Stealing Park Lands for private profit - two sites targeted
1) Park 27 near Morphett St bridge
Before it was swept from power in the March 2018 State election, the former State Government was planning to keep obliterating what little remains of Park 27 between North Terrace and the River Torrens. It was determined to sell Park Lands and it did NOT want the City Council getting in the way of its latest plans, such as the picture above.
The chief State bureaucrat in charge of corporatising the Park Lands said that the Council should have NO say in what gets built on the Torrens Riverbank:
Accordingly, the former Investment and Trade Minister in the outgoing Government Martin Hamilton-Smith in January 2018 was brazenly offering international investors the opportunity to take away yet another part of your Park Lands heritage. All they needed to do, he said, was to stump up enough money for a suitably large commercial hotel, such as the artist's impression above.
The former Minister's News Release (now erased from the web) failed to even acknowledge that this land is held on trust for the public of South Australia, and subject to the Adelaide Park Lands Act 2005.
It remains to be seen whether the new Liberal State Government will pursue this proposed Park Lands heist.
2) Old RAH site
On Tuesday 19 September 2017, with one eye on a looming State election, the former Labor State Government walked away from a threat to allow 17-storeys of private apartments to be build on the Park Lands site of the old RAH.
This was something on which APPA and many others had been campaigning for more than a year. 31 eminent South Australians (and the City Council) had joined a loud chorus telling the State Government that private residential development on Park Lands would have been a "gross breach of trust."
The Government did not change its mind because of any sudden realisation that Adelaide's Park Lands are priceless. No, in former Premier Jay Weatherill's own words, the offer on the table from private developers was simply too low:
“It’s just not value for money for us … for what is the premium site in all of South Australia.”
So, although APPA welcomes the removal of high-rise apartments from future discussions, it's obvious that we still have more work to do, to persuade politicians that the Park Lands are not simply vacant land being held for the future benefit of commercial developers.
Sadly, the new Liberal State Government has designs for even more commercial interests on the site:
- a five-star luxury hotel;
- a so-called "innovation, incubator, start-up and growth hub"; and
- an "international centre for tourism, hospitality and food service".
We are petitioning Premier Steven Marshall with a very simple message: 'Keep Public Land Public'
Victory claimed - helicopters going elsewhere now
In September 2017 the Adelaide Council consulted on a proposal to amend the 'Community Land Management Plan' for Park 27 because they wanted to put a commercial joyflight helicopter business at this beautiful riverside location.
This is the same riverside location in Helen Mayo Park (formerly part of Bonython Park) that the State Government is also targeting for a luxury hotel. See the story above.
The results of the Council's consultation were discredited in late October 2017 when it was revealed that supporters of the helipad had been offering a prize (of a $1,500 helicopter flight) to persuade people to vote "yes" to the Park Management Plan change. Even worse for the Council's plans, a commercial joyflight operator who used this site on a one-off basis in September 2017 was the cause of an "operational incident" with Adelaide Airport Air Traffic Control which led to the diversion of an inbound passenger jet. The Civil Aviation Safety Authority, investigating the incident, asked the Council to think again about the suitability of the site.
After getting independent advice, the City Council at its meeting on Tuesday 30 January 2018 is set to ditch this site and look again at other possible locations for a helipad, just as APPA has been urging the Council to do.
Congratulations to all those who joined APPA in pointing out to the Council in 2017 the unsuitability of this Park Lands location.
More Park Lands lost off Frome Road
Immediately after the vandalism of Rundle Park and Rymill Park began in April 2016 for construction of the O-Bahn covered trench,the former Labor 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 then-Education Minister Susan Close were disregarded.
The site is now a construction zone, and a seven-storey building is being erected on this part of Park 11.
The former Government's blatant disregard of the Park Lands 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) appointed a consultant firm that was 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 urged DEWNR to re-start the process with a consultant that was not being paid to jeopardise any part of the Park Lands.
Our objections were ignored and the process continued despite the obvious conflict of interest. The timeline, to determine whether the Park Lands are entered on the State Heritage Register has been underway for many months. There was:
- until September 2017, a chance to give your input to a State Government website, via survey and a discussion.
- a report from the heritage consultant - originally expected in 2017 but now likely by mid-2018; and (if all goes well);
- "provisional" listing would follow in mid to late 2018.
- Then another three-month period of public consultation would follow before;
- the listing could be "confirmed" presumably by early 2019.
The final decision will be made by the ten-member State Heritage Council.
Losing Rymill Park
On Sunday 10 December 2017, the former Labor State Government hosted a celebration in Rymill Park inviting the public to walk through the "tunnel" (i.e. the covered trench) that had been under construction for the previous 20 months.
APPA boycotted the "celebrations". We were not surprised however, that the former Government would celebrate its obvious disdain for the national-heritage listed Adelaide Park Lands.
Disregarding public opposition throughout 2015, and appeals from regional SA that there were much higher priorities for transport, the former Government nevertheless authorised the felling of scores of trees, (including some more than a century old) for a purported marginal improvement in bus timetables.
Documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Request reveal that at no stage did the former State Government consider any alternative route or road design to achieve the same purpose of improving public transport outcomes.
The O-Bahn covered trench has been independently described (by the Australian Civic Trust) as "extreme incompetence in planning" and "an easily avoidable disaster". The Civic Trust concluded in 2016 that the goal of improved bus scheduling "could have been achieved by alternative means at a fraction of the environmental disturbance, nuisance and cost."
$160 million of taxpayer funds has been spent. No amount of subsequent landscaping will restore the previously-tranquil surrounds of Rymill Park lake, a jewel in the crown of Adelaide's Park Lands.
Nick Xenophon also had some harsh words to say about this use of taxpayers money:
The former State Government's obsession with bus timetables, to the exclusion of national heritage values, would have been laughable if it hadn't been so tragic. Trees that had lived in peace for over 100 years in Rymill Park were felled in an afternoon, so that the Government could appeal for votes in the marginal electorates of Adelaide's north-eastern suburbs.
The final irony was that in the March 2018 State election, Labor's Tom Kenyon lost the seat of Newland and the neighboring seat of Florey was retained by independent MP Frances Bedford.
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 former State Government ignored this Park Land-friendly, low-cost design and instead did a 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.
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: