Gulgong, and indeed the whole shire, has recently lost a good friend.
Many current residents would be unaware of the early days to save Gulgong's unique architectural character. Peru's contribution towards this is an important part of the town's history, and of its development and presentation as a townscape of rare quality evolved from important historic and social events of Australia's past.
Indeed, Peru Perumal, a highly regarded and much respected Sydney architect, was an inspiration for, an active participant in, and a major influence on the conservation, enhancement and promotion of the historic precincts of the Mid-Western Regional Council (formerly Cudgegong and Mudgee Shire Councils) for over 40 years.
In the early 1970's, the National Trust (NSW) was very much aware of Gulgong's special architectural and historic significance. It was also fearful for its future if measures were not taken to arrest trends that were current at the time.
And so it was, into this atmosphere of uncertainty, that Peru (along with Tony Strachan) came to Gulgong, in a voluntary capacity, as a member of the National Trust's Urban Conservation Committee to carry out a preliminary investigation into the town's then current and future conservation needs.
A report, Gulgong: Proposed Conservation Area - Classified and Recorded was produced by Peru and presented to a well-attended public meeting in the Prince of Wales Opera House on Friday 12 September, 1975.
Prior to its presentation, an editorial in the Mudgee Guardian referring to this heritage conservation study stated that this plan:
" ... is perhaps the most important document to be tabled in Gulgong, and one that should attract the attention firstly of local citizens, and with continued Shire backing, the State Government itself. Gulgong is singularly fortunate that two dedicated experts should give their time to produce a plan aimed at "stopping the rot", and- preserving what is acknowledged as Gulgong's greatest asset and certainly its greatest tourist attraction the historic character of the town."
(15 July 1975)
Mobilising the community
The release of the report was followed by a series of further public meetings which were held to inform local residents of the national significance of their town, the process whereby its conservation and enhancement could be ensured, and the life style and commercial benefits that would ensue.
An outcome of the very first public meeting was the formation of The Gulgong Conservation Society which played an active role in the promotion of the conservation ideal. With significant input from Peru, a system of bi-annual awards was implemented.
This was a joint venture between the Conservation Society and Mudgee Shire Council. These awards, with a judging panel which included representatives from the Royal Australian Institute of Architects, the National Trust (NSW), and The Heritage Council of NSW, recognised local residents, architects and tradespeople in the areas of building restoration and new building work (including additions) within the town's designated conservation area.
Peru also presented a series of articles in the local media which sought to further explain the concept of conservation, how it applied to the towns, and how best it could be implemented.