Sydney foreshore development faces battle of Anzac Cove

In the shadow of the Anzac Bridge there stands a small reminder of how Sydney came into being.

The Pyrmont Heritage Boating Club is a living link to the colony’s maritime history, refurbishing wooden boats and teaching disappearing boatbuilding skills to the unemployed.

The charity has just provided a whaling vessel to be used in a film version of The Secret River, Kate Grenville's story of the first settlers on the Hawkesbury River, which was also adapted for stage and produced by the Sydney Theatre Company last year.

Under refurbishment, and with daylight visible through its stripped hull, is the wooden sailing vessel Tam O’Shanter, which competed in an early Sydney to Hobart race.

But the club on Bank Street overlooking Blackwattle Bay is under threat, due to the sweeping harbourfront redevelopment plans announced last week.

The proposal is to develop 80 hectares of prized public real estate at Blackwattle Bay including Sydney Fish Markets (adjacent to the club) as well as Rozelle Bay, Rozelle Rail Yards and White Powder Bay Power Station.


The area where the club keeps its boats is nicknamed Anzac Cove because it is right under Anzac Bridge.

Club secretary Michael Bolton-Hall said: "The ghosts of Gallipoli are protecting us for sure. We have hung in here for some time in fairly harsh conditions. The local community really love us and we keep our youth programmes going for Work for the Dole - but what is looming is a new battle of Anzac Cove.

“I see articles all the time in the maritime magazines about how Sydney is losing these early boatbuilding skills. That’s why the Pyrmont Heritage Boat Club was instigated in 2005. It’s about getting young people involved in heritage and culture.

Mr Bolton-Hall said they had been on the land, which is owned by Roads and Maritime Services, for five years. 

"The people who come here get a hell of a lot out of it. They may be getting over some illness and it helps them rejuvenate. Give some space to the people who have been here for some time so they can carry on their good works."

Dan, who prefers not to give his second name, is unemployed and attends two days a week as part of the Work for the Dole program.

"I have been through a bit of a tough time and this is something that is helping me regain my confidence," he said. "The work we just finished on the whaling boat [that] we sent down to the ABC in Melbourne for The Secret River was a great project and we are part of it.

"This is a community club. You look around Ultimo and Pyrmont and there's lots of people living here but there doesn't seem to be much of a community."