$5.7m heritage gift to city
Friday, 29th January, 2016
By Erica Visser
BHP Billiton might have left 76 years ago, but The Big Australian yesterday showed it hadn’t forgotten its roots.
The head of the mining giant, Andrew Mackenzie, came to the Silver City to present a very generous gift of $5.7 million to mark Broken Hill’s anniversary as the nation’s first heritage city.
The money will be put towards protecting the city’s proud past through archive preservation, as well as the construction of a number of ‘parklets’ at Argent Street intersections.
From Kaolin to Iodide streets, each corner would be adorned by artwork, seating and paving that reflects the mineral-inspired street names.
A crowd of around 200 people cheered upon hearing Mr Mackenzie’s announcement, which was made in the Town Square where the Line of Lode provided a fitting backdrop.
They later celebrated with hundreds of free lamingtons, a sausage sizzle and games of quoits for the kids.
But while the event had a festive feel there was a sense of relief when the formalities wrapped up, particularly from City Council management which had spent months conducting secret negotiations with the company.
Mayor Wincen Cuy stumbled through parts of his speech during which he admitted that nerves had got the better of him and repeatedly mispronounced the company’s name as BHP “bulletin”.
“It’s a little bit of nerves and it’s a little bit of tension and relief that this day has finally come,” the mayor said.
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“...You’d like all your children to grow up, leave home and come back and give you a $5.7 million present, wouldn’t you?”
He added that Council had managed to secure an overall $11 million for the city in less than a year, referring to the $5 million pledged by the State Government towards a Civic Centre overhaul.
Meanwhile, Mr Mackenzie said BHP was “deeply proud” to be part of Broken Hill’s rich history, some of which he took the time to explore on Wednesday evening.
It was the first time a BHP boss had visited the city since 1983, when Chairman James McNeill accompanied the entire board.
Mr Mackenzie said the company would also fund the restoration of the BHP chimney, the last remains of its first office built in 1885, which sits near Proprietary Square.
“I did feel I almost needed to kiss the chimney for good luck,” he said.
“...Broken Hill has a wonderful story to tell. The city has a rare depth of character in part because of its history but also due to its people, who with great strength have endured the hardships of the Australian outback - they proudly embrace their home and believe it has so much to offer.”
It was hoped that the archive and parklet projects, which formed part of Council’s bold ‘Broken Hill Living Museum and Perfect Light’ plan, would boost the city’s tourism and allow it to diversify from mining.
“As Broken Hill evolves beyond its origins as the country’s centre of mining, these projects will help secure the city’s place as one of Australia’s ‘must do’ tourism destinations,” Mr Mackenzie said.
“By tapping into the city’s bold and energetic artistic flair its rich and colourful history will be preserved for generations to come.”
The works were expected to be completed by 2017.