City planners have been accused of commemorating too many “white people” in the naming of streets and squares.
But a plan to rename a Sydney square — which currently pays homage to controversial French war ruler Napoleon Bonaparte — has been criticized for being unnecessary and a waste of thousands of dollars of taxpayers money.
Far from the new name distancing itself from the French leader, it will now commemorate one of the emperor’s soldiers.
Napoleon Plaza, which lies at the centre of a new $306 million commuter walkway in Sydney’s CBD, was only given its Gallic themed name a few months ago.
At the time the City of Sydney gave “in principle support” to a proposal from Transport for NSW to use the imperial name and signage in the area and online already says Napoleon Plaza.
But Napoleon Plaza is to be no more after the city council received just a handful of complaints.
One submission claimed “there are too many places in the city named after white people”, reported the Daily Telegraph.
Another complainant said naming the square — which lies beneath a skyscraper and a motorway — after a centuries old Emperor, lends “credibility to the perception of Australians as cultural yobs”.
Under Napoleon’s rule in the 19th Century, France’s power dramatically increased as the country invaded much of western Europe. Captured by British forces, he died in exile on a remote Atlantic island in 1821.
The change of name to Girard Place, commemorating Francis Girard who fought in Napoleon’s army, will reportedly cost $6000.
Christine Forster, a Liberal councillor on City of Sydney council, told news.com.au she was bemused by the sudden name change. “I would have preferred to have it remain Napoleon Plaza. There was no justification in the change of name,” she said. “It’s pretty unnecessary if you ask me.”
The council received 15 submissions on the name, 12 in favor of changing the name from Napoleon Plaza and three against. A City of Sydney spokesman told news.com.au naming the plaza after Francis Girard, who set up a flour mill in the area would, “reflect the colonial and industrial history of the site”.
“Following Napoleon’s defeat in 1815, Girard left France and migrated to England, but was convicted for theft. As a result, he was sent to Sydney,” he said. “Girard substantially developed the original foreshore of Cockle Bay wharf and is considered one of Sydney’s earliest business success stories.”
The city would not be drawn on whether it or Transport for NSW would be billed for the cost of changing the signage.
There were no plans to change the name of nearby Napoleon St.
An indigenous name had not been considered for the plaza due to the lack of a direct connection in that immediate area with Aboriginal culture.
Napoleon Plaza takes commuters from Wynyard station to the new business hub of Barangaroo.
This area was originally known as East Darling Harbour but was renamed in 2008 to mark the life of Barangaroo, an Aboriginal woman who was the second wife of Bennelong who worked as a go-between between indigenous people in the area and British colonialists.
Sydney has a number of suburbs with French names including La Perouse, Vaucluse and Kurnell, most of which are on the coast.
Sans Souci, a suburb on Botany Bay, where Captain Cook first landed in Sydney, is a French term meaning “without care”.
Image via Flickr/Sacha Hernandez
This article was originally published on news.com.au