By Staton Whaley
Two cottages at 9 and 11 Marion Street Leichhardt have been rushed to demolition by Inner West Council amidst backlash from the Greens and the local community.
Eight months ago Inner West Council made the decision to knock down the cottages to create twenty-two parking spaces. This decision was reversed four months ago, but has suddenly been re-approved.
The 2017/2018 budget proposal calls for $300,000 to be used in the demolition, but this appears to be above market price for such work. Demolition expert James Anderson, of Democorp Australia, called it “an excessive price to knock down the cottages.”
He estimates houses of that size should costs about $22,000 each for demolition and waste removal,
“Five years ago we knocked down the Orioles Park Stadium in Auburn, with the grandstands and amenities, and re-turfed where we demolished for $110,000,” Mr Anderson said.
Inner West Council did not respond to questions regarding the cost of demolition.
Councillor Tom Kiat, Greens Party for Ashfield, called the decision “atrocious.” Kiat compared the cottages’ destruction to “the Liberal State Government’s stadium knock-down and rebuild. It’s the same level of government waste and a complete misreading of community priorities.”
Balmain Greens Councillor Rochelle Porteus agreed, calling it “a very bad decision.” Porteus stated her concern for the lack of community consultation prior to a decision being made. “The Council only consulted with the one street surrounding the civic centre, so they went out to about 300 houses, which is outrageous because the consultation that you should do with a civic precinct should really be the suburb of Leichhardt because it has an impact on the whole suburb of Leichhardt…They got twenty five responses from the three hundred people…sixteen of the twenty five responses said we don’t think you should knock those cottages down…But even with the very bad very minimal consultation that they had, they ignored that as well.”
Councillor Pauline Lockie, independent for Stanmore, thinks there are “big question marks about the process…The uproar that has ensued since the demolition has become public shows that it really is something we should have taken to our residents.” Cr Lockie would like to have seen “cost benefit analysis applied to the different options that were before the council.”
Cr Porteus believes “the assessment process is flawed because they haven’t taken into account the Aboriginal artwork which is present on the buildings. They are significant artworks, and they have aesthetic and cultural value.”
Blak Douglass, also known as Adam Miller, is the Aboriginal artist behind one of the cottage murals. Mr Miller described the demolition as a “double disappointment from his perspective.” He acknowledges his work as “probably one of the only artworks created by an Aboriginal artist in the municipality on a building.”
“If the demolition of the cottages goes ahead it will be probably one of the only examples of desecration of modern Aboriginal art in Sydney.” Leichhardt resident, Crisseta MacLeod, who spoke at the meeting, was “very disappointed on the matter.”