Inner West Independent

Mural faces mauling

An historic mural on The Crescent in Annandale faces damage from WestConnex construction. Photo: Alec Smart

By ALLISON HORE

The Westconnex has met with more controversy with the release of their proposed changes to the approved design of the Rozelle and Lilyfield interchange for the M4-M5 Link. The change would bring the complex and expensive underground interchange above ground in a series of overpasses.

However, many believe the changes pose a threat to local landmarks, including Buruwan Park and a historic mural on The Crescent in Annandale. The mural, described as the ‘people’s mural’ was created in 1980 by artist Rodney Monk and a team of six other artists in a scheme to create jobs for unemployed artists in the area.
In creating the mural, Monk was inspired by both community activism in opposition to the Vietnam War and the sacking of the Whitlam government and also social movements surrounding sexuality, gender, racism and ethnicity. Mr. Monk told City Hub that he believes the reason the work resonates with the community is that it “was designed to reflect social attitudes and values.”

One of the themes present in Monk’s mural is harbour, health and foreshore recreation. But he thinks our changing understanding of that reflects the changing demographics in the area.
“The mural was created in a time when Sydney’s inner west was changing in its social makeup; from workers cottages, student accommodation and factories toward what it is today,” he explained.
“Few could see that ‘harbour foreshore recreation’ would be realised in the form of expensive leisure craft storage or that the increased property values a new parkland and playgrounds bought would exclude those who had created the funky social ambience the area is so admired for.”

Threatening proposal
The proposed overpass will allow vehicles to cross from the Northbound to Eastbound portion of the crescent, towards Victoria Road and the Anzac Bridge, without having to use the existing intersection. Westconnex also say that the overpass will provide additional capacity to the network needed for further development projects in the area, including the West Harbour Tunnel project, which is currently undergoing approval.
Originally slated to be built above ground, public outcry led planners to design an underground network for the interchange instead. And while there were questions over the possibility of such an underground interchange being built, the proposal was approved for development.
The new changes would again bring the interchange above ground, in a system of overpasses including the one at The Crescent. Westconnex acknowledges that the change has “the potential to result in vibration and visual-setting impacts to heritage-listed items”.

While the mural is not currently heritage listed, the Inner West council voted unanimously in late 2018 to nominate the mural for heritage listing, an idea which was first debated in the council 8 years ago. In 2003 Leichhardt Council paid $10,000 to refurbish the mural, which was in poor condition. This renovation also included the addition of indigenous themes to the artwork.

Opposition from the community
State member for Balmain, Jamie Parker, opposes the proposed overpass. He believes that The Crescent mural he describes as a “dearly loved and historically important local artefact” should be protected. He also questions the effectiveness of the submissions process.
“The government says that these modifications will be subject to public consultation but we’ve seen little evidence that they are genuinely listening to the opinions of experts, let alone residents,” he told City Hub.
“My office has already had multiple complaints from locals about the difficulty of even submitting an objection through the new online portal.”

The Inner-west Council is also opposed to the changes and told City Hub they are “calling on the NSW Government to back away from plans to introduce a Los Angeles-style overpass in the heart of residential Rozelle, Lilyfield and Annandale.”
“The Premier needs to pull the road builders into line and start listening to the communities’ concerns about the damaging impact that this modification will have,” said Inner-West Mayor Darcy Byrne.
The council also said that they hope the state government will wait for the heritage application for the mural to be processed before they push on with the changes but that there is no legal obligation for them to do so. For Mr. Monk, if the changes go ahead he would like to see developers actively working to minimise the impact.
“If a new freeway pier will partially visually block the mural then I would like this urban reshaping to be minimal in its impact and that the mural be also renovated by me so as to keep its presence relevant and dynamic,” he said.
“It is a “living” reflection of its community.”

Submissions to the NSW Government regarding the project closed on the 25th of September after the deadline was extended for a week. They are currently being collated.

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