PIECES OF HISTORY: Michael Foley (left), with Beth Jackson and Peter Clarke, has left a lasting legacy through his public art and passion to retain Nambour's sugar heritage.
PIECES OF HISTORY: Michael Foley (left), with Beth Jackson and Peter Clarke, has left a lasting legacy through his public art and passion to retain Nambour's sugar heritage. Che Chapman

Artist's vision a legacy that lives on in Nambour

RETIRED valuer and artist Michael Foley, who died suddenly on October 20, will be remembered as a man whose dedication and vision did much to promote Nambour's heritage as a key sugar industry region.

I first met Michael in 2010. I am a public art curator and Coles had commissioned me to produce a public art opportunity report for its new store development on the old Moreton Sugar Mill site in Nambour.

Michael showed me his model of a sculpture he wanted placed on the site, an assemblage of pieces of machinery salvaged from the sugar mill before its demolition in 2003.

His work, The Mill Tribe, consists of three crushing rollers attached together and adorned with other machinery parts to resemble a father, mother and child.

With the assistance of Sunshine Coast Council, the sculpture was installed at the top of Mill St in November last year.

There is another large sculpture of Michael's also made from mill machinery. This was installed in 2014 in the skate park at the corner of Matthew and Ann Sts.

This work, Top Gear Scrap, features the cast iron reduction gears that once turned the mill's crushing rollers.

For Michael, these sculptures were about the public commemoration of Nambour's heritage and tributes to this region's sugar industry that prospered for more than 100 years.

And Michael's vision was larger than just remembering the mill. He was responsible for securing the listing on the State Heritage Register of the cane train tracks and signals that run down Mill St, across Currie St, and on down Howard St.

He alerted the council to a planned demolition of the caretaker's cottages on the mill site and ensured their local heritage preservation.

Michael was trying to preserve the memorable experience of the cane trains as an abiding signature of place for Nambour.

This vision resulted in another project - a solar-powered tram that could run on the original cane train tracks in town.

A board of directors for a Tramway Company was formed and a monthly Tramfest street festival fundraiser has been held since mid-2015.

Roughly a kilometre in length, the tramway's first stage will link the Coles shopping centre with Aldi, while plans for the second stage will continue the tramway to Nambour Showgrounds.



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