Nowhere else in Australia can claim to have a giant limestone statue of the Roman god of the sea as a city centerpiece.
As you enter Two Rocks, in the far north of the Perth metropolitan area, you will be greeted by the massive, wide-eyed, grinning, bearded face of King Neptune, who of course carries a large trident.
Sitting atop a small hill overlooking the ocean, the 10-meter-tall statue towers over the former site of the Atlantis Marine Park which opened to much fanfare in 1981 but closed nine years later amid financial difficulties from its billionaire developer Alan Bond.
A local treasure
Since then, King Neptune has sat there, eroding, and at one point was covered in graffiti, until the statue was cleaned in 2015, when landowner Adrian Fini shared restoration costs with another promoter.
For locals, King Neptune is a treasure, even immortalized on the emblem of the local Two Rocks Elementary School.
A local group now fears that a proposed $16 million mall development could threaten the pre-eminence of King Neptune and diminish the unique heritage value of the area, which also includes the nearby remnants of the Atlantis Marine Park itself. -same.
What is the heritage value of the king?
Ms Benkendorf said residents feared the proposed location for a Woolworths supermarket would obscure King Neptune.
They want the statue properly appraised for its heritage value.
“[There is a] very strong historical legacy, and that was completely ignored by placing this Woolworths structure right in front of King Neptune,” Ms Benkendorf said.
The group has collected more than 1,000 signatures on a petition, which was tabled in WA Parliament in February by Butler MLA John Quigley, calling on the Heritage Minister to “review and assess the current heritage status of King Neptune”.
Ms Benkendorf said the planned mall development would have a negative impact on the site.
“It sets the tone for the rest of this area, which should be based on a resort tourism economy, but it just becomes a commercial site,” she said.
“The overwhelming public opinion is that the area has heritage value, it also has significant tourism potential.”
The supermarket proposal is currently being assessed by planning authorities.
A Metro Joint Development Appraisal Committee (JDAP) postponed a decision on the placement of the supermarket until early May, as the majority of committee members were not satisfied that the heritage issues had been fully explained.
Improved public access, preserved heritage: developer
Landowner and developer Adrian Fini said King Neptune was an important part of the area’s heritage and a “statue heritage trail” was a key part of the proposed development.
Mr Fini said the amount of open public space around the statue had grown to more than one hectare and would provide the best access in three decades.
‘Woolworths supports the vision of open public space and will be involved in the creation of the statue’s heritage walk,’ he said.
At a recent planning meeting, Michael Jorgensen, representing Brown Falconer Architects, said the overall height of the proposal was below ground level at the base of the statue and would not affect views.
But Ms Benkendorf said it was “disappointing” that the town of Wanneroo had approved a structure plan which allowed for commercial development in the area in the first place.
“The City of Wanneroo did not respond and represent the overwhelming voice of the people here, and they recommended approval of the development application,” she said.
A spokesperson for the town of Wanneroo said the statue of King Neptune was listed in the town’s local heritage survey as a Category 2 site, which was a site of “considerable significance” for heritage of the region.
“The City hopes that the JDAP will consider the heritage aspects of this site in its final decision,” they said.
19 years of waiting
Ms Benkendorf said that over the past 20 years various members of the Two Rocks community have lobbied for a heritage assessment of the statue.
King Neptune has been listed on a National Register of Historic Places, pending heritage assessment, since 2003.
The statue is one of more than 600 heritage places and districts in the WA Heritage Council’s assessment program, which could take several more years to process.
According to a state government spokesperson, only a small number of heritage appraisals could be processed each year, and the Sun City precinct was not scheduled for appraisal by the Heritage Board given the “competing priorities”.
Essence of WA in the 80s
Heritage Minister David Templeman has acknowledged that King Neptune is special.
“The King Neptune statue is an iconic landmark in Perth and is much loved by the Western Australian community,” he said.
“I remember visiting Atlantis Marine Park in the 80s and it was like I had never seen anything else, and I think there are a lot of West Australians who fondly remember their time in Atlantis.
“It’s part of Western Australian history and I’m glad the community actively recognizes that fact and supports its preservation.”
Ms Benkendorf said the Two Rocks Residents Group would continue to push for the area to become a community and tourist destination.
“The coastline along here is absolutely stunning – it’s primed for a fabulous tourist area based on the heritage and setting that already exists,” she said.