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:
Another Park Lands battle 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 remains of the Park Lands along the eastern side of Frome Road.
The Education Minister, Susan Close has announced plans to put a new, 7-storey building on this land, next to the Reid building:
APPA wrote to the Minister but a reply came instead from the head of the Education Department Rick Persse. In a shocking lie to South Australians, Minister Close has falsely claimed that the new seven-storey building would not be on Park Lands:
Not even the Education Department CEO tried to peddle that falsehood. The land pictured above is part of Tainmuntilla (Park 11).
The Government's blatant disregard of the Park Lands has shocked at least one Adelaide City Councillor.
APPA has 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.
APPA's glad that students from many schools enjoy Park Lands and often play sport on the Park Lands. If there is to be another Government high school, there is no reason why it can't be located actually in or near to the CBD without needing to take away yet more irreplaceable Park Lands.
There are heritage-listed buildings on the soon-to-be vacated old-RAH precinct. APPA suggeststhat these buildings should be preferred for the proposed new High School, rather than taking away more Park Lands. If you agree, please write to Education Minister Susan Close.
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.
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.
Sports suits to get 42-year lease and exclude public?
The Adelaide City Council is considering handing over a huge area of the north-western Park Lands to one organisation, the SA Cricket Association, for 42 years, with little if any rights to the public to use the land.
APPA has lodged a formal submission calling for more public access, to reflect the principle, enshrined in legislation that "the Adelaide Park Lands should be held for the public benefit of the people of South Australia"
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.
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.
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.
Apart from these current issues, we have three 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: