Mid-West councils reject heritage listing Geraldton-Northampton railway

Edward ScownGeraldton Guardian
City of Greater Geraldton Mayor Shane Van Styn outside the old Railway Station building on Marine Terrace.
Camera IconCity of Greater Geraldton Mayor Shane Van Styn outside the old Railway Station building on Marine Terrace. Credit: Elise Van Aken

A proposal to heritage list the Geraldton-Northampton railway — all 50km of it — has been opposed by three local Mid West governments amid concerns it has the potential to thwart “all development” in the earmarked zones.

The Heritage Council of WA opened submissions on July 23, calling for public comment before a recommendation is sent to Heritage Minister David Templeman.

The City of Greater Geraldton and shires of Northampton and Chapman Valley have objected to the plan.

Some modern developments would be caught up in the plan.

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A stretch of Marine Terrace, from the original railway station to the intersection with Forrest Street, is considered a zone of significance, as is the foreshore along Chapman Road, stretching to St Lawrence’s Primary School, where the access road to the rear carpark is considered of primary significance.

City of Greater Geraldton Mayor Shane Van Styn said the plan would “stifle all development” on the town’s cafe and retail strip.

“Some person in a box comes up with a harebrained idea ... it’s absurd,” he said.

The Geraldton-Northampton route began construction in 1874, and was the first government railway in WA.

It hasn’t operated since its closure in 1957, and work began on dismantling the tracks in 1961.

The track is a ribbon of cuttings and bridges, some of which are already considered heritage sites by both the heritage and local councils, including Waggrakine Cutting, Yetna Railway Bridge, and Geraldton Station. The proposal seeks to list these, and the land between them, as a single heritage site.

The Heritage Council’s statement of significance says: “The place contributes to the cultural landscape of the area with its undulating and sometimes dramatic formations and cuttings, extant somewhat ghostly railway signs, and ruinous stone bridges.”

Chapman Valley Shire president Anthony Farrell said there was very little significance to the site.

“If it was a bridge or a siding or something, sure ... but to list the whole thing is, in our view, ridiculous,” he said, after his council unanimously voted to oppose it.

“It’s not like you’re going to rebuild the railway on it, and have it as a tourist railway or something.”

The WA Heritage Council was approached for comment.

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