UTS student completing a Masters in Advanced Journalism. Areas of interest include style, subculture, education and community action.
The protest is over and the Opera House sails remain pearly white but Sydneysiders are speculating about the fallout from this week's "billboard" stoush.
Thousands gathered at the Opera House forecourt on Tuesday night to protest the NSW Government's decision to allow the barrier draw for Racing NSW's The Everest Cup to be projected onto the building's iconic sails.
The six minute projection of the live barrier draw was pushed forward to 7:30 in an attempt to discourage protesters with organisers citing security concerns.
However, around 2000 protesters showed up, shining heavy duty torches from the Opera House’s forecourt onto the surface of the sails to disrupt the projected images.
The horse race, only in its second year, was thrust into the limelight when broadcaster Alan Jones publicly berated Opera House CEO Louise Herron for objecting to the barrier draw for the race, and the trophy, being projected onto the sails as part of a promotion for the race.
Jones called for Ms Herron to be sacked and said on air he would call Premier Gladys Berejiklian personally to intervene.
While Ms Berejikilian insists the decision to go ahead with the promotion had already been made, her decision to overrule Ms Herron was seen by some as capitulation to Jones who was accused of bullying.
With swift social media backlash and more than 300,000 signatures gathered on a petition to defend the Opera House against commercialization, the bitter row could reverberate through to next year's March election
Protesters say that the UNESCO World Heritage listed building shouldn't be used for commercial advertising. They also opposed what they saw as a promotion of the gambling industry.
Cameraman Nick Alexander was one of the protesters.
“I came here because I feel like the image of the opera house, which is an iconic world heritage site and is something for everyone has been bought and has been cheapened. So I wanted to shine a light on it,” he said.
Mr Alexander who had brought along a large lamp on a tripod was confronted by police and asked to pack it up, police stating that he had to have a permit to set up commercial equipment.
“... I didn’t have permission to use commercial equipment here, but what I was using anyone can buy off the shelf,” Mr Alexander said. “It just happens to be something I own and I brought it down to just point a light at a wall.”
“I believe it’s a really passive way of making a point.”
“My light would have done very little, but hopefully a lot of lights will make an impact and I would have been part of it.”
As the projection began the crowd booed, and light from the protesters’ torches distorted the projected images.
Research group The Australia Institute believes Tuesday night’s display and similar promotional projections may be unlawful due to the buildings’ national heritage recognition.
“Heritage listing exists for a reason – to constrain what activities can be taken that might effect a Heritage site’s values. The NSW Premier and the Federal Environment Minister should be ensuring that the law is upheld,” according to executive director Ben Oquist.
“Our national heritage is not being treated with the respect it deserves. From the Burrup Peninsula rock art to the Sydney Opera House we need better funding and stronger law enforcement.”
The Australia Institute wrote to Ms. Berejiklian and Federal Environment Minister Melissa Price requesting that all legal requirements under Commonwealth environmental law are met before the Opera House is used in any future visual promotions.
Early Tuesday morning a petition of more than 230,000 signatures opposing the projection was delivered to the NSW parliament. The online petition has now been signed by more than 300,000 people.
Prime minister Scott Morrison was in favour of the NSW Government’s decision, calling the Opera House the “biggest billboard in the city”.
NSW opposition leader Luke Foley also agreed with the decision, telling the ABC, “what's being proposed here is, I think, reasonable."
"I didn't hear an outcry when the sails were lit up to promote the Mardi Gras or Ashes cricket."
The Everest Cup, billed as the world's richest horse race, is being run at Randwick racecourse this Saturday. Racing NSW believes the event will bring tourists to Sydney and boost its profile.