A letter to the editor from Shire President Victoria Brown
Recent letters to the editor of various newspapers and lobbying have left our community confused about what is happening with the jetty. I urge you to ignore the rhetoric around restoration options for the jetty. The Heritage Council has given clear direction and endorsement for the Esperance Council to provide a replacement jetty. Any talk of restoration is muddying the waters and confusing the community because restoration is off the table. More than enough time, money, community engagement and research has been spent to determine that restoration is not a viable or long term solution. We have moved on past that option. Council, under the Heritage Council's advice, will now work with a heritage architect to deliver a plan for a replacement jetty that is as long as possible, fishing friendly and reflects the history of the 82 year old Esperance Tanker Jetty.
Friends of the Jetty’s suggestion has been to apply to the Federal Government 'Building Better Regions Fund' for a restoration project. This suggestion, to apply for funds with an open ended proposal, no design plans, costings or matching funding, demonstrates a lack of understanding of the funding criteria required for large scale projects today. Both State and Federal government politicians have made it very clear to us that they will consider Council's funding application once we have a costed design and business case.
At that point, when the Shire has a jetty design and funding secured, the Heritage Minister may consider lifting the conservation order on the Tanker Jetty. This will allow a controlled demolition to save as much timber as possible for reuse in heritage elements in the new construction.
Council’s working relationship with the Heritage Council, the heritage architect and the Jetty Replacement Working Group is an exciting opportunity to deliver a great jetty outcome for our community and visitors. The next step will be to issue a tender to engage the services of a qualified heritage architect to lead the replacement design. We have invited the Heritage Council to be involved in the tender process to ensure we achieve a great heritage outcome for this project. We can’t wait to start on the design phase and will keep our community updated as we progress.
Victoria Brown – Shire president.
Heritage legislates against neglect
The Heritage Bill currently before State Parliament should be of particular interest to the Esperance Shire Council.
Its central platform addresses demolition by neglect, a major problem for the State Government in the past and, in particular, it refers to the lack of maintenance and protection of places listed on the State Heritage Register.
The Esperance Tanker Jetty was listed in 2008, and despite having responsibility for its maintenance and protection under the terms of a Jetty Licence, the Shire has deliberately and wilfully neglected the structure since 2011.
Under this Bill penalties for deliberate neglect will stand at up to $1 million.
The Bill also includes a new section giving the Minister for Heritage the power to issue a Repair Notice. This will formalise in law, clauses already in the Jetty Licence.
In his second reading of the Heritage Bill, Minister David Templeman outlined significant changes in community attitudes to cultural heritage in Western Australia over the past 25 years.
He said listed places were seen as an asset rather than a liability.
Regrettably in Esperance, the Council hasn't grasped the concept yet; where local people wish to retain the cultural fabric inherent to our community,
Importantly, a historic structure such as the tanker jetty attracts people to our town and helps to retain them for a longer stay, an important contributing factor for our tourist industry and local business.
Regional towns all over Australia want this type of attraction, and Esperance has one on its doorstep, with the shire seeking to tear it down.
Mr Templeman said the State Government was committed to working with communities and stakeholders to further recognise the State's heritage values and conserve them for future generations.
He said this not only enhanced the story of WA, but also added to our sense of place.
The tanker jetty does this, and more.
While the Esperance council continue to misrepresent the facts about the tanker jetty, any fair minded person would realise there is no plausible reason for the structure to be in its current state of disrepair. No reason for the ongoing debate about its demolition. Most importantly, the shire asked for and received a licence to become the caretaker, be responsible for its maintenance and to keep it in good condition for the public. The WA Government provided funds for on-going repairs and maintenance, as did businesses and the community. Unfortunately, most of these funds were removed from the Jetty Reserve and spent on other works, including about $500,000 on commissioned engineering reports, which was attributed to jetty maintenance.
Financial figures published by the shire show they are flush with funds: $30 million in bank accounts and another $14 million in reserves. And they earmarked $1.8 million to demolish the jetty and $6 million for a replacement. So there are no financial excuses to deliberately neglect jetty maintenance, to afford restoration, except that for whatever reason they want it demolished. Qualified marine engineers costed restoration at less than $6 million and will retain the 520 metres long structure. The shire’s $6 million replacement will be less than 150 metres long: a mere token. Ongoing maintenance is another deception by the shire. They claim they can't afford it, yet the figures show that the donations and government grants paid for all the work done on the jetty between 1990 and 2007, after which all maintenance stopped. The offer in September 2016 by the former Regional Development Minister to fund restoration from Royalties for Regions was rejected. Why? The current Heritage Bill before Parliament provides the best opportunity to protect the jetty from the council's wilful disregard and deliberate neglect of a heritage listed site.
Dennis and Pam Usher.