Upgrade works in the Deniliquin Waring Gardens have been temporarily suspended.
Work was stopped on Tuesday afternoon after confirmation the gardens are in fact a state heritage item.
Council interim general manager John Rayner said even after recent heritage reviews relating to the project — particularly in reference to the now partially removed low brick fence — council was only aware of certain structures in the gardens being officially listed on the register.
New information presented to the council this week confirms the gardens themselves were made subject to a Permanent Conservation Order (later becoming the State Heritage Register) in 1981.
The council team has found no formal reference to the listing in council documentation from the time, but continues to search all records to ‘‘obtain and understanding of how the order came about’’.
Mr Rayner said council is now working with Heritage NSW, who will come to Deniliquin to conduct their own assessment, in an effort to return to the project as soon as possible.
‘‘For many years, 40 years in fact, the former Deniliquin Council and its heritage advisors were of the opinion that while the St Paul’s Church and hall were heritage listed, the gardens themselves were local,’’ Mr Rayner said.
‘‘That is the understanding of all the staff we have spoken to.
‘‘Council has had the same heritage advisor for the last 15 years, who also believed the gardens were a local item and not state.
‘‘It is only when you drill down further on the public listing for the church and hall, by clicking on a lot number, the actual description shows that area (the gardens) is state heritage.’’
While Mr Rayner said council was only advised of the official listing this week, concerns relating to the heritage value of the gardens were raised publicly by former Deniliquin mayor Brian Mitsch earlier this month.
In response to the debate on the brick wall, Mr Mitsch approached the tfBannersc Pastoral Timestf$f with a copy of a heritage register dated 2008 he feared has been ‘‘forgotten’’ by the council.
The document — a State Heritage Inventory document — listed the Waring Gardens, its bandstand and ‘‘other surrounds’’.
Mr Rayner said this did not arise in thorough development application processes conducted to date, and that the listing only surfaced this week when advice was sought about concreting around the heritage listed Multi Arts Centre.
‘‘In the recent development application process which included the removal of part of the wall, council sought advice from its heritage consultant and relied on the independent assessment of the application believing we were, at all times, following all development and heritage requirements,’’ he said.
Since 1981 numerous activities have been undertaken at the Waring Gardens including the construction of the children’s playground, public toilets, pathways, demolition of the aviary and erection of monuments, potentially without proper consent.
‘‘It has been unintentional over a number of decades,’’ Mr Rayner said.
‘‘The position we are in is regrettable, but we will work with Heritage New South Wales to obtain the necessary approvals so the project can recommence.’’
The Waring Gardens upgrades are being undertaken by Quarrell Civil Construction, who are also completing the Cressy St road upgrades. Roadworks will continue while the gardens project is halted.
The Waring Gardens work include the creation of a promenade entrance off Cressy St; the replacement of the existing bridge over the lagoon; upgrades to the amenities and playground; retraining the wisteria to grow away from the fountain; the addition of arbours to the Cressy St side of the garden; and the replacement of a dead Lone Pine tree.