The passing of Neville Wran reminds us of our own brush with that great leader. In preparing a private plan to redevelop the Darling Harbour Goods Yard for a visionary overseas client, we incorporated Pyrmont Bridge as an essential pedestrian link across the bay, replete with retail outlets along its length. This was back in 1982-3.
At that time there was no interest in Darling Harbour, it was an unseen back block full of rusting goods sheds. To our dismay we found the DMR had in fact called tenders for the demolition of the bridge to save ongoing maintenance costs. With one week to go before opening of tenders Darrel and I secured a meeting with the Premier and presented, over his desk, our proposal for Darling Harbour with emphasis on the importance of Pyrmont Bridge as a pedestrian connector.
As a mark of the man, Neville heard us out, then turned immediately to his secretary Gerry Gleeson with an instruction to ‘hold those tenders’. Not only did this bring about the saving of the bridge, it gave rise to Neville appointing an officer of the Premiers Department to look after Darling Harbour. One of his first tasks was to receive and review our client’s proposals for Darling Harbour to include an international hotel, convention centre and theme park. This single appointment was the beginning of the Darling Harbour Authority.
Through a recent visit to the bridge members of staff were in awe of the extraordinary engineering involved in the swing bridge and could not believe that it was once contemplated for demolition.
If only it were possible to save the Hammerhead Crane on Garden Island, an equally significant engineering feat and a landmark structure on Sydney Harbour. If only!