Old RAH site - private hotel on stolen Park Lands?

On Tuesday 19 September 2017, with one eye on a looming State election, the 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."  We garnered more than 1,500 signatures on a petition to that effect.

The Government did not change its mind because of any sudden realisation that Adelaide's Park Lands are priceless.   No, in 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, both the Government and the Opposition are promising that the old RAH site will still include a new luxury commercial hotel.

A man-made Park Lands mountain on the old RAH site?  This was one of the highly commended entries in a competition that the State Government ran - and then failed to act upon the results

A man-made Park Lands mountain on the old RAH site?  This was one of the highly commended entries in a competition that the State Government ran - and then failed to act upon the results

There has been a long procession of broken promises and failures in relation to the old RAH site.In 2015, APPA member Phillip Groves catalogued all the previous Government promises about this site.  The list needs updating, but it shows how little one can believe any promises or assurances.  Another similar scathing assessment was published by InDaily on 20 September 2017.

The Government has even failed to comply with its own law (section 23 of the Adelaide Park Lands Act 2005) which states it MUST prepare a report on how the old RAH site can be returned to Park Lands

Because of the looming State election (March 2018) we have started not one, bur two identical petitions, one to each of the major party leaders, urging them to 'Keep Public Land Public'



RAH petition.jpg

Please sign one or both of our petitions to keep this public land, public:


Not just bad policy, it's illegal too.

The Adelaide Council recently (September 2017) consulted on a proposal to amend the 'Community Land Management Plan' for Bonython Park/ Tulya Wardli (Park 27) because they want to put a commercial joyflight helicopter business at this beautiful riverside location.

Public consultation on this proposed amendment ended on 6 September.

APPA's submission pointed out that not only is this site a very poor choice for a helipad - it's also illegal.  You can read our submission here.

The results of the consultation were totally 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.

The City Council has sought legal advice on what to do now.


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).

43 out of 50 submissions received were opposed to this proposal.  Of the remaining 7, none discussed any alternative sites.  On 25 July, the Council heard five submissions from groups or individuals.  Not one of the five argued that Park Lands alienation was necessary for a city helipad.

APPA pointed out that a lease would be illegal unless the Bonython Park management Plan was amended to permit such a lease,  Nevertheless, the Council voted 6-4 to approve this lease "in principle" pending renewed public consultation on amending the Bonython Park management plan.

The September consultation process represented a second opportunity to influence wavering Councillors that there are better potential locations for a helipad.

APPA previously pointed out to the Council that putting a helicopter airport in Bonython Park would be

  • 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.

  • Impractical - 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”.  As a result, choppers would need to sit idling on the helipad for a long time waiting for flight clearance.
  • 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; and
  • 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, incomplete and misleading.

More Park Lands lost 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:  https://yoursay.sa.gov.au/decisions/adelaide-park-lands-and-city-squares-heritage-assessment/
  •     a report from the heritage consultant later this year and (if all goes well);
  •     "provisional" listing would follow early in 2018.  
  •     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.


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: