31 August 2008
The NSW or Federal Government should buy the former Newcastle Post Office building and give it to the Newcastle community, Newcastle Greens said today.
Newcastle councillor and Ward 3 candidate Keith Parsons said: "The University has apparently expressed interest in the building. This kind of use would reinforce The University’s and Council's strategies to move more university facilities into the CBD, and strengthen ties between them."
The Greens Lord Mayoral candidate for Newcastle, Cr Michael Osborne said that another alternative was the community-based Newcastle Reserve Heritage Trust, which manages the Lock Up, a cultural centre and museum in the 1860s former Police Station in Hunter Street, adjacent to the old Post Office.
"They were unsuccessful tenderers for the Post Office in 2002 and would have plenty of innovative and appropriate ideas for its future," Cr Osborne said.
Cr Parsons, who chairs Newcastle Council's Strategic Heritage Committee, said "The NSW Government has been responsible for protecting the Post Office since they added it to the State Heritage Register in 2000."
"They have been particularly reluctant to force the owners to maintain and redevelop the building. Council approved the owners’ plans in 2006. Consequently, this heritage icon has been allowed to deteriorate at an increasing rate."
Cr Parsons, who represents Newcastle Council on the Art Gallery's Board and its Acquisition Committee, rejected as "financially irresponsible" calls for the Council to purchase the building for an art gallery or library, at an estimated cost (for acquisition alone) of $10 million.
"The Greens support long overdue extensions to both the Art Gallery and Library, but the logical place is on Council-owned land behind the existing institutions in Laman Street, in the cultural heart of the city, rather than at the Post Office," Cr Parsons said.
"This would allow for the existing buildings to be refurbished and integrated with the new additions. It makes good design and economic sense," added Cr Parsons.
Cr Osborne said: "The recently announced CBD Task Force led by the Coordinator General should recommend that the NSW and/or the Federal government buy the Post Office and transfer it to an appropriate entity (such as the University of Newcastle or the Newcastle Historic Reserve Trust) with adequate funding for refurbishment."