Proposed Adelaide Oval hotel
WHAT’S BEING PROPOSED?
In November 2018 the State Government announced it would be providing a $42 million Government-guarantee of funding to permit the Stadium Management Authority to build a so-called “boutique” hotel in Tarntanya Wama (Park 26) in 2019.
The Government announcement claimed that the hotel design would not extend the “footprint” of the Oval stadium into the Park Lands. However, this claim ignores the fact that the entire stadium is on Park Lands. The proposed hotel would simply overhang Park Lands, now part of the Oval’s external concourse. Prior to the stadium construction in 2011, this was a grassed area. It is still part of Park 26 within the Adelaide Park Lands.
The Government announcement focussed only on the part of Park 26 that is leased to the Stadium Management Authority. There is no proposal to increase the leased area. Rather, the proposal is to add a huge hotel to the leased area. The hotel would be attached to the stadium like a leech or parasite.
WHAT’S WRONG WITH THE IDEA?
A private hotel is not consistent with a public Park. There are many places where hotels might be built. Commercial land could be obtained in the City or North Adelaide, but not on Park Lands. A hotel on that site would forever change the peaceful character of Creswell Gardens, Pennington Gardens. and Stella Bowen Park alongside Adelaide Oval within Tarntanya Wama (Park 26).
The stadium itself is an alienation of Park Lands. It’s a private building, as the playing surface is off limits to the public. Of course, it’s the playing home of multi-million dollar sports franchises, both football and cricket. We love our footy and cricket. Sport (even professional sport) is a land use typically associated with Parks, and the noise and inconvenience to other Park users are mostly restricted to game days. A hotel is very different. It exists solely to make a profit. It is a commercial enterprise 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It cannot be allowed to leech off a Park Lands site for that purpose. Transforming a sporting arena into a hotel site is an example of corporate greed.
But those are not the only reasons that this is a bad idea. You can scroll right or left on the edges of this graphic to see 28 reasons why the Government should re-think its dubious plan to put a private hotel in Tarntanya Wama (Park 26).
WHAT IS BEING DONE TO PREVENT THIS?
On Tuesday 11 December 2018, the Adelaide City Council voted UNANIMOUSLY to tell the State Government that it should re-think its hotel proposal. Councillor Anne Moran sought and obtained the support of all 10 of her fellow Councillors, to send a strong message to the State Government, that this proposal is a bad idea. Even Councillors who are known Liberal party supporters joined in the chorus criticising the State Government’s hotel plan, for a range of different reasons. APPA congratulates all Councillors and the Lord Mayor, Sandy Verschoor for their stand on this.
On 5 January, we held a “black armband silent rally” at Adelaide Oval (see pics below) using black to symbolise the death of State Government respect for the Park Lands.
On 9 January we wrote to the Premier enclosing pictures of the rally. By June 2019, we still had received no reply from the Premier, nor from Ministers Knoll nor Spiers.
This proposal is also the subject of an inquiry by a Select Committee of the upper house of State Parliament. On 5 December 2018, the Legislative Council set up a Select Committee into the “Redevelopment of Adelaide Oval”. The Committee’s terms of reference are very broad.
These six members of the Upper House (two Labor, one Liberal, one Conservative, one SA Best and one Advance SA) are holding an inquiry into the stadium’s plans.
At the Committee’s first public hearing, on Tuesday 5 February, Lord Mayor Sandy Verschoor described the proposed hotel as the "expansionist ambitions of a greedy and opportunistic stadium management authority."
Ms Verschoor went on: "If they actually need this hotel development to balance their books, what happens in five or eight years time when their books aren't balanced again? Are they going to build a shopping centre?"
Lord Mayor, Sandy Verschoor
On Tuesday 9 April 2019, APPA President Shane Sody and Secretary Damien Mugavin gave evidence to the Parliamentary Select Committee inquiring into the proposed Adelaide Oval Hotel.
APPA's evidence included:
some background and history about the Adelaide Park Lands;
why a commercial hotel is inconsistent with public Park Lands;
the ineffectiveness of federal environment law which does not protect a national heritage listed asset;
the apparent illegality of the proposed hotel; and
the failure of the State Government to push back against the over-reach of the Stadium Management Authority.
You can read the transcript of APPA's evidence here.
In mid-April 2019, we sought and obtained a barrister’s opinion and took the unusual step of releasing the opinion publicly. The opinion cast doubt on the legality of the proposal - but gave us insufficient confidence to launch expensive legal proceedings.
The APPA Annual General Meeting on 28 April 2019 unanimously carried this motion:
That APPA :
1. Receives and notes the legal advice provided and reasserts its determination to fight to keep the Park Lands open and accessible for the use and enjoyment of the community
2. Strongly condemns the Stadium Management Authority for its abuse of its privileged lease of the Core Area of the Adelaide Oval by its proposal to make commercial advantage of the Park Lands by the construction of a hotel, and
3. Calls on the State Government to condemn such abuse of the Park Lands, and to withdraw its support for the Adelaide Oval hotel project and any other such proposals which alienate the Park Lands from access by the wider community.
4. That the state government and in particular the Minister for Planning be requested to review the planning system to enable public representation and right of appeal for any built development in the Adelaide Park Lands as part of the current Planning Review .
Throughout the period from December 2018 to June 2019, APPA had an on-line petition calling on the Premier to rethink the proposal: “No Pub In the Park”. The petition collected more than 1.800 signatures before it was presented to the Premier after a public rally at Parliament House, North Terrace, on World Environment Day, 5 June 2019. Here’s the letter that we gave to the Premier along with the petition.
COMMONWEALTH BANK involvement
There has been a stream of media articles raising questions about the (lack of) proper process and the fact that the Government ignored its own guidelines for assessing “unsolicited bids”.
One of the reasons the State Government gave for approving taxpayer support for the hotel was that commercial banks would not lend to the Stadium Management Authority. The land of course is Park Lands - owned by the public - and banks usually insist on getting security over land (a mortgage) in exchange for a loan.
However, a deal, negotiated in secret last year, was finally revealed in early February when APPA learned that the Commonwealth Bank had approved “bridging finance” to the Stadium Management Authority in return for a Government guarantee that taxpayers would take over the risk from 1 December 2019. This appears to be a flagrant attempt by the Government to get around a law that says until December 2019, taxpayer liability for the Oval is limited to the already-paid $535 million.
Commonwealth Bank CEO, Matt Comyn
APPA has written to the Chief Executive of the Commonwealth Bank, Matt Comyn, asking how this bridging finance can be reconciled to the Bank's own 'Group Environment Policy'. (Spoiler alert: it can't be).
Coming straight after the report of the Banking Royal Commission, this would appear to be another 'own goal' by one of Australia's largest banks - in effect, jeopardising the future of a key part of Adelaide’s National Heritage-listed asset in exchange for some quick bucks.
A response was received on 21 February 2019 from the Bank's Group Executive for Business and Private Banking, Adam Bennett, advising that "it is standard policy not to comment on any individual customer relationships or projects" and failing to respond to any of our questions.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Although our petition has concluded, you can still help by:
writing to the Premier and/or your local Member of State Parliament especially Liberal MPs and urge them to re-think the plan. If you're not sure who your local member is, refer to this map: https://www.ecsa.sa.gov.au/map and this list of Members: http://www.parliament.sa.gov.au/Members/HouseofAssembly/Pages/List%20of%20Members.aspx.
If you're not sure what to say, here’s a sample email that you can copy and paste into your own email to your local MP. Or, feel free to borrow (i.e. copy and paste) from APPA’s submission to the Select Committee. Here’s a link to our submission to the Select Committee.
writing to the Commonwealth Bank CEO, Matt Comyn, asking him why his Bank is helping to jeopardise Park 26 of the Adelaide Park Lands. Use our letter to Mr Comyn as a model if you wish.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN NEXT?
The City Council is the landlord of the Oval but a new law passed in 2011 has removed the Council’s decision-making powers over the “core leased area” of the stadium. Therefore, the Council may be powerless to stop it.
We are hoping that after receiving your letters, the State Government will see the folly in what they have proposed, learn from their mistake, and change course.
This is a crucial turning point in the history of the Park Lands. A hotel at this site could be just the beginning of a wave of commercialisation over Adelaide’s priceless asset.
What happens next is up to you.