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Touchy issue

THE subject of heritage is a sensitive one, particularly in the business community, where property developers have significant clout.

Generally, too, the business community has been asked to bear the brunt of heritage demands of councils, which have listened to their voters, namely the residents, and other voices who do not even live within those boundaries.

But the tide is shifting and more and more residents are finding their property the subject of heritage claims by councils.

And hasn’t the clamour changed as people have discovered it’s their property’s value, not some company in the city, which is being affected.

The NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) is alive and well, let me assure you.

But there is another side to this coin.

Many people would welcome heritage controls if they were done sensitively, with as little negative impact on property values as possible and with a genuine sense of history attached to them.

I think we all bemoan the lack of controls that allowed St Georges Terrace to be stripped of its historic facades – only to be replaced by canyons of glass. I have raised that point often and found few who would disagree. Yet, to have argued that point in the 1960s would have been pointless, I imagine.

Fremantle is only a heritage district of distinction because it was left behind by the world.

The City of Subiaco, in which I live, is a good example of an area where the issue is very much alive. The glorious streets are there only because people a few generations ago were too busy moving out to the suburbs

here they could have a double garage and a swimming pool.

In recent times a new breed of renovators has moved in to restore and enhance the district, taking advantage of cheap prices for a location so close to everything.

I would argue it is these people who have driven the value of the area up, aided by demographic changes that have affected the whole nation.

They have rights too. The right not to have some monstrosity built next door or even up the street.

Of course, I don’t argue that every old house deserves this treatment.

Why should one or two houses on a street get a listing when their neighbours can do what they want? It would need to be CY O’Connor’s old place for that sort of treatment, in my opinion.

And those whose houses are listed should receive rewards for their services to heritage. While councils argue that heritage listing ultimately improves land values, that may not help someone trying to sell their house tomorrow, nor does it defray the cost of maintaining an old house or refurbishing within strict rules.

Let’s see lower rates applied to those houses that are listed – that might create some hesitation before the council decides whose property is on the list.

In addition, let’s see some better consideration of what genuinely deserves to be kept. Subiaco, it seems, has attempted to preserve a bit of everything. Is that necessary?

Surely the suburb is best known for its turn-of-the-century housing, and perhaps a few decades afterwards. Shouldn’t the houses of the 1940s and 1950s be preserved in areas best known for those eras?

Councils also have to listen to their ratepayers.

If they want to heritage list people’s houses, shouldn’t they list the roads, parks and schools to make sure their ratepayers don’t find themselves in an old house, next to a new four lane road and an abandoned schoolyard?

A bite of the Big Apple

I spent a great week in New York recently, packing in a schedule as busy as the locals’ to meet as many Western Australians as possible and talk about their work in the financial capital.

In the following pages are some of the interviews I conducted.

It was fascinating to delve a bit deeper into the myths that make up New York and find out which ones are true.

It seems the horrific house prices and long hours are pretty much universal.

It was also interesting to find the motivation of people to live in this crowded place.

Without doubt, the people featured on the pages on WA Business News were driven to reach the highest level of their field. My hope is that, after they reach their pinnacle, they consider bringing their well honed skills and talents back here, even if they have to refocus their career to do so.

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