THE fate of a historic BHP plaque missing from the walls of the steelworks administration building was raised in NSW parliament on Wednesday by Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp.
As the Newcastle Herald reported in April, a plaque that BHP historian Aub Brooks and others believe to be the missing object was found in the Victoria Hotel at Hinton, where the manager said on Wednesday it still remained.
In April, publican Craig Thorley said he’d bought the plaque at auction and wanted it authenticated by the NSW government’s property department, which owns the BHP building, before he handed it back.
In parliament, Mr Crakanthorp asked Finance Minister Victor Dominello why the plaque had not been returned, given his department had known about the situation for 10 months. He asked whether the police were involved and what action Mr Dominello was taking over the matter. Answers are due by September 11.
Mr Brooks said the plaque needed to be in Newcastle Museum.
“I honestly think there’s been a failure of the duty of care to look after the plaque and with the administration now fenced closed and out of bounds to the public, the plaque should become part of the museum’s steelworks exhibition,” Mr Brooks, a third-generation BHP steelworks employee, said on Wednesday.
The plaque marks the official opening of the steelworks on June 2, 1915.
The administration centre’s NSW government heritage listing states that the building was erected in 1921.
Mr Brooks said this meant the plaque probably predated the building.
When the Herald rang the Victoria Hotel on Wednesday the manager said the plaque was still on the wall but she was unable to comment further. Mr Thorley was out of the area and was not available to comment.
After raising the matter in parliament, Mr Crakanthorp said he had raised the question of the plaque as soon as he learned of the situation in April.
“It beggars belief that the community has had to fight so hard to have the plaque returned to its rightful owner!,” Mr Crakanthorp said.
“This is an important part of Newcastle history and the Minister should treat this matter with the respect and urgency it deserves.”