Tourists win over education

Kerri Carr

Developers put first.

Expressions of interest have been called for 99-year leases on the Department of Education and Training's headquarters.

Leases have been offered on the Education building 35-39 Bridge Street, Sydney and the Lands building at 23-33 Bridge Street, Sydney.

Finance and Services Minister Dominic Perrottet wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald (October 16): "The state government houses hundreds of back-office bureaucrats in prime Sydney CBD real estate with stunning harbour views ... In a city with a chronic shortage of hotel rooms this makes little sense. That's why we've decided to accept long-term leases for the sites to be used as high-end boutique hotels, open to the public and to tourists."

Federation President Maurie Mulheron said: "This is the loss of the site that was headquarters of public education for over 100 years. It is a building that stood proud in the centre of the city symbolising the strength and traditions of public education in NSW.

"Once again, in this state, we see the interests of developers put first," he added.

When Federation learned earlier this year the Government had sought registrations of interest to buy the heritage-listed Education building, the union called on Premier Michael Baird to "urgently intervene" in the sale process. Acting General Secretary Sue Simpson asked Mr Baird to "deploy your office and authority" to find a "suitable public purpose for the site and thereby honour the children, the citizens, and NSW heritage that this building represents", but the reply came from a bureaucrat who just noted the union's concern.

In 1990 the Greiner government backed away from its plan to sell the Education building following widespread protests and a candlelight vigil outside the building by parents, teachers, students and public servants.

The Education building houses rolls of honour that list the teachers and educators who served their country in war.