Varroville Heritage Listing

16 August 2018

Private Members' Statement

Mr ANOULACK CHANTHIVONG (Macquarie Fields) (17:26): It seems that when she wants to, the Minister for Heritage acts quite quickly with regard to her obligations under the Heritage Act.

Yet at other times, she is as slow as an all stations train to Macarthur on a Sunday evening.

I make this observation after reading an 11 August article in the Sydney Morning Herald by Jacob Saulwick about the Minister's actions—or inactions—on heritage laws in New South Wales.

But my interest in this matter dates back further than Saturday's article and further than the proposed listing of St John's Camden by the Heritage Council in December last year, as referenced in the article.

Rather, my concern with this issue dates back to September of last year when the Heritage Council made recommendations about Varroville, a property of immense cultural and historical value in my electorate.

In September 2017, the State Heritage Register Committee met to consider the value of Varroville, its land and its curtilage. As a result of the meeting, recommendations were made to the Minister that Varroville, the land surrounding Varroville and its extended curtilage are of State heritage significance.

The committee further recommended that Varroville and its extended curtilage should be listed on the State Heritage Register—a worthy recognition of its historical significance not only to south-west Sydney, but also to the State's colonial history.

The recommendations were clear and unambiguous and, if adopted, would ensure that Varroville, its property and curtilage would be protected in law forever. The recommendations of the Heritage Council were made to no less than the New South Wales Minister for Heritage.

Any fair-minded person would think a Minister for Heritage, who is the gatekeeper on these matters and protector of these properties, would act immediately on the Heritage Council's recommendations.

But not so this Minister. In fact, the Heritage Act makes it clear that the Minister has 14 days to act on the Heritage Council's recommendation. But Minister Upton has not said a word on the matter since the recommendations were made in September last year.

The Minister is clearly in breach of the legislation. One can only speculate as to why, but let us consider the possibilities.

Does she not trust her Heritage Council—an independent statutory body dedicated to protecting our State's heritage? Surely that is not the case, given that she is only too eager to accept some of its recommendations—as detailed in last week's article.

It may be that she is swamped with other matters and business and just does not have time. But perhaps the reason the Minister has been so reluctant to act is that the Varroville matter relates to a property in south-west Sydney, and not Watsons Bay, Woollahra, Point Piper or Vaucluse.

Whatever the excuse, enough is enough.

With regard to Varroville, the matter before the Minister is urgent.

A development proposal for a massive 136,000‑plot cemetery and associated works is currently under consideration. This cemetery proposal threatens the Varroville property and its curtilage and will forever destroy its heritage value.

The time to protect Varroville is now.

My community and, indeed, all of New South Wales has lost too much of its heritage already. It is time to protect the little we have left.

Whatever the Minister's excuse for not considering Varroville, I think one matter is clear: The Minister for Heritage has scant respect for her obligations under the very Act she is entrusted to administer.

I call on the Minister to immediately fulfill her obligations with respect to Varroville.