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Establishment of the Trust

Centennial Park, Botanic Gardens and Government Domains were transferred to the administration of the Premier’s Department in 1980, and Centennial Park was given its own administration.

A Board of Advice for Centennial Park was established in July 1980 under the Centenary Celebrations Act 1887.

In 1982 John Mortimer was appointed the first Director of Centennial Park and an independent management unit under the Premier’s Department was established.

The Centennial Park Trust was established in 1983 with the first members appointed a year later.

Announcing the Trust

Instrumental in the establishment of the Centennial Park Trust (later re-named the Centennial Park and Moore Park Trust) was Hon. Neville Wran AC QC (Premier of NSW, 1976-1986). Upon the establishment of the Trust Wran announced:

"Centennial Park is of singular recreational, historical, educational, cultural and environmental significance to the people of New South Wales. The area is no ordinary park and, therefore, like the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain, should be the subject of specific legislation to ensure that it is protected for the enjoyment of future generations of this great State and, indeed, any person visiting it."

A new Federation Pavilion

The plaster pavilion from the Federation Ceremony in 1901 deteriorated rapidly and was removed from the Park in 1903.

In 1904 the Commonwealth Stone which had been housed in the pavilion was placed on a sandstone pedestal surrounded by an iron picket fence. It remained there until the new Federation Pavilion was opened as part of Australia’s Bicentennial celebrations in 1988.

The current Pavilion is circular, representing unity, strength and a united cultural identity of the federated nation. Like the Park in which it sits, the Federation Pavilion is living heritage part of the daily recreational landscape of thousands of Australians.

The mosaic on the interior of the dome, by artist Imants Tillers and recreated by Greg Lipman in 2000, comprises of 1,440 vitreous, enamelled-steel panels which reflect the concept of Federation.

The mosaic’s vast whiteness depicts the emptiness of inland Australia, while the colour spectrum portrays the many colours of our nation’s landscape. Inscribed on a sandstone frieze are the words ‘Mammon or Millennial Eden’ paraphrasing the questions posed in Bernard O’Dowd’s poem Australia:

A new demesne for Mammon to infest?
Or lurks Millennial Eden ‘neath your face?

More challenges

In November 1995 SEPP 47 was created by the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning, changing the zoning of the former showground site from Open Space. This allowed the NSW Government to establish an agreement with Rupert Murdoch’s Twentieth Century Fox for the redevelopment of the showground site, after the Royal Agricultural Society vacated in 1996.

Both the Commonwealth and NSW governments were keen to support the Australian film industry by encouraging the development of local production facilities, with the potential of the showground site having been identified as early as 1992.

The Member for Bligh, Ms Clover Moore, together with other community lobby groups, strongly opposed the government’s action at the time demanding that the land be retained in public ownership, as publicly accessible open space. The Government proceeded with the Fox development comprising film studios and workshops, a Hollywood-style ‘backlot’, and leisure and entertainment facilities which were constructed as part of a new master plan and constructed by Fox Studios Australia with Lend Lease Australia. The land was vested with the Centennial Park and Moore Park Trust which would derive income from the rental arrangements put in place by the Government.

Fox Studios Australia opened in May 1998 following demolition of a number of former Showgrounds buildings. Fox Studios includes eight stages, production offices and workshops. The adjacent precinct offers a retail complex, including shops, cafes and restaurants, lush Parklands, sporting facilities and entertainment venues. The master plan took into consideration the evidence from extensive heritage studies of both the site layout and individual buildings, retaining a number of key elements such as the evidence of the show ring, various axial views and landscape elements, as well as a number of the major landmark buildings. The Showgrounds equestrian pavilions and contiguous land were reconfigured into a separate facility to be owned and operated by the Trust.

The Trust prepared a Plan of Management, a requirement under the Act, in 1998 for the consolidated estate in which it enunciated key values of the Parklands which had emerged from community consultation including:

  • Centennial Parklands are a symbol of the development of the nation

  • Centennial Parklands are a symbol of the development of Sydney

  • Centennial Parklands are a local and regional backyard

The Trust’s view was that it ‘….must balance competing demands regarding the various forms of heritage, for example – it must balance conservation and rehabilitation of the Victorian landscape with the importance of providing for the natural environment…it must balance conservation and rehabilitation of built as well as landscape forms. As well, the Trust must provide for the transmission of cultural heritage while also providing for significant present day celebrations and events which will become part of the cultural heritage of the future.’

Community concern was raised again with the NSW Government’s decision to build the Eastern Distributor Motorway along the western edge of Moore Park in 1996, which required the permanent excision of a 20 metre wide strip of parkland adjoining South Dowling Street.

The Trust negotiated with the government to provide financial compensation for the loss of the land, and for commitments to fund the construction of the bus interchange in Moore Park East servicing the stadiums, as well as full site remediation. These were the stimulus for the preparation of a Moore Park Master Plan that guided the ensuing upgrade of playing fields, construction of paths and gardens, tree planting and installation of new amenities.

The bus interchange and Loop Road were part of the negotiated outcome

The listing of Centennial Parklands on the NSW Heritage Register in 2000 stimulated a focus on the appreciation and conservation of the cultural and natural values of the Parklands. The Trust commissioned the preparation of a Conservation Management Plan in 2002 to guide decision making in relation to indigenous, cultural and natural heritage values.

Recognising the extent of tree decline across the Parklands the Trust separately prepared a Tree Master Plan also based on heritage conservation principles to ensure the ongoing renewal of this key landscape resource. The projections for anticipated tree losses for the next 40 years were a shocking surprise for many, stimulating community interest and debate, and establishing the Trust as a leader in this aspect of contemporary park management.

The reconciliation festival Sea of Hands in 2000 and the Parkfest event in 2001 were held in the Parklands. Centennial Park continues its tradition as a public meeting place and it was at the centre of the Centenary of Federation festivities in January 2001.