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