The most poorly thought-out proposal ever?

Is this perhaps the most poorly-thought out proposal that the Adelaide City Council has ever tried to implement?

The Council spent three weeks in late June/early July 2017 pretending to seek your opinion on a secret decision that was made four months earlier to put a commercial helicopter joy-flight business in Bonython Park/ Tulya Wardli (Park 27).

The wording of the Council decision is still “confidential”.  However the project (as described by the sham Council's public consultation documents) would be:

  • Illegal Park Lands leases “for business purposes” are prohibited by law unless they're envisaged in a community land management plan. (Local Government Act 1999 at section 200)  This one isn't.

  • Very Noisy – affecting thousands of rowers, golfers, and tennis players nearby, and almost deafening joggers, cyclists, and pedestrians.  How noisy?   A helicopter's sound levels when 30 metres overhead would be comparable to that of a kitchen food blender (about 90 decibels).  It would be even louder on takeoff and landing.  The Council's own environmental assessment of this site indicates that helicopter noise would exceed acceptable levels even as far away as North Terrace.   They have no idea how bad it would be on the Torrens Linear Path.

  • Delaying commercial flights - Our aviation expert tells us that a helipad in Bonython Park would be “in controlled airspace (Class C) and directly under the ILS (main flight path) to Runway 23 at Adelaide Airport.  Any operation to the proposed helipad would infringe on the aircraft landing sequence at Adelaide Airport”
  • Unnecessary as there are helicopter landing facilities less than 5km away at Adelaide Airport, and other landing pads at the old RAH and New RAH
  • Contrary to the recommendations of an independent expert hired by the Council whose “social and environmental assessment” found two better helipad sites in the City
  • Contrary to the principles of the Adelaide Park Lands Act 2005 which says “activities that may affect the Park Lands should be consistent with maintaining or enhancing the environmental, cultural, recreational and social heritage status of the Park Lands for the benefit of the State”

In addition the Council's public consultation documents were:

  • Ambiguous – because the area to be leased is not defined in the Council's “consultation pack”
  • Incomplete   The consultation documents do not reveal the extent of the “fencing, car parking and supporting infrastructure” that would be required.
  • Misleading – because the documents say that the landing pad would be constructed in 2017-18 but in fact construction is already part-finished   (See photos below).   The fenced, raised earth mound (with flat top) first emerged early in 2017 as a dump for dredged river soil, but while now free of that soil it has been capped with clay and topped with a fresh metal (stone) layer. This ‘change of use’ may, under the Development Act 1993, already constitute
    illegal (not approved) development.

Although the Council has reportedly spent about $870,000 on the works above, this ridiculous project can still be stopped.  “People power” is needed though!   

Don't let them take yet more public Park Lands to hand over to private joy-flight operators.  Although the time for public submissions has passed you can still make your position known by attending the Council meeting when this is debated:   Tuesday 25 July at 6pm.   Maybe you could bring a placard or two, to hold up in the public gallery.  Some suggested slogans:

  • Cut the racket!  No chopper noise in Parks
  • Choppers at the airport, not in Park Lands

Here's APPA's formal submission to the Council:


Government: Public opinion irrelevant - we are still selling old RAH land to developers

4 May 2017:   Despite overwhelming public demand to keep the site public, the State Government has signalled it still intends to sell a large slab of the old RAH site Park Lands to private developers for profit.

The public response was:  “the need to retain as much open, green space as possible and ensure it was available to all members of the public”.

Minister Stephen Mullighan's response was:  "Without a full mix of uses the site won’t support so many people on site and deliver benefits to the East End”

31 Eminent South Aussies urge Park Lands must stay public

Former Chief Justice John Doyle, former Premier Lynn Arnold and Senator Nick Xenophon are among 31 eminent South Australians who have appealed to the State Government not to commercialise or privatise the Adelaide Park Lands.

A who's who of Adelaide's political, academic, heritage, creative and business names have come together to make a united heartfelt appeal to the Weatherill Government.  Those pictured above are only some of the names.  Click below for the full text of the 'Eminent Persons Statement' and the full list of signatories:

More Park Lands lost in 2017 off Frome Road

Immediately after the vandalism of Rundle Park and Rymill Park began in April 2016 (see pictures on this page, below) the State Government announced its next target:   destroying what little remained of the Park Lands along the eastern side of Frome Road.

This is what existed next to the Reid building early in 2017 before Government-authorised chainaws got to work:

Letters from APPA and our supporters to Education Minister Susan Close were disregarded.

The site is now barricaded off, and over the next two years a seven-storey building will be erected on this part of Tainmuntilla (Park 11)

The Government's blatant disregard of the Park Lands has shocked at least one Adelaide City Councillor.

Earlier, APPA lodged a submission with the Adelaide City Council.   Our summary: 

The State Government has not provided convincing information that could be the basis for support for a new high school on the Park Lands. It is a long way from that: there are so many gaps and risks in the proposal as it stands. If the government wishes to pursue this harebrained project, it needs to produce a fully documented justification that addresses at least, the omissions and inadequacies identified in this submission.

Read the full submission here


State Heritage Assessment of Park Lands - tainted

Eight years after APPA asked the State Government to "urgently" consider State Heritage Listing for the Adelaide Park Lands, someone is now, finally, looking seriously at doing just that.

The Park Lands received National Heritage Listing in 2008 so it was a no-brainer (back in 2009) that we would ask the State Heritage Council to consider whether SA should follow the Federal Government's lead and declare that the Park Lands are worthy of "heritage" recognition.

State (and World) Heritage listing of the Park Lands is among APPA's key 'Objectives' in our Constitution.

We're not sure why it's taken so long, but a State "heritage assessment" of the Adelaide Park Lands and City Squares finally began in April 2017.  However, the State Heritage Unit within the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources (DEWNR) has appointed a consultant firm that is beset with multiple conflicts of interest.  

Dash Architects by its own admission, is working to alienate parts of the Park Lands on behalf of several clients.

APPA has called on either DEWNR or the Department's Minister, Ian Hunter, to re-start the process with a consultant that is not being paid to jeopardise any part of the Park Lands.

Our objections were ignored and the process is continuing despite the obvious conflict of interest.  The timeline, to determine whether the Park Lands are entered on the State Heritage Register will now take many months.  There is:

  •     a chance to give your input to a State Government website, via survey and a discussion:
  •     a report from the heritage consultant in August and (if all goes well);
  •     "provisional" listing would follow late this year or early next year.  
  •     Then another three-month period of public consultation would follow before;
  •     the listing could be "confirmed" presumably by late 2018.

The final decision will be made by the ten-member State Heritage Council.

The Old RAH site - a wolf guarding the sheep

"Renewal SA" is the State Government's real estate agency.   In its own words, Renewal SA exists "to facilitate unique development opportunities for the private sector through access to government land holdings."  

That means that it looks upon any vacant, Government land as an opportunity to sell it. 

In 2015 the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption found there was "maladministration" in a 2013 deal in which Renewal SA sold Government land at Gillman without a public tender.

Now, Renewal SA has been named as the agency that will prepare a report on "the action that would be required in order to make [the old RAH site] suitable for public use as park lands."

The Adelaide Park Lands Act 2005 requires the Government to get such a report.   However, documents obtained through a Freedom of Information request by Greens MP, Mark Parnell indicate that the Government has been trying to dodge this responsibility.

Former Minister for the Adelaide Park Lands Act, Ian Hunter last year told APPA that returning the site to Park Lands wouldn't even be considered until after the Government had assessed world-wide commercial interest in the site.    This is APPA's letter, and this is the Minister's reply.   

After being alerted by APPA's inquiries, FOI documents now reveal that Minister Hunter's advisers told him he could safely outsource his duty to get a report on returning the old RAH site to Park Lands.  His advisers told him that the required report could be written by Renewal SA, which is "managing the potential future development of the site".

This is totally twisted.   The report that is required is NOT a report on commercial interest in the site.  The report does not need to compare any commercial use to Park Lands use.   That is not the point of the Adelaide Park Lands Act.   The Adelaide Park Lands Act is not about selling Park Lands, or gauging commercial interest in Park Lands.   It's about protecting Park Lands.

The required report is on one thing, and one thing only:  how might we return the site to Park Lands.  

But the Minister with responsibility for getting this report was asleep at the wheel - ignoring his duty.  Even now, the Government denies it has any responsibility to even look at returning the site to Park Lands.  And where is it getting this advice?   From an agency with a mission to sell Government land!

Renewal SA is a wolf that has been placed in charge of a flock of sheep.  It has no interest in Park Lands. It's been talking to developers about how much money they'll make from the site.  The head of Renewal SA has already made it clear he's not interested in the requirements of the Park Lands Act.  "It's not going to happen" he says.

Clearly, whatever Renewal SA prepares for the Government, it will not be a report on "the action that would be required in order to make [the old RAH site] suitable for public use as park lands." 

By the time, eventually, that a Ministerial report is prepared on "the action required to make the land suitable for public use as Park Lands" contracts will almost certainly have been signed, and the builders will have moved in.

Minister Hunter was taken off the job in January 2016 and replaced with the Deputy Premier, Minister John Rau.  You can help APPA by writing to Minister Rau and insisting that he carry out his duties under section 23.

The would-be developers of the old RAH site are using their attack dogs in the media to try to discredit APPA. Their pitiful display of lies and insults on 4 March 2016 has really heartened APPA, because it shows that our campaign is biting.

In 2014, APPA made a detailed submission to the Government about the fate of the old RAH site.  We updated this submission in March 2016; and again after further announcements, published a new submission in June 2017.

In 2015, APPA member Phillip Groves catalogued all the previous Government promises about this site.

Now 31 eminent South Australians are supporting APPA's call that there should not be any privatisation or commercialisation of this public asset.  

APPA wants most of the land associated with the old RAH site to be returned – as was promised – to public open space.   

Given that there are heritage-listed buildings on the old RAH site,  APPA and the 31 eminent South Australians listed above say that the site should be used exclusively for public purposes.  One such use would be for a new High School.  See the story above.


Losing Rymill Park

The last legal hurdle hurdle in the way of the O-Bahn trench through Rundle Park and Rymill Park was cleared away on 25 February 2016. 

The Development Assessment Commission played a predictably compliant role and gave Transport Minister Stephen Mullighan approval to plough a massive trench through Rundle Park and Rymill Park - at a cost to taxpayers of at least $160 million.

The Government's long-intended vandalism of these two parks commenced soon afterwards, on Tuesday 5 April 2016, with a massive program of tree felling.

More than 1,700 signatures on APPA's petition did not give the Minister nor the Premier enough reason to think again.  Their obsession with bus timetables, to the exclusion of national heritage values, would be laughable if it wasn't so tragic.   Trees that had lived in peace for over 100 years in Rymill Park were felled in an afternoon, so that the Government can, in future, appeal for votes in the north-eastern suburbs.

Selling off Festival Plaza

Few people realise that the Festival Plaza is part of the Adelaide Park Lands.  The Plaza could easily and cheaply be returned to Park Lands. A design competition for this purpose was run in 2015, by the leader of the Greens Party in SA, the Hon. Mark Parnell.

Design by Arnie Blanden - just one of the several winning designs in the competition hosted by Greens MLC Mark Parnell.

Design by Arnie Blanden - just one of the several winning designs in the competition hosted by Greens MLC Mark Parnell.

The State Government ignored this Park Land-friendly, low-cost design and has instead done multi-million dollar deals with the operators of the Adelaide Casino, and Melbourne-based Walker Corporation to erect a casino extension encroaching onto Elder Park. another high-rise tower block behind it (which has been omitted from the artist's impression below) & separate two-level food court plus store.  In addition to losing great swathes of our public open space, taxpayers will be paying $180 million towards the cost.

casino extension
casino extension 2

Does this look like Park Lands to you?

Channel Seven's Today Tonight laid it all out in the open, with comments from international city planning expert Damien Mugavin, APPA's vice-president:

What can you do?  Realistically we doubt that this selloff can be stopped as contracts have been signed, and the Development Assessment Commission has approved the form of the building.   But you can certainly sign our petition, and also contact the Premier and tell him what you think of this. 


Ongoing activities

Apart from these current issues, we have four ongoing activities designed to focus community attention on, and raise awareness of the rarity, beauty and world importance of the Adelaide Park Lands.  These regular activities are: