FEARS are mounting once more for Wearside’s most historic ship after a fresh funding row.
An Australian team was given the go-ahead last year to take the Wear-built City of Adelaide to her namesake city Down Under.
Preparation work has already begun, but a question mark now hangs over the project after Australian Culture Minister John Hill said his Government would not fund the project.
Mr Hill reportedly said in a letter to his Scottish counterpart Fiona Hyslop: “This is a private venture and the South Australian Government cannot be considered to be a partner in this undertaking.
“As you can imagine, South Australia already has a rich collection of heritage projects that merit funding.
“These include several historic vessels and they leave the South Australian Government unable to provide funding to the City of Adelaide, either now or in the future.”
Mr Hill also said he needed guarantees that Clipper Ship City of Adelaide Ltd had enough money to restore the vessel before allowing it a permanent berth on the city’s quayside.
Ms Hyslop approved the Australian plan as the most “viable” last year, choosing it over a bid by the Sunderland City of Adelaide Recovery Foundation (Scarf).
Scarf had wanted to bring the 150-year-old clipper ship back to her birthplace on the Wear to stand as a monument to Sunderland’s ship building and maritime heritage.
Scarf had set out plans to make the ship a visitor attraction, employing apprentices to help restore the vessel and using it to help boost the city’s economy.
Consultants DTZ were hired by Historic Scotland to look at options for the ship, which is owned by the Scottish Maritime Museum, and the review found the Australian option to be the most viable.
Peter Maddison, chairman of the Scarf, said his team was still determined to bring the ship home.
Speaking after hearing of Mr Hill’s letter, he said: “This is devastating news for the South Australian campaign and also very worrying for us because our greatest fear is that it would have to be broken up.
“The Australians were only the preferred bidders and Scarf are stronger and more able to recover the ship now than we were this time last year.”
The City of Adelaide, later known as the Carrick, is a forerunner of the Cutty Sark. It sits on a rented slipway in Irvine on the west coast of Scotland.
She was originally scheduled to be demolished as the museum can no longer afford to keep her, and the owner of the slip wants the land back for redevelopment.
Trustees said funding to restore the ship had dried up, and they had no choice but to press ahead with a “scientific deconstruction” project.