Tomorrow might be Remembrance Day, but that won’t save a World War II bunker discovered at a construction site in downtown Brisbane. The bunker is posing problems for contractors on the $220 million Inner Northern Busway development, who have stopped construction on a section of the site while the value of the find is determined.
But questions have asked about how authorities will proceed – will reasonable consideration be given to the historical value of the site? Have Queensland’s heritage laws got the power to protect such a find? Or will the commercial and political interests driving the project bulldoze any such deliberation?
According to a spokesman from the Queensland EPA, the likely outcome is a compromise of sorts – the site will be destroyed, but the posters and any other historically significant material found on site will be preserved, possibly by conservators from the Queensland Museum. He also indicated that further exploration of the area will be undertaken before the excavators are unleashed.
Meanwhile, the Queensland RSL was able to give Crikey some information about the likely history of the bunker. The site was once home to the Roma Street police station which was bulldozed in the 1960s, with the underground structures (built as holding cells and converted to a bomb shelters during World War II) left intact.
Chances are it was not an operational hideaway and was never used for strategic purposes. The images of enemy aircraft covering one of the walls were definitely used to identify enemy fighters, but not by the military – they were put there to reassure civilians sheltering in the bunker that the aircraft flying over Brisbane were friendly.
Further, the major operational bunkers have already been identified and preserved, and as this website shows, Brisbane has a comprehensive network of bomb shelters and military bunkers, some of them open to the public.