Sirius heritage saga headed back to court

The NSW government will appeal the Land and Environment Court of New South Wales’ ruling against the government’s decision not the place the Tao Gofers-designed Sirius social housing complex, in the central Sydney area of The Rocks, on the State Heritage Register.

In July, the court found that the former heritage minister Mark Speakman had failed to consider the building’s heritage significance and that he had “side-stepped the required assessment” when he made his decision. The court ordered the government to remake the decision “according to the law.”

A NSW government spokesperson told ArchitectureAU, “The NSW Government has reviewed the Land and Environment Court’s decision relating to the listing of the Sirius Building on the State Heritage Register.”

“The NSW Government has filed a notice of intention to appeal the decision.”

The government would not, however, be drawn on the grounds of its appeal. “As the matter is the subject of legal proceedings, the NSW Government will not be commenting further at this stage,” the spokesperson said.

The government has consistently argued that against heritage listing the Sirius building would interfere with its plans to sell the site to fund social housing elsewhere in the state. It has also disputed the aesthetic value of the complex, with NSW treasurer Dominic Perrottet described the building as a “ boxy blight on The Rocks” in an article for the Daily Telegraph after the court handed down its decision.

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In July 2016, following Speakman’s decision, Perrottet said, “Frankly, the Sirius building is not at all in harmony with the harbour and heritage that surrounds it.

“Our city deserves better, and we now have a chance to deliver a building that genuinely complements our dazzling harbour, rather than sticking out like a sore thumb.”

The government claims the Sirius site is expected to attract bids of more than $100 million. In the Land and Environment Court, the government argued that heritage listing the building would reduce the value of the site by $70 million – causing the government to suffer “undue financial hardship.”

However, the court found the government “misconstrued” the meaning of “undue financial hardship.”

The NSW government spokesperson said, “Regardless of the Court’s final decision, the sale of the Sirius building will go ahead.”

“Proceeds from the sale of properties at Millers Point, Dawes Point and The Rocks will mean the NSW Government will be able to provide more than 1,500 new purpose built homes for people on the social housing waiting list. The proceeds from the sale of many of these properties have funded the construction of over 1,000 new social housing dwellings so far in NSW.”

Architect Shaun Carter, chairperson of the Save Our Sirius Foundation which took the government to the Land and Environment Court, said, “We will fight any appeal.”

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