Australia Post has announced it will seek national heritage listing for the Sydney GPO building to placate public concern following its sale to the Singapore-based real estate group Far East Organisation and their Hong Kong based sister-development company Sino Land.
The GPO is already listed on the NSW State Heritage Register.
The move comes as Australia Post confirmed it had finalised the sale of the Sydney GPO freehold for a reported value of $150 million to a joint venture between the Far East Organisation/Sino Land. The companies currently hold a 99-year lease on the site and own the adjoining Westin Hotel.
Federal Minister for Environment and Energy, Josh Frydenberg this week notified Australia Post that he accepted the existing Heritage Management Plan attached to the sale, paving the way for the completion of the deal. The Australian reported Minister Frydenberg will not intervene in the sale of the freehold.
Australia Post's General Manager of Property Adam Treffry said the nomination for National Heritage listing will be made jointly and in full cooperation with Far East/Sino Land.
According to the Australia Post press release, Far East/Sino Land have an established track record for the conservation of heritage buildings, including The Fullerton Building in Singapore which was once home to Singapore's GPO.
Originally built in 1928, The Fullerton Building housed the Exchange and offices for the Governor of Singapore and the High Commissioner for the Federation of Malay States.
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In 1997 the building was deemed a historical landmark and placed under conservation. Developers carefully restored the original exteriors and interiors.
"While the existing heritage plan already ensured the protection of the Sydney GPO, National Heritage listing would further reinforce the historical importance of the site to the benefit of future generations," said Treffry.
"National Heritage recognises exceptional natural and cultural places that contribute to Australia's identity. If successful, the building would join other iconic sites including the Australian War Memorial, Sydney Opera House and Bondi beach covered by the highest level of heritage protections in the country.
"From the very outset of this sale process protection of the heritage value of the Sydney GPO has been foremost in our approach."
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.
The planned sale of the Sydney GPO was announced in May, after an extensive expression of interest process in relation to Australia Post's GPO property portfolio, including the Sydney GPO.
That process involved 40 organisations identified to have extensive property experience, including Australian and foreign-owned entities.
Negotiations began with Far East/Sino Land after its response identified the best commercial outcome, while meeting Australia Post's stringent heritage requirements.
An updated Heritage Management plan is attached to the sale to ensure the ongoing protection of the site. Australia Post has complied with all other regulatory requirements concerning heritage protection.
The Sydney GPO sale will free up valuable capital for Australia Post to invest in its people and its services to the community, without any impact on the continued operation of and heritage protections covering the site.
Australia Post has not operated the site since the late 1990s when it handed over management under the terms of the 99-year leasehold. The post office based at the GPO will continue to operate under a sub-lease.