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‘Disturbing’: Entertainment company tours empty heritage-listed precinct

The Herald sent questions to Doltone House on Wednesday but did not receive a response before deadline.

When contacted, Mr Sartor hosed down the company’s interest, saying that, as a profitable enterprise, it was hindered by the legislation put in place when he was in government, but added that he doubted non-government organisations would have the resources to maintain the historic sandstone complex.

President of the Friends of Callan Park, Hall Greenland, outside the Kirkbride complex, which was formerly occupied by the Sydney College of the Arts.

President of the Friends of Callan Park, Hall Greenland, outside the Kirkbride complex, which was formerly occupied by the Sydney College of the Arts.Credit:Dominic Lorrimer

“I don’t think it’s going to work for an NGO, unless it’s one with with major resources, like a school or university,” Mr Sartor said.

“I just think these amazing complexes need upkeep.”

Former NSW Labor Planning Minister Frank Sartor toured the Kirkbride complex with Doltone House head Paul Signorelli last week.

Former NSW Labor Planning Minister Frank Sartor toured the Kirkbride complex with Doltone House head Paul Signorelli last week.Credit:Peter Rae

Doltone House hosts weddings, school formals and corporate functions at its large venues throughout Sydney, including at Hyde Park, Jones Bay Wharf, and Sylvania Waters.

Mr Sartor, a former lord mayor of Sydney, said Mr Signorelli’s attendance on the tour of the grounds “was more a curiosity” than a serious consideration: “I got the distinct impression that it’s a no-go from them.”

Following community backlash, the Labor government backed down in 2008 from a controversial plan to allow Sydney University to build a harbourside campus for 5000 students at Callan Park.

Mr Sartor had announced in Parliament the previous year that the government was in discussions with the university about expanding its presence at Callan Park.

NSW Minister for Water, Property and Housing Melinda Pavey launched the expressions-of-interest process in June, announcing the government was seeking proposals that “activate, energise and celebrate” the heritage of the precinct, which she said was subject to the strongest heritage safeguards in the state.

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When asked if Ms Pavey had invited commercial entities to be part of the process, a department of planning, industry and environment spokesperson said the EOI campaign was an “open market process” that allowed any interested party to put forward their interest in leasing either part or all of the Kirkbride precinct.

“Submissions received in response to the EOI will be assessed with reference to the provisions of the Callan Park (Special Provisions) Act 2002,” the spokesperson said.

But Balmain MP Jamie Parker said it was “simply not believable” that the government would waste time showing the site to commercial companies unless it was considering changing the law.

“The government has been caught shopping Callan Park around,” he said.

“These magnificent buildings have been intentionally reserved for education, health, community and not-for-profit use. If the government is now breaking that promise to the community it would be a colossal betrayal,” he said.

“I’m calling on the Minister to come clean and make a solid commitment that her government won’t touch the Act, now or ever.”

Callan Park has recently come under the oversight of a new government agency also looking after Centennial Park, Moore Park and Parramatta Park, and has also received a $10 million funding injection towards the development of a new landscaping plan, which is now under public consultation.

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