NSW environment minister Mark Speakman has defended his refusal to give a heritage listing to the brutalist Sirius building in Sydney because it would shave up to $70 million off the sale value, which would translate to about 240 social housing units.
The Heritage Council had previously unanimously decided the building contributed to the state’s heritage due to its aesthetic value and rarity, and advised the government to list it.
“I am not listing it because whatever its heritage value, even at its highest that value is greatly outweighed by what would be a huge loss of extra funds from the sale of the site, funds the government intends to use to build social housing for families in great need,” Mr Speakman said.
He also said bringing the current building up to code would cost $15 million.
Though the decision was announced as a financial one, Mr Speakman said it “doesn’t mean a practice that money trumps heritage”.
The news was welcomed by the Urban Taskforce, which said the announcement paved the way for a “sympathetic yet modern replacement”.
However, Urban Taskforce chief executive Chris Johnson said he was concerned by finance minister Dominic Perrottet’s statement that the new building should be made of stone and brick, warning against a “pastiche of the past”.
“It is important that a replacement building is about the spirit of today while understanding its context,” Mr Johnson said.
“A good example of the blending of new and old is demonstrated by the new building over the ‘Money Box’ building in Martin Place.
Meanwhile, Australian Institution of Architects NSW president Shaun Carter, who is also chair of the Save Our Sirius Foundation, said the decision failed to factor in the social and historical context of the building, which has become a monument to the Green Bans movement of the 1970s.
“It has social significance, it has cultural significance, it has environmental significance,” Mr Carter told ABC.