25 August 2022

Delisted heritage shearing shed finds educational future as a playground

| Claire Fenwicke
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Googong’s link to its agricultural past will be preserved as part of a future playground. Photo: QPRC.

It may have been stripped of its heritage status, but a piece of farming history will be preserved for the growing town of Googong.

Future development plans for the town’s footprint showed it will envelop the land currently home to the heritage-listed ”Shearing Shed Complex”.

But instead of being demolished, the shearing shed will be moved and turned into an interactive and educational playground.

Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council (QPRC) councillors unanimously resolved to have its heritage status removed and secured the shed’s future at a recent meeting.

“It’s sad to see anything removed from the local heritage list, but in the circumstances this proposal seems to be the best outcome,” Councillor Katrina Willis said.

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The Shearing Shed Complex was originally listed as a local heritage item under the Queanbeyan Local Environmental Plan 2012, which was informed by a 2003 Heritage Study.

According to council reports, at the time the shed and a number of external structures were largely intact and included the shearing shed, a shearers’ quarters, kitchen/cottage, meat safe, sheep shelter and shed.

However, the shearers’ quarters and kitchen/cottage were destroyed by fire in September 2007, and the sheep shelter and shed were demolished as part of an approved development in 2015.

The previously heritage-listed shearing shed and surrounding structures will be adapted in the town’s future development. Photo: QPRC.

In 2021, then-Heritage Adviser Pip Giovanelli reported the loss of these structures, as well as the future development, meant the “context” of the area had also been “compromised”.

“While the overall shearing complex has lost its integrity, the shearing shed itself has some heritage value, although to some extent this too has been compromised by modifications,” Mr Giovanelli said.

“Its materials of corrugated galvanised iron and rough-sawn Australian hardwood epitomise the vernacular of the rural built environment and provide a tangible link to the past, even though the building only dates to the 1950s.”

As a result, the site fell “below the threshold” for what would usually be required for a site to be a local heritage item.

“[But] because of its fabric and form, the shearing shed has the potential to provide a historic and aesthetic ”sense of place” for new and future residents of Googong,” Mr Giovanelli said.

It was originally suggested elements of the shed be relocated to a nearby sports field as a viewing or recreational centre.

However, a more recent report proposed it be relocated to the south of the town and reconstructed as an “interpretive centre” as part of a future regional playground.

The new playground would incorporate the shearing shed as an interactive and educational site. Photo: QPRC.

Googong project director Malcolm Leslie said this decision had been made after researching how other shearing sheds across NSW had been adapted for new purposes.

“The vision for the township is a new beginning, where incorporating local heritage and history forms part of the unique landscape and helps create a sense of belonging for Googonians,” Mr Leslie said.

“Our plans for the redeveloped shearing shed will enable people to learn about Googong’s history in an engaging and interactive way for all ages once complete.”

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This proposal would see the shed dismantled and components used to create a shearing shed-themed play area that would allow the building to be part of the council’s playground assets, which meant it could be regularly inspected and maintained.

The regional playground’s proposal was yet to be provided to the council under the Googong Urban Development Planning Agreement.

The concept plan showed the shed would be adapted to include a sandpit area, climbing play and slides. It would be surrounded by nature play areas, a water tower structure, sheep pin maze, sculptural wool bag seating and play tractor parts.

It would be located next to a larger area that has been reserved for conservation purposes in the town’s south.

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There you go again. Australian heritage policy by neglect and greed. Progressively make sure things get smaller in profile, leave to fall over, allow developers in and then say its too far gone to save. Well done to the people in charge.

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