Fresh from union busting in Wonthaggi, the construction behemoth Theiss is now intent on destroying the last of the working class heritage in Sunshine in Melbourne's west. The conglomeration of the Regional Rail Link Authority, Thiess, Parsons Brinckerhoff and others have officially announced their intention to destroy the HV McKay Memorial Gardens, Australia's oldest and rarest remaining industrial garden.
The 110 year old gardens were bequeathed to the community of Sunshine by Australia's first industrialist, HV McKay and are part of the birth of urban planning in Australia. They are also the very heart of a community that fought and won the world's first minimum wage case – the Harvester Case.
The Gardens, listed by the National Trust, the Register of the National Estate and protected by Heritage Victoria are to be destroyed to make way for the new rail alignment and the construction of a three metre wide “footpath”. This will involve slicing off a strip of land down the entire front of the Gardens, removal and relocation of the original gates and gate posts, butchering of several 100 year old oak trees and the demolition of a heritage listed footbridge. The proposal also cuts a six metre deep road submersion between the Gardens and adjacent historic Harvester housing estate, effectively cutting the gardens off from their surroundings.
When members of the local community protested, the Public Transport Minister, Terry Mulder replied “you can’t keep everyone happy”. An outraged President of the Friends of the McKay Gardens, Catherine McDonald said “None of this is necessary. The community have given five years of volunteer effort to restore these highly significant gardens and now Regional Rail and those thugs Thiess are going to destroy everything. If they had any expertise at all in urban design this would be avoided but they are only good at destruction.”
In 2009 the gardens celebrated their century and the Friends of the Gardens received Federal funding to support their volunteer efforts.
Minister ‘up front’ on rail. Star News Group. 31st January 2012
How the West was Won. The AGE November 12, 2009
Friends of the McKay Memorial Gardens