The fight for Sydney’s modern architectural heritage, plus New Zealand’s total war on non-native species.
A battle has been brewing in Sydney’s oldest neighbourhood, The Rocks, over an apartment complex from the 1980s. Known as the Sirius, the building – an uneven pile of concrete blocks that boasts uninterrupted views of Sydney Harbour and the Opera House – is the only high-rise development in the area and was created as public housing for low-income families who ended up displaced when the area was being redeveloped. It was designed by architect Tao Gofers in the brutalist style, although it would have been painted white if the budget hadn’t dried up.
Now the future of the Sirius is in doubt. The Heritage Council and prominent architects have called for it to be preserved for its social and architectural value but since last year the New South Wales government has moved all but a few of the residents to other housing in the city (somewhat ironic, given its original purpose) so that the building can be sold to developers. Dominic Perrottet, minister for finance, services and property, says selling the property would result in a au$100m (€69m) windfall that could subsequently be put towards paying for new public housing in other areas of the state capital.
Shaun Carter, who is the president of the Australian Institute of Architects’ New South Wales chapter, believes that there are ways to fund the Sirius while maintaining some units as low-income housing. But Sydney officials have studiously ignored his suggestions; proposals to add the building to a heritage list have so far gone unheeded.
The lack of a listing only increases the chances of the building being demolished says Carter, who is also chairman of the Save Our Sirius Foundation. “The city’s cultural fabric is being disregarded,” he says. “If Sydney keeps erasing itself every 30 years then what character can it possibly develop? How are we supposed to grow our culture?”
In Australia polls show that roughly 60 per cent of the populace favours same-sex marriage; nearly 80 per cent of young voters support the idea. Yet no government has managed to make it happen.
Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull – though he seems to support same-sex marriage – has indicated that a proposed plebiscite on the issue may not be held until 2017, claiming that a jammed parliamentary schedule is holding up the necessary legislation. Yet the opposition Labor party, which is in favour of marriage equality, is against a referendum. It would prefer to see reform enacted by parliament than by a potentially divisive one-off public vote.
When camels were first imported to Australia in the mid-19th century they were perfect for exploring the country’s dry outback. But since being released into the wild decades ago their numbers have exploded, with an estimated 300,000 roaming free. In central Australia camels have been blamed for trampling fences and competing with cattle for water. Some state governments have tried to carry out culls but entrepreneurs have hit on another solution: domesticate the camels and bottle their milk. It has a flavour that’s similar to, but slightly saltier than, cow’s milk.
In the Federated States of Micronesia, fishing-licence fees contributed to 65 per cent of government revenue last fiscal year. That could rise to 74 per cent this year – time for a sustainable fisheries policy?
New Zealand prime minister John Key has called it the most ambitious conservation project in the world: a plan to eradicate non-native stoats, rats, ferrets, weasels and possums by 2050. With 25 million birds killed by non-native mammals, the programme could save the country’s most endangered indigenous wildlife.
It would also benefit the farming and forestry sectors, where possums and rats are blamed for spreading disease and eating crops, causing nz$13bn (€8.5bn) losses annually. The government is investing nz$28m (€18m) in new company Predator Free New Zealand but is also hoping for investments and contributions from the private sector in the form of new technology and research.