For many Sydneysiders, Haberfield is just another suburb that one drives past: a name on a map, a sign on Parramatta Road, maybe a place your grandma took you to in order to buy cannoli—really good cannoli. However, for the people who live in Haberfield it is obviously much more. Today I take this opportunity to speak about Haberfield and the importance of its community.
Haberfield holds a unique place in the development of the Australian dream. It was, and always will be, owned by the Gadigal and Wangal people of the Eora nation. Over time it was held by the Ramsay family until the late nineteenth century, when it was subdivided and crafted into one of the world's first garden suburbs. The developers of the day described it as "slumless, landless and publess"—which these days might be a turn-off for young buyers house hunting in the inner west.
Back then, Haberfield represented something new and exciting. Streets were laid out, named after the fathers of Federation, including Barton, Deakin, Kingston and Forrest—a sign of optimism for the future of our brave new continent country. No two houses were built the same, each a similar size, following a distinctly Australian ideal that this was to be a classless suburb, without mansions or slums. This new suburb represented equality and our hopes for the Australian way of life.
Haberfield's design grew from the City Beautiful movement—a school of architecture and planning that believed harmonious surrounds led to harmonious communities. The proof has been in the pudding—or the cannoli. A century later, Haberfield remains a special and harmonious place. In 1985 it was designated one of the State's first ever conservation areas. In 1991—six years later—the entire 2045 postcode was added to the Register of the National Estate.
More than 85 per cent of the conservation area remains largely intact, with strict regulations and controls placed on home owners who want to renovate—such as second storeys cannot be added, fences must remain low to allow neighbours to see and talk to each other, lots are required to have 50 per cent soft landscaping, and paint colours are regulated to protect the architectural value of the suburb.
Home owners are frustrated by those strict rules but they also cultivate a keenly felt civic pride that Haberfield has a reputation as a garden suburb. Its residents understand that personal sacrifices amount to a collective value—the preservation of an important movement in the history of Sydney. It was the moment when we realised we could live next to one another without the divisions of the past and that we could all own a piece of the Australian dream.
The noble notion of an equal and harmonious society is being implemented in Haberfield. I think of the hardworking people of the Haberfield and Dobroyd Point parent and citizens associations who volunteer to raise money for their schools; the Saint David's Uniting Church community, who hung banners in support of asylum seekers; the hardworking staff at the Ella Centre, who provide support and friendship to people with disabilities and the elderly; the Haberfield Association; and the compassionate people who look out for their neighbours and who want to protect the things that make Haberfield one of a kind.
This community is facing difficult times. Despite strong objections by locals, the Baird Government is pushing ahead with plans to build WestConnex. The environmental impact statement [EIS] is damning of its impact on the unique heritage of Haberfield. The EIS notes that 53 properties within the Haberfield conservation area will be demolished and a further 11 heritage items and 29 contributory items will be lost forever.
Robert Stanton's design will be fractured and destroyed, which will be a devastating loss to the State's heritage. The findings of the Government heritage experts is that ugly ventilation stacks, noise abatement walls and tunnel portals will replace beautiful homes and tree-lined streets.
This week I will hand 450 postcards signed by concerned residents from across the State to the Premier. Those postcards express the disgust of the community at the attempt by the Government to ram through the WestConnex project in the face of its opposition.
This Saturday I will host a WestConnex EIS community action day at Saint David's Hall in Dalhousie Street to help residents work their way through the thousands of pages and volumes of the EIS so that they can make submissions.
I will also be moving a motion in this place to stop immediately plans to destroy Haberfield and to recognise its national significance by adding it to the State Heritage Register.
During this difficult time I call on the people of Haberfield to remember the ideal that their suburb was founded on and to remember what makes them strong and special.
Haberfield is more than a street sign, more than a suburb and more than an off ramp from the freeway; it is a strong community of proud, civic-minded residents who value their history, their heritage and one another.
We will stand together.