Who are the Friends of Platypus


Friends of Platypus is a community group who formed in 2017 to address the many concerns of the local community about the redevelopment plans for a prime waterfront harbour site on Neutral Bay, the former-HMAS Platypus site. The Sydney Harbour Federation Trust, a federal authority has managed the site since 2005.

What we tried


In 2017, we ran a petition and gained 617 signatures calling for the ugly hulk, the RANTME building and now called the Torpedo Factory to be demolished and the site made a Public Park. Other groups had tried in past years with similar submissions in 2007 and 2012. We presented the petition to the Trust and to North Sydney Council.

What now


In 2019, after many meetings with the Trust and it’s Board, and all levels of government local, state and federal representatives and basically being ignored as other groups had before, we formalised our structure and incorporated as a not-for-profit association to better represent the views of the community. 



Our vision is to make the SubBase Platypus a  Harbourside Park, with open spaces and recreational facilities. A public park can be more redefined as spaces for public squares, open-air museums, botanical gardens, walkways, transit corridors, and more.

Spending just 20 minutes in a park makes you happier.

Research 'in minutes of entering a green space, stress, blood pressure, and heart rate can decrease'

We have the best harbour in the world and this site and Sydney deserves the best Harbourside Park for all to enjoy. As Sydney becomes denser and land for traditional parks becomes scarcer, we need to create public open spaces for recreation.

The Friends of Platypus aim is to transform this quasi-industrial site from the Trust’s plans of a Urban Business Park into a Harbourside Recreational Park  for the public to enjoy. 


Site Description - What is seen here

  • 1.8 hectares in area, on the harbour in a medium -high population density peninsular.
  • 3 levels to the site - high level is at the High St entrance , mid level is a narrow sandstone ledge in the cliff accessed from Kiora Close,  lower level is the  large water front bounded by a 115m  long, 14m wide concrete wharf and a high 18m sandstone cliff best accessed by Kesterton Park.
  • 3 Heritage Buildings  - Retort House (High), Exhauster House and Coal Store (Moderate)
  • Close to ferry wharf, (150m)  train stations (800 or 1000m), bus stop (500m), North Sydney CBD (10 minute walk)

Location of SubBase Platypus

118 High Street, North Sydney New South Wales 2060, Australia

Site Constraints - What needs to be considered

  • Sits in an older neighbourhood with narrow streets and  restricted parking.
  • The main entry and exit road to the waterfront is a one lane road cut into cliff-face.
  • Possible impact of noise and light and parking to the neighbourhood.
  • No original vegetation except for one Washington palm.



Site History in a nutshell

Briefly the indigenous, industrial and maritime history:

Pre -1789 `    Cammeraygal people. 

1828-40          Allotments for use in whaling industry

1876-1932    Gasworks for 56 years

1942-1997    Torpedo factory for 55 years

1967-1999     HMAS Platypus for 32 years

2005- today   Sydney Harbour Federation Trust for 14 years


Cammeraygal people

Cammeraygal were a clan of the Eora tribe of Indigenous Australians who were united by a common language, strong ties of kinship and survived as skilled hunter–fisher–gatherers in family groups or clans that inhabited the  lower North Shore of Sydney.


Gas Works

The Gasworks produced coal gas for street lighting. The site was excavated to form a  flat area at the waterfront, with a cutting in the cliff for an access road to the waterfront, Gas Holders were built to hold the gas, with Coal Stores to feed coal to the Retort Houses. 

In 1942 the Commonwealth resumed some of the land as it was close to the Navy’s Torpedo Depot at Garden Island. Most of the Gasworks buildings were quickly demolished as part of war-time emergency .

(In 1983 AGL sold part of the site for the ‘Iora’ residential development.)


War Effort

As part of war-time emergency 3 factories were swiftly built - a torpedo assembly factory (RANTME Building - Royal Australian Navy Torpedo Maintenance Establishment) and  maintenance workshops. 


HMAS Platypus submarine base

 HMAS Platypus was established as the shore support depot to the 6 new UK built ‘Oberon’ class submarines. The base was decommissioned and site was closed in 1999 as it was found unsuitable to the new 'Collins' class submarines.


handed over to -Sydney Harbour Federation Trust

The site in 2005 was formerly given to the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust to manage and rehabilitate  the site for handover to the NSW Dept. of Parks and Reserve in 2033. The government provided $46M for decontamination and  $23.1M for the first stage of the 2016 Management Plan. Expressions of Interest was given out in September 2017 on a huge 12,000 sqm of lettable floor space.  In May 2019  an an extra $11.4M  was provided  for the next stage which involves the huge ugly RANTME building. The community have asked for this hulk to be torn down for open space since 2007. But is the Trust/government listening? NO, they are planning to readapt it into a carpark and trumped-up roof trusses 'garden' and deprive the community of much needed open space for recreation. Think of the waste of the huge $11.4M capital costs and add $Ms for the operating costs - security, maintenance and lighting etc. 


Sub Base Platypus

In May 2018 the former HMAS Platypus submarine base site was renamed Sub Base Platypus. Why? Was it  about giving 'reason' for keeping the naval factory workshops and readapting them for leasing as commercial offices? Was this all about trying to make the site the 'cash cow', the revenue raiser for the Trust. Was this successful? The site lies empty and soulless. At January 2020 and after $23M there are still NO tenants except a cafe in a shipping container on a 6 month lease. 

All 3 factories were classed as low heritage by the Trust's own heritage consultants and stated as could be removed for public amenity. It is disgraceful the Trust have secretively and with no accountability made a business office park and ignored the community's needs for open space. 

The community called for environment-friendly grassland and tree canopy area and recognition be given to the original inhabitants of the land, the Cammeraygal people in reclaiming the ridge for open space. This would enable the site to be a significant harbour-side park for recreation. Sadly the site today stands largely dead and lifeless, bereft of nature, such glorious and low maintenance green natural space.


Call for open space - TAKE DOWN the factory hulk.

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Ms Felicity Wilson for the North Shore

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