Writer: Michael Evans
Published Date: July 26, 2017
Source: Sydney Morning Herald
Australia Post has confirmed the sale of one of Australia’s most significant heritage buildings, the Sydney GPO, to two Singaporean billionaires, despite an outcry over heritage concerns and a secretive sales process.
The sale stands as one of the last acts of outgoing Australia Post boss Ahmed Fahour who leaves the organisation on Friday, delivering a $150 million bump to the organisation’s
Sydney GPO has been sold in a secretive deal for $150 million. Photo: Wolter Peeters
Australia Post said Mr Fahour would not benefit from the sale, including from bonuses.
“Mr Fahour’s compensation for FY2016/17 is unaffected by the sale of the GPO. His one month of employment in the new financial year (FY17/18) does not have a bonus attached to it,” Australia Post said in a statement.
The department of Energy and Environment signed off on the final heritage aspect of the sale this week.
Australia Post sought to placate heritage concerns on Wednesday in the wake of the backlash, saying it will now seek National Heritage listing for the newly sold GPO in recognition of its historical importance and to reinforce existing heritage protections.
It said an “updated heritage management plan” had been included as part of the sale.
One of the original heritage architects, Clive Lucas, had condemned the sale, as had Lord Mayor Clover Moore. Neither was available to comment yesterday.
Fairfax Media revealed in May Australia Post planned to sell the building to Robert and Phillip Ng in a secretive deal, despite concerns raised in a heritage report it commissioned last year and never made public.
Australia Post sold the property to Singaporean international property developer Far East, controlled by the Ng brothers, in March for $150 million. It never announced the deal.
Fairfax revealed that Far East has plans for new multi-level retail shops that raise questions over use of existing open space and protection of heritage elements.
A heritage report commissioned by Australia Post in April last year from Lucas Stapleton & Johnson, the original heritage architects for the redevelopment of the 1 Martin Place complex in 1999, that stresses the benefits of keeping the GPO in Australian ownership.
The report warned: “The sale or alienation of the place is considered to be very undesirable.
“Very substantial loss of significance may occur should any part of the place be sold or otherwise alienated from Australian ownership. Alternatives to any proposed alienation should be vigorously investigated and should alienation proceed, a high level of mitigation is appropriate,” the report says.
Fairfax revealed concerns about the sales process. Last year, Australia Post announced it was putting all seven state GPOs around the country up for sale. It planned to sell-off 60 per cent into an Australian-controlled trust and would keep 40 per cent ownership. Advisers were appointed, public consultation called for. But later in the year that plan was mysteriously scuttled.
It was the last anyone heard of a planned asset sale until an article appeared in the commercial property pages of The Australian newspaper in early May, flagging a standalone sale of the Sydney GPO. With no public consultation, Australia Post had suddenly agreed to sell the site.
Mrs Ai Lian Fang, Chairperson of Far East’s Australia properties executive committee said Sydney GPO would be a marvellous addition to the National Heritage List.
“We are deeply respectful of the Sydney GPO’s historical significance to Australians. We are fully committed to operating the property in a way that will honour its rich heritage,” she said.