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22 September 2012 Posted by 

Parramatta's heritage potential

By Geoff Lee

State Member for Parramatta

AT the State of the Region address Premier Barry O'Farrell gave the 'green light' for a Parramatta Heritage Precinct Master Plan.

This will incorporate the major public owned historic assets in Parramatta - a move that will see preservation of the area’s heritage assets and an expected injection of an estimated $1 billion into the precinct.

Parramatta's heritage assets include: Parramatta Gaol; Parramatta Stadium; Old King's School; The Parramatta Female Factory; Parramatta Girls Home; The Old Roman Catholic Orphanage and other buildings on the Cumberland Hospital site. This is the largest and most notable group of early colonial and European settlement structures. 

Collectively the sites are unparalleled and differentiate Parramatta as a significant tourism destination for both local and overseas visitors.  This will be achieved by opening up the public areas for boardwalks, cafes, restaurants, social and cultural hubs.

Covering over 90 acres the master plan needs to consider the appropriate residential, commercial and mixed-use development of the precinct.

In this way it will create thousands of jobs during the construction phase, and importantly breathe new life into publicly owned sites in Parramatta.

In keeping with the NSW Government's firm commitment to fiscal responsibility the Heritage Master Plan must deliver a cost neutral solution. For long term sustainability, the restoration and refurbishment of these assets must be offset by a viable "adaptive re-use model".

This is a major initiative for Western Sydney and employers should participate in the consultation process to optimise the benefits for their businesses.

The potential advantages for businesses are many. A vibrant cultural and social hub will help businesses attract and retain high quality staff.

Turning the precinct into a major tourism attraction will draw in a significant number of tourists and provide a much needed boost to the bottom lines of many local businesses.

Finally, an adaptive reuse model will also open up significant potential investment opportunities for enterprising businesses.

We must however avoid the pitfalls of the past. For decades these assets have been under-utilised. The first step, after years of neglect and indifference is to address the situation that has left us with far too many rundown and underutilised buildings.

Parramatta can ill-afford to discourage investment and development of surrounding sites. We need to find the right solutions for today's economic challenges and remove barriers that limit opportunity through over regulation.

For as long as I can remember, politicians on all sides have been proponents of preserving Parramatta's historic assets – particularly around election time. Development is not, in my view in conflict with those who want to preserve the sites and open them up for public access.

Since coming to power last year I have actively advocated for a Master Plan that can marry the requirements of economic sustainability, public access and preservation. This can be delivered for the people of Parramatta and NSW providing there is political will and community and business support.

We need to broaden our vision for Parramatta and its unique attributes. The potential is enormous. Unlocking the economic potential is the best prospect for preservation, sustainability and access.

This is a significant win for Western Sydney and will make a solid contribution to the continued the economic development of Sydney’s second CBD, while ensuring our heritage assets are rejuvenated and protected.



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