation for the brickworks was acknowledged by the ACT Government, which was in the midst of an request for proposals to restore and re-use the site. Much like previous years. A couple of months ago that approach to market was cancelled.
So the brickworks (among others) continue to rot. The next steps are not clear. There’s always another at-risk nomination to strive for next year.