COMMENT BY PAUL PAECH
Part 2 of a 2-part article
Bondi Beach Post Office is facing closure.
Australia Post is still insisting that “we are committed to the local community,” but with the local community saying NO, that’s looking increasingly difficult to believe, even though Australia Post promises to retain all its product services in Bondi Beach.
“You’re not serving the community: you’re helping destroy it” was the clear message from last weekend’s rally outside the Bondi Beach Post Office.
The meeting was addressed by much-loved local resident Michael Caton. He played a key role in the Bondi Pavilion battle which saw local Liberals thrown out of power in last September’s elections.
At the rally, Mayor John Wakefield said that former mayor Sally Betts had stripped development decisions from Waverley councillors and provided a glowing example that the State government used to sell the compulsory change to other councils.
He said that the failed attempt by Baird/Berejiklian to abolish local councils was the Liberal’s thank-you gift to the state’s property developers, and that people have seen it and they’ve had enough!
The application assumes that the land around the building will be sold, but the Post Office building with its land is actually owned by the Australian Government, that is, by Australians. With the surrounding planters and open space being owned and so intensively used by the public, there’s an argument that the area functions as Bondi’s Public Square, and that it ought not be sold off as if it were just another bit of commercial land.
Hall Street’s footpaths widen out in this area and the result is a small but perfectly formed public plaza. With the modest Post Office elegantly echoing the classical architecture of the Pavilion, this is a local area that beautifully counter-balances the massive public open space of Bondi Beach. It’s far too good to lose.
Down on Campbell Parade height restrictions and heritage controls have meant that Bondi’s main strip has mostly avoided the blight of crass high-rise over-development that’s afflicted much of Australia’s East coast. But recent approval of a nasty glitzy block of (what else?) ultra luxury flats on the corner of Ramsgate Avenue looks like a planning blunder, and hopefully one of the last.
The developers (Elia Leis and Andrew Starr’s StarGate Property Group) are responsible for the elliptical tower at the top of Bondi Road and have been pushing the highly controversial West Oxford Street development.
The approved building on Campbell Parade will rise almost 16 metres above the controls of 12.5 metres, and block the sun that shines on those tanned torsos and rippling pecs of North Bondi’s legendary Muscle Beach gym.
Property development may not be entirely a zero-sum game, but all of Sydney’s inner suburbs are now so densely packed that pretty well every new development robs other residents of their sunlight, views, trees, etc.
In the Eastern Suburbs particularly, this is a very real everyday tale of winners and losers. The fact is that if you build and get a view, you’ll have taken that view from someone else.
Not that local Councils or their planning departments seem terribly interested. Stargate’s application for the Campbell Parade proposal scandalously argued that Waverley Council had effectively abandoned its own development controls in Bondi Beach, and that therefore this extra height was perfectly acceptable. It’s a measure of how much power Sydney’s development industry has taken from elected-and therefore accountable-officials.
It’s a small world, after all
Hall Street’s popular Fishmongers eatery in Hall Street has remained sadly closed ever since its exhaust flue went up in flames a couple months before Christmas. But now, Mongers has finally re-opened in the very same building that StarGate is proposing to develop. (Is that a new exhaust fan on the roof?)
The one bright point is that Hall Street neighbours are enjoying their first summer in ages without the greasy smell of fish & chips permeating their homes. Fears are though that the real-estate eagles are circling the original single-storied properties, and that the fire will bring on the sale and development of the empty chippery and its co-joined Thai massage twin.
Along with the proposal for Bondi’s totally cute Post Office, a couple stories’ extra height here would end the Hall Street delight of afternoon summer sun from public areas, and diminish the pleasure of what is the true town centre of Bondi Beach.
Where goes the neighbourhood?
Judging by the darkened windows in many new buildings, you have to ask whether anyone actually lives there. In Linz & Litver’s Pacific, the strata committee has had trouble chasing up owners many of whom fail to respond and don’t even live in the country.
No doubt new residential Gina Reinhardt will be keen to play a more active role in protecting her $15 million investment in one of the wind-tunnels on the roof, seductively marketed to unsuspecting rich-listers as “lighthouses.” Oooh, the folly of wealth. Ahhh, the value of local knowledge.