Heritage shrugs off listed sign’s neglect

What’s a heritage listing worth? The bureaucrats dodge and weave and refuse to let ‘CityNews’ near the rusting Starlight Drive-in sign at the Fyshwick depot, where it has lain, unrestored and damaged, for more than […]

ACT Heritage Council and the Environment and Sustainable Development Directorate are “not concerned” about the ‘50s heritage-listed Starlight Drive-in sign’s condition, despite it being left uncovered and unprotected in a Fyshwick depot for more than a year.

The Starlight sign as it used to be...

The Starlight sign as it used to be, last year.

In October last year, the 57-year-old neon sign was blown from its rusted plinth into an adjoining field in Watson, and Chief Minister Katy Gallagher acted with a swift pre-election promise to save the damaged sign, ordering it to be taken to the Territory and Municipal Services depot.

A year on and it is no closer to being repaired.

In October 2012, Ms Gallagher said: “The sign is part of our history. It will be restored as history requires it to remain in that spot, so we will have to work out a way to better secure it and keep it safe.”

However, according to a spokesperson for the Environment and Sustainable Development Directorate, the sign is still sitting “face down” and uncovered in the depot, with no plans in place to repair it.

Both Territory and Municipal Services and the Environment and Sustainable Development Directorate declined “CityNews’” request to photograph the sign in its current state.

“The ACT Government does not believe that the sign is at greater risk of deterioration in its current position than if it was standing upright,” the spokesperson says.

“Until it can be reinstated, it is believed that the sign is safer lying down than standing. The sign is, and has always been, in a location where it is exposed to the weather. It is believed that the current location does not put the sign at a greater risk of deterioration than if it was in its original location.”

The spokesperson said the owners of the sign, the Starlight Apartments, had been invited to apply for an emergency heritage grant to assist with the repair last year, but they are yet to receive a formal response.

“The directorate is in direct liaison with Starlight Apartments on this matter… the heritage unit will look at how the sign can be reinstated,” the spokesperson said.

The Starlight Drive-in Theatre was opened in Canberra in 1957 by George Kimlin, as the ACT’s first drive-in theatre. It was also one of the first drive-ins in Australia.

The sign was built in Sydney in 1956 and was the first neon sign in Canberra, used to mark the entry to the drive-in from the Federal Highway.


The Starlight sign being taken to the depot last year.

The Starlight sign being taken to the depot last year.

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