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Concerns about plans for old ASOPA / ITI site

Middle Head Café
Middle Head Café


NOOSA – Sydney’s Harbour Trust has just released its draft master plan for the Middle Head site in Mosman that was once home to the Australian School of Pacific Administration (ASOPA) and the International Training Institute (ITI).

Both establishments played a significant role in the development of Papua New Guinea – ASOPA, best known for training patrol officers (kiaps) and education officers, and ITI for its short (three month) courses for middle managers from developing countries.

The Middle Head precinct comprises heritage assets, including military and colonial buildings, evidence of Indigenous occupation, natural environmental values and facilities for social and community activities.

Click here to be directed to the draft master plan

The Headland Preservation Group, a voluntary community enterprise, is reviewing the draft master plan in detail. Don't be intimidated by the length of the document. Chapter 4 of the draft master plan contains the most important information.

In the Sydney Morning Herald (14 March 2023), journalist Michael Koziol wrote:

"A draft master plan released on Tuesday proposes to demolish several derelict dormitory buildings at the former military site (at Middle Head) and reconfigure or resurface the concrete car parks to open up the site for community festivals, sporting events, concerts and conferences."

Read the complete article here

The Headland Preservation Group has some initial concerns regarding the draft plan.

  1. Events

How many and what type of events can Middle Head sustain? The plan proposes medium-sized events for between 500 - 2,000 people each day. This is more than current traffic volumes.

Middle Head is at the end of a peninsula with one road access through a residential area with minimal public transport.

The site will only provide 321 car spaces. Traffic chaos surely looms as a significant issue.

  1. Demolition of Barracks

The Sydney Morning Herald article describes the 'derelict dormitory buildings' (better known as the Barracks) as having no heritage value. It is important to set the record straight.

Built in the 1950s, the Barracks are the only remaining examples of this type of two-storey construction in Australia.

The Barracks military quarters were continuously occupied until 1998, including in 1963 by the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam, the first specialist training team and military contingent from Australia to enter the Vietnam War.

The Harbour Trust's Conservation Management Plan 2007 rated these Barracks as possessing heritage value ranked as moderate.

Over the past 20 years, the Barracks have been subjected to demolition by neglect and are now marked for certain demolition.

It is important that at least one Barracks building be restored to tell the story of the various regiments which occupied them.

The Barracks form part of the Middle Head Military Village and should be retained for interpretative purposes, be adaptively re-used by veterans and perhaps provide overnight accommodation for people making the 80 km walk from Bondi to Manly.

  1. New buildings

The draft plan proposes demolishing the existing sports facility at Middle Head Oval and constructing a new sports pavilion on the eastern side of the oval.

The statutory plan covering this precinct only provides for "improvements and additions" to sporting facilities at Middle Head Oval. It does not reference the construction of new buildings in the Middle Head precinct.

The Headland Preservation Group considers that a new pavilion in this important heritage precinct would damage its heritage values irreparably.

Harbour Trust information sessions

The Harbour Trust is hosting two drop-in sessions to answer questions about the draft master plan:

Session 1: Tuesday 21 March 2023, 3pm-6.30pm at 1110 Middle Head Road, Mosman NSW 2088

Session 2: Saturday 1 April 2023, 10am-2pm at Mosman Junction (near St George Bank), Military Road, Mosman NSW 2088

Middle Head Café

The Harbour Trust has advised the Middle Head Café lessees, Dany and Christelle, that their café is to be demolished to make way for the relocation of sporting facilities at Middle Head Oval.

The café occupies the former Guard House to the Middle Head Military Village.

The Headland Preservation Group understands that Middle Head Café has operated successfully for over ten years and is very popular with the community.

The recently published Middle Head Master Plan states that “the draft master plan proposes examination of the guardhouse building and associated café function” and proposes to relocate the changing facilities at Middle Head Oval to this location.

The café will likely be demolished and relocated within the proposed sporting facility or the proposed interpretation centre.

In either instance, it is unlikely that Dany and Christelle will be able to continue as lessees of the existing Middle Head Café.

Dany and Christelle are very concerned that their tenure could be terminated at any time.

Over the past four weeks well over 1,500 members of the community have signed a petition to retain the café in its current location. The Headland Preservation Group supports retaining the Guard House and its existing use as a café.


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Philip Fitzpatrick

My memory of ASOPA is a bunch of crappy old buildings and tired old lecturers.

I can't recall anything particularly useful that I learnt there.

Kwikila, on the other hand was a revelation.

My advice, bulldoze the lot and put up something worthwhile.

Paul Oates

So the proposed plan to redevelop Middle Head has been released. At first glance. it looks like how to re-engineer Middle Head’s history.

The process has apparently become a report designer’s delight while, at the same time, dismissing contemporary history with platitudes, verbiage and a reinterpretation of local viewpoints.

For example, the last line of page 22 of 78 has a small passing reference to ASOPA, e.g. "No other institution quite like it in the world".

Good luck wading through this epistle. Whoever of the 'public' will ever actually read, let alone understand and comment on this process is anyone's guess.

Also, wait till the local authorities and developers get involved in a government/private enterprise scheme with details that are legally withheld from the taxpaying public under 'Commercial in Confidence' provisions.

I didn’t catch from where the required funding was to be forthcoming to portray this new example of 'progressive' thinking. Perhaps that's the first of many 'catches'?

The newspaper article suggests the plan will ‘inject new life’ into the area. Clearly, whatever happened to the historical 'old life' at the site will now be viewed through a variety of different coloured lenses.

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