The late EC Manfred is likely rolling over in his grave in the wake of last week’s St John’s orphanage fires.
How would the eminent Goulburn architect have felt about his work going up in flames? This once fine building, which housed some 2500 children over the years, was one of his gems.
That hasn’t been the case for some years. Its demolition by neglect has cut at everyone. We can only imagine how the ‘old boys’ of this former orphanage are feeling about their home’s destruction. Many hold great fondness for the facility run by the Sisters of Mercy and the community’s acts of kindness.
- Read more:
- Explosive nights
- ‘Only a matter of time’
- November 6
- Firies mop up after St John’s blaze
- Council acts after St John’s fire
- St John’s orphanage fire in photos
- November 4
- Orphanage burns again | Photos
- St John’s orphanage on fire again
- Orphanage owner lost for words
- Smoking out concerns
- November 3
- Another St John’s fire | Photos
- Doherty laments St John’s fire
- St John’s orphanage on fire
No one was surprised by Thursday’s fire, the second in two weeks. But they were shocked it happened again on Friday. For many it was the last straw.
It was unforgivable that vital firefighting resources costing thousands were soaked up in this effort. Some 100 personnel worked hard to contain both blazes, particularly on Friday night. They deserve every plaudit for a mammoth job and the owner’s gratitude. Police and ambulance were also tied up.
All emergency services were frustrated it had been allowed to happen again. Indeed it was avoidable.
Social media comments were quick to blame the council and its ‘inaction’ against the owner. Part of this is true.
It has been slow to act over the deterioration. Two weeks ago it finally issued an emergency order and spoke to the owner about “development options.” That’s as much as it would say. The council has now acted on public safety grounds following four fires in one year and community outcry.
But councils can’t be blamed for everything. Many people don’t realise the restrictions of planning laws. Councils can only do so much in making owners fulfill their development intentions. That needs to change in State planning legislation, especially when it comes to significant pieces of heritage.
A refundable fund, ensuring that conservation work is completed, is a worthy consideration. So too is an incentive scheme funded by heritage bodies and government.
Owning heritage properties carries a responsibility to the community. They are the heart and soul of towns and cities and when we lose them, it cuts deep. Goulburn has some wonderful properties but we’re also doing a good job of destroying our best asset. We hope at least something can be salvaged from St John’s.