The Sirius building in Sydney’s The Rocks district has been a source of contention between those who want to preserve it and those who wish to see it sold and demolished.
In early 2016, the Heritage Council of NSW unanimously recommended the listing of the Sirius Building in the State Heritage register, citing its historical and architectural importance. However, then Heritage Minister Mark Speakman decided against listing the building in July, saying the structure would deny the state about $70m that could be spent on other social housing.
Since then, the community group Millers Point Community Assoc. Incorporated has been battling to convince the Land and Environment court to quash Speakman’s decision. The group’s Save Our Sirius foundation launched a legal challenge that could block the intended sale and demolition of the social housing block, which is situated next to Sydney Harbour Bridge.
“Our client argued that [Speakman] did not make a determination as to whether or not the Sirius was important in regards to heritage significance,” said Elaine Johnson from the Environmental Defenders Office, which is representing Millers Point. “Secondly, our client rebutted the minister’s argument that it would cause undue finical hardship to the state of NSW.”
The state government has argued that the sale of the Sirius building could finance 240 new social housing units in Sydney.
The legal case may be the final chance for the Save Our Sirius foundation to preserve the building, which is home to one remaining tenant: legally blind 90-year-old Myra Demetriou. All the other tenants have been rehoused and the building’s communal areas have been sealed off.
Many Sydneysiders wish to see the building preserved for future generations. There were so many supporters at the Land and Environment court during the case’s hearing last Friday that it had to be moved to a bigger court.
“We went to a lot of trouble to assemble the best team possible for the case to go to court … and they [are] all exceptional and presented our argument in a very good way,” said Shaun Carter, chairperson of Save Our Sirius. “The hearing was a fine display of legal skills from both sides. Whatever the outcome we … feel that our complaint was dealt with thoroughly and we will accept the result as it comes.”
Each side has a week to submit supplementary documents before the judge is required to make his decision.
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