The smell of Vegemite recognised for heritage value

The smell of Vegemite recognised for heritage value

By David Schout

Drivers passing over the Westgate Bridge will know the aroma well.

And now, the City of Melbourne has agreed the smell of Vegemite had “intangible cultural heritage”.

As part a move to protect heritage in Fishermans Bend, council management agreed with the National Trust of Australia (Victoria) that the distinct aroma from the former Kraft Factory in Port Melbourne should be recognised.

“If [the] manufacture of Vegemite were to cease at the site in the future, it is important that the distinctive smell should remain a recognised part of the site’s history that could be referenced in any future historical interpretation,” it said.

According to the National Trust, the smell of Australia’s most iconic spread was “an excellent example of intangible cultural heritage and allows the purpose of the building to be understood”.

Now owned by Bega, the factory at 1 Vegemite Way has produced Vegemite since the 1920s.

Earlier this year the factory was among three sites nominated for heritage protection as part of the council’s independent heritage review of Fishermans Bend.

Shed 21 in Docklands and the former SEC Electricity Substation in Port Melbourne were also recognised, as “important reminders of Victoria’s wartime industrialisation and postwar prosperity”.

Public submissions were sought in July, and the National Trust wanted to recognise the “other” sensory qualities of the factory.

In most cases, heritage protection recognised the historical and aesthetic importance of a location.

However, the National Trust noted there were “numerous examples internationally of efforts to recognise and protect” the “sounds and smells” of cultural landscapes.

Council management agreed that the distinctive smell should remain a recognised part of the site’s history

However, it stopped short of adding a new sentence to the site’s “statement of significance”, which was used in future planning decisions of heritage locations.

Council planning chair Cr Nicholas Reece said it was not appropriate to require any future development to respond to the distinctive smell created by the current site.

“While we appreciate the attachment, many people have towards the distinctive smell of the beloved spread that emanates from the Fishermans Bend factory, it is not considered appropriate to tie a smell to the ongoing use of the land,” the Deputy Lord Mayor said.

“Vegemite might be the spread that starts the nation, but it shouldn’t be the smell that stops the future development of Fishermans Bend. We do acknowledge the distinctive smell as a recognised part of the site’s history and we hope the site continues to be a happy little Vegemite for decades to come.”

At the August 17 Future Melbourne Committee meeting, Cr Reece said it was important to recognise and protect the heritage value of Fishermans Bend — Australia’s largest urban renewal project — as the area underwent large-scale renewal.

“Fishermans Bend is indeed an important heritage area for not just the City of Melbourne, but Greater Melbourne and Victoria,” he said.

“It is, of course, the location of Melbourne’s first airport. It’s also the place where aeroplanes were made during World War II and of course, was the location where the first Holden car rolled off the production line. And, to this day, is the place where Australia’s favourite breakfast spread, Vegemite, is made. There are countless stories from Australia’s industrial and working history which are to be found in Fishermans Bend.”

Public submissions will now be referred to an independent panel appointed by Minister for Planning •

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