Plans to remove the iconic “Rocket Ship” from Hawthorn’s Central Gardens has been met with strong community opposition, as Boroondara Council moves forward with a playground renewal proposal.
In response to Council’s request for feedback on the planned playground renewal at Central Park, we noted there are significant heritage issues associated with the intended removal of the landmark Rocket Ship climbing apparatus, and we requested that a heritage assessment be undertaken prior to any decisions about modification or removal.
In 2008, the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) commissioned a study of post-war built heritage in Victoria. This study identified built places across Victoria from the post-Second World War period that were considered to be of potential heritage significance at a state level: Heritage Alliance, Survey of Post-War Built Heritage in Victoria: Stage One.
In this study, the Rocket Ship was identified as “a rare (or even unique) surviving example of this distinctive rocket-shaped playground equipment, which was once ubiquitous in the 1970s but is now uncommon…”.
Heritage places must sometimes be adapted to fulfill modern safety requirements. However, given the Rocket Ship’s historic and contemporary significance, any plans to decommission or alter the structure should be informed by a heritage assessment. As a result of feedback from the National Trust and the community, Boroondara Council will now commission an assessment from a heritage consultant to inform future decisions about removal or modification.
Gaps in the identification and protection of post-war places has been identified as a challenge in the Boroondara Heritage Action Plan 2016. In addition to undertaking a heritage assessment for the Rocket Ship, we have strongly urged Council to develop a strategy for the proactive identification and protection of post-war heritage in the municipality, and prioritise this in future gap studies, to ensure that other significant heritage places are appropriately managed, protected and celebrated.