Save Fitzroy Gardens > Andrew Woodhouse speech - Save Fitzroy Gardens rally, 6 November 2010

Andrew Woodhouse speech at the Save Fitzroy Gardens rally
6 November 2010

Andrew Woodhouse, of the Potts Point and Kings Cross Heritage Conservation Society, explains why the Fitzroy Gardens is important and must be protected


This is the peoples’ park.

These gardens were born into controversy in 1939 when this dense area was known as "flatsville". Residents demanded a green oasis from council who, after a number of stages, created what we now see - for the people.

It was born into controversy and will die in controversy unless we fight for every blade of grass.

After all, these gardens are our backyard.

Council claims it’s "renewing" them. I say its plans are heritage heresy.

About 40 out of 60 trees are under immediate threat or to be pulped, convict bricks used to create planter beds carted away and crushed, tall mature palms chain-sawed with even the canopy-creating central fig tree and 89 year-old Chinese Elm behind you threatened by potential root damage.

How can you renew something by destroying it?

How can you renew anything by removing it forever?

How can you renew these heritage-listed gardens by hacking off their significance?

You can’t - and you wont.

Ilmar Berzins, council’s head of parks for over 35 years between 1951-1986 and Australia’s first professional qualified landscape designer would be rolling in his grave to see his heritage-listed design being crushed under the weight of a sterile, de-humanising space given over to meaningless minimalism with less lawn, less seats and less protection form the elements.

All his designs, as well as his award-winning Macelhone Reserve facing Elizabeth Bay House and the sunken Sandringham garden in Hyde park are people-driven. They share a common philosophy of gardens as outdoor lounge rooms with a sense of space and a sense of place: a quite place to feel and touch grass: enclosures woven together with intricate walling and flower beds.

They remind us what makes cities liveable, providing an intelligent, tactile, sensitivity with our environment. They create a catharsis from the hum and thrum of high octane living.

His design features make them significant.

After all, heritage is only about one thing: significance: what we want to keep from the past for our future.

The Gardens are here because generations have said they should be retained as part of our past, part of our present - our common identity - and part of our future.

They’re part of what makes us who we are as a community.

These Gardens don’t "belong" to us: we belong to them.

Take them away and you remove part of our DNA.

This community wears a proud cloak woven by those ghosts of past times: we’ve already lost too much of our heritage such as Baron’s, the Bourbon and Beef Steak, Café Pralinka and the New Yorker Cafe; all once part of our social glue.

In December 1996 we told council we wanted more green space and less paving: nothing happened. Then we told them we wanted these gardens refreshed, that is, retained and maintained: nothing happened.

Now we’re told they’re spending $20 million of our money to foist on us something we didn’t ask for, don’t want, and won’t actually need.

So just whose council is this, theirs or ours?

And how can council justify taking the gardens out of Fitzroy Gardens - the only park under its control with the very word "gardens" in them?

Please, sign the petition and put some notes in the yellow buckets for our fighting fund so we can tell council clearly: when it comes to interference, "Less is more."

Thank you.

Author: Andrew Woodhouse, Potts Point, Sydney.

Andrew Woodhouse is a heritage writer.

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