Blow to Australia’s heritage as new Windsor Bridge documents predict Thompson Square destruction

In Parliament | 27.09.17

The Labor Opposition has called on the NSW Liberal National Government to go back to the drawing board after the release of government tender documents for the Windsor Bridge Replacement project have revealed that the project will damage rare and significant Australian heritage in and around Thompson Square.

The tender outlines the requirements for the project, and describes how heritage will be affected by construction of the replacement bridge. The first words describing the impact on heritage are:

Construction will result in a number of adverse impacts particularly on Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal heritage. The main adverse outcomes identified include:

  • Impacts to Aboriginal archaeology.
  • Impacts to the heritage values of Thompson Square, as well as potential impacts to archaeology within Thompson Square and foreshore areas.

Windsor’s beloved Thompson Square – the oldest public square in Australia – faces “actual physical impacts” according to the tender, while damage to heritage items and buildings due to vibration from construction activities is also predicted.

The entirety of Thompson Square and buildings in the surrounding area are listed on the State Heritage Register, yet the tender acknowledges “direct impacts on the fabric and curtilage of listed heritage items and direct impacts on archaeological relics and remains”, including a range of additional historic buildings such as the Former School of Arts building, the Doctors House, and heritage-listed houses on Bridge Street.

The tender also details investigations revealing “substantial Aboriginal archaeological deposits” including evidence of Aboriginal occupation and use of the area dating between 17,000 to 27,000 years ago and 5,000 to 7,000 years ago. The tender notes: “Such evidence is rare and highly significant.”

The Government’s own Heritage Council of NSW has previously opposed the project due to its impact on the significant heritage of Thompson Square and the history of the town of Windsor.

Quotes attributable to Shadow Heritage Minister Penny Sharpe

“The news that our own State Government will direct the damage of Aboriginal and early settlement heritage will be devastating for the local community – it should be shocking to all Australians.

“The Government’s ‘develop-at-all-costs’ mentality has gone too far. Premier Gladys Berejiklian must step in and withdraw the tender, then come back to the community with a proposal that won’t damage Australia’s oldest public square, rare Aboriginal history, and some of our most treasured historic buildings.

“The heritage at Windsor is of national significance and once it has been destroyed, it will be gone forever. This government truly knows the price of everything, and the value of nothing.”