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Can We Preserve the Parklands Under Threat of Development?

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by Dave Walsh (subscribe)
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Published July 6th 2013
parklands, developers, jay weatherill, competition, adelaide, state bank
The Grim Days After the State Bank Collapse

Desperate Days
In the dark desperate days of the 1990's after the State Bank collapsed, the Liberal government sold state assets quickly to dent our debt.

The entire government Information Technology infrastructure was given away to multinational company EDS in a long term contract that annihilated the local IT industry and those who depended upon it.

The Electricity Trust of SA assets were also sold off, handing control of our power generating infrastructure to private enterprise. Some say that we are paying dearly for that decision today.

While the financial position of the state today is not thought to be as severe, there are suggestions that we should cash in one of our few remaining assets - the parklands.

parklands, developers, jay weatherill, competition, adelaide, bonython park
Bonython Park Billabong - Suitable for Commercial Fish Farming?

Why Are the Parklands There?
After Colonel Light was appointed Surveyor-General of South Australia he laid out the city design in 1837. Light's plans included surrounding the city with 1,700 acres (690 ha) of parklands.

In the nearly 200 years since the city design was implemented, the Adelaide City Council has carefully maintained the parklands, and has actively promoted their use by the public.

While in the early days some parklands were used for sheep grazing and the Bonython Park Billabong area was used as an abbatoir, many other areas were used for recreation. A stately avenue of English Elms planted in the 1860's in the South Parklands was popular as an attractive carriageway for citizens to promenade through.

The importance of the Adelaide Parklands was recognised in 2008 when they were added to the National Heritage List by Federal Environment Minister Garrett. At the time Environment Minister Jay Weatherill soothed the development lobby with this comment: It won't prevent, provide barriers to any sensible development.

parklands, developers, jay weatherill, competition, adelaide, english elm
The English Elm Carriageway in South Parklands - Firewood?

parklands, developers, jay weatherill, competition, adelaide, sporting groups
Sporting Groups Think We Still Need Parklands

Do We Still Need Parklands
It is not unusual to hear people pontificating that the parklands are empty. One notable example was when Adelaide Now (now The Advertiser again) moaned about the lack of people in the parklands at 7.47 on a weekday morning. Perhaps it was a ruse to promote absenteeism in the workplace?

The City of Adelaide spends millions of dollars every year maintaining the huge green spaces that surround the city. If the parklands were not required, massive savings could be achieved. Would it be possible to relocate the few sporting groups that still occupy odd corners of the parklands?

While clubs and sporting groups such as the SA Obedience Dog Club, the Western Districts Amateur Athletic Club, tennis, bowls and other clubs currently use the parklands, could they find an alternative home?

parklands, developers, jay weatherill, competition, adelaide, west terrace
West Terrace With Parklands

parklands, developers, jay weatherill, competition, adelaide, redeveloped
West Terrace After Parklands Commercially Redeveloped

The Parklands Under Threat
The railways previously occupied much of the parklands now being used for the new Royal Adelaide Hospital site. Now the old hospital site is being considered for something more "productive" than returning them to green space as advocated by former Health Minister John Hill.

Always keen to promote our state's development in a manner approved by the Property Council, our premier recently had an inspired vision - a public competition to decide the future of the old hospital site.

The competition was instantly acclaimed (mainly by developers and architects) as enabling the public to participate in deciding the future of this portion of parklands. What wasn't revealed was the Design Brief - the restrictions that will decide what type of new developments may be proposed

There certainly does not appear to be a requirement that any proposal maintain the RAH site as publicly owned land. Former Integrated Design Commissioner Tim Horton (one of the competition judges) has already suggested that it would be suitable for upmarket accommodation.

In fact the official government site spruiking the Riverbank development talks about Mixed-use development with education, cultural, civic, residential, commercial and retail possibilities.

parklands, developers, jay weatherill, competition, adelaide, luxury accommodation
Veale Gardens - a Suitable Site for Luxury Accommodation?

Parks vs Development
If one were to suggest that Central Park in New York should be cut in size to allow the construction of luxury apartments, there would be a massive outcry!

A proposal to carve into London's Hyde Park to build a shopping centre or run a motor race would be a national outrage.

There is an increasing recognition world wide of the importance of parks to our society and the environment. But it seems not to have reached South Australia yet.

Surprisingly few people have reacted yet in Adelaide about the proposal to hand over publicly owned park land to a developer for commercial use. Perhaps because it has been concealed by the miasmic illusion of a "public" competition?

But it will be a very popular move for developers, who will be quick to reward Weatherill when contributions are needed for the election next year.

Let's be clear about this. Once green space is lost, there is no going back. There is no chance of future governments buying back land for recreation in the CBD.

It's a little reminiscent of the rape of Glenelg, when residents and visitors lost the beachfront to - upmarket accommodation. Do you think the Glenelg skyline has been improved by the high rise development there?

parklands, developers, jay weatherill, competition, adelaide, bicentennial conservatory
Should There Be a Bunnings Superstore Next to the Bicentennial Conservatory?

So What do You Think?
Would you like to be able to step in to a Bunnings Superstore after visiting the Bicentennial Conservatory in the Botanical Gardens?

Perhaps you would enjoy cycling along the new Riverbank Precinct from the Bowden redevelopment to shop at Louis Vuitton in the heritage listed Nurses' Home on Frome Road?

Is it acceptable for a desperate premier to give away state assets in order to improve his election chances? Are the glitzy futuristic flyovers in the redevelopment videos simply an attempt to conceal the poor state of our economy with distractions?

Or are you in favour of development at any price? Perhaps you are a city skyline crane counter?

Should we sell off all of our parklands for high rise development, and save on the need for electrifying more railways? And is the government telling us enough about what they plan - before they agree outcomes with their developer mates?

It seems that there is a significant divergence of opinion, even among professionals in the field. And of course the Adelaide Parklands Preservation Association has a completely different view.

Let us know by posting your comments!
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Under no circumstances whatsoever should even one square metre of the Parklands be sold off for commercial or residential use. Where is it written that a park must be full of people and buildings at all times, otherwise it has no "value"? Used or not, the Parklands have intrinsic value - open space. My overseas and interstate visitors, without exception, say we are so lucky to have the Parklands. Developers, go make your gazillions somewhere else. Governments, learn wiser financial management instead of flogging off public assets as a short-term fix. Leave my parklands alone.
by ozgle (score: 1|10) 2796 days ago
I have a small list of frustrations,
The govt wants us to trust them when they behave like criminals, stealing the publics property via stealth and then selling it on to developers.....
The current RAH is to expensive to demolish??? Why wasn't this taken into account in the original proposal? I'm sure it was and the details were kept secret to ensure the govt gets its own way, It wants to sell everything. What happens when we have nothing left to sell??????
We need to sell the govt, they are sucking us all dry. The people in power need to be made accountable and have their pensions and superannuations removed from them to pay for their mistakes. Put them all on the standard welfare system so we can pay off their debts with the money saved......
Its a game of Checkers, build a new govt hospital so you can sell the old one.
leap over the new RAH build another govt building then sell off the old one, leap over that one and so on and so on....It's time to stop........
Looked what has happened in Turkey when the govt wanted to build on a public square. The public can only be pushed so far and then there will be consequences.......
I thought we were told that the new RAH was required to be built because the current RAH was beyond repair and redevelopment? If thats the case why is it now being touted for private redevelopment......
or maybe turn it into a shame cemetery, a graveyard for the politicians. It can be used as a reminder for the future generations so they can visit and see who destroyed this once great city. A wasted $$$ tally could be put on each headstone
Now for some positives.....
Push it over and extend the Botanical gardens....
or if it's too expensive to push over, remove all the windows and turn it into a tower garden....
If its too expensive to push over using contractors then lets use our locked up convicts and put them to work to help recover some of their incarceration costs....
I could go on and on.......
by samir (score: 2|126) 2791 days ago
why don't we sell our useless overpaid pollies instead! we have far too many in this country as it is, if we reduced the amount of polititions to half of what we currently have SA, would be a richer state. We need to add up the total of the the polititions pay's including their benefits! and compare it with the cost of running the states! I am sick of them getting huge pay rises etc, while we suffer!
by garry (score: 1|12) 2792 days ago
Hell no! Greedy Developers. I am a proud Aboriginal South Australian Elder. This Land can cope with Fire, Flood and Drought and has done so for 50,000 years at least. This Land CAN NOT cope with Greedy Developers!!! Back off you lot!!! Go develop Monarto like it was supposed to be all those years ago. Leave the Parklands alone and leave the Adelaide Hills alone and leave the Barossa Valley alone. You Developers have no idea the irreparable damage you have caused already have you? My husband says it won't be long before 'The Powers That Be' realise there is no more fertile land to grow food for the ever increasing population. Then there will be compulsory acquisitions of peoples' homes for the land they are built on. I hope I am dead by then and I will be with my Ancestors.
by soupson (score: 2|133) 2796 days ago
Dave this is the sort of debate that needs to be generated because as you so rightly say Weatherill is" keen to promote our state's development in a manner approved by the Property Council"...along with other vested interests like Business SA, building companies and the 'develop or die' brigade whose misguided drivel unfortunately attracts the media. Their cosy 'business' arrangements with the government must make them rich on the spoils that belong to the people of South Australia - not individuals who because they have access to vast lending resources, can wipe away open space, landscape, memories, community and our history and heritage. Government and development are sneaky and it makes me angry when I see the public duped by their 'spin' and smoke and mirror tactics including"public" competitions and consultation, just to do exactly as they planned all along. The Mt Barker & Woodville redevelopments, the removal of the avenue of historic trees and the whole Adelaide Oval re-development are just a few recent examples.Did you know that already the public approved and much-loved design for the Victoria Square redevelopment has already had some quite drastic and ugly redesign by the Adelaide Council to cut costs? Like so much of Adelaide design, a lack of vision and continually cutting costs results in a mishmash of tacked on tat. Rundle Mall is a great example of that. If people cared one iota, they would fight like the citizens of the great cities of the world, like New York and Paris...but hey...we remember Mt Barker and Woodville whose citizens fought valiantly to no avail. Good luck rallying the troops Dave. Terrific article.
by Keryn James (score: 1|38) 2794 days ago
Noooooo! I can't believe they are even thing abut it it,
by kerry (score: 0|6) 2795 days ago
That's right..pack 'em in, pack 'em in. Pack in the people onto building blocks the size of matchbooks, no yard for children or pets, charge so much for the land to buy that people spend their entire lives in servitude to financiers to line the pockets of cruel and greedy banks and developers...and I use the term developers loosely here...profiteers at ALL costs is a more apt title. Then sell off any utility or service that is essential to the people of the nation to foreign companies to further bleed our people...and now sell off any parcel that has a green we will have to bus our children off to the very few farms left in our great State and nation for a couple of weeks a year to ward off vitamin D deficiency. God help us all....because the Government won't.
by aaole (score: 0|5) 2792 days ago
The parklands around the city of Adelaide are enjoyed by the public on a daily basis in some capacity. To loose these to, dare I say it, 'progress?' Would be like loosing the city's (our) heart and soul and be an absolute tragedy. Adelaide is a beautiful city because of these parklands & is admired by others not so fortunate.
by leoni (score: 0|5) 2792 days ago
There is no such thing as the Bonython Park Billabong. A billabong is an old part of a river that has been truncated by changes to river flow. The photo you cite as a billabong is actually the flowing River Torrens. There is a billabong at St Peters on the river and almost another one at Walkerville (OBahn construction infilled the crossing) and almost one next to Findon Rd. Of course you could say that Breakout Creek at Fulham was a billabong as it took overflow from the River when it backed up against high tides and sand dunes prior to extensive draining of the coastal wetlands.

You take a dangerous line when you talk developing the Parklands. Politically insane yet there are precedents for its occurrence, as you point out. It started with the Hyatt Hotel or whatever its called now built suspended over the Railway station so its not on the Parklands. Other development is institutional and that is accepted by all parties and legislation.

So that leaves the next two stunts concurrently attempted to be pulled by this "consultative" state government. The first is the RAH site and Minister Hill quietly gauged public reaction to selling or leasing the site to developers for housing as the cost of demolition was exorbitantly too high.We now have a design competition and everyone is seemingly happy about this as it invites intellectual capacity in a process rarely undertaken. The problem with the process is that all entries or intellectual property attached to each entry becomes the property of the state and they are not obliged to implement the winning entry or entries but can pick and cobble according to the wishes of whoever (think developer) is bankrolling the whole situation. It amounts to an attempt to generate and normalise privatised development in the parklands.
The second example of attack on the parklands comes in the form of the big park design concept for the Torrens between Bowden and Gilberton. Whatb is really going is on that the agreement between the State and the Casino allows for a massive increase in pokies, other operations and a new casino building (with a bridge directly from Adelaide Oval which the Casino refused to pay for or contribute to which only a rough concept has been publicly presented and then its location is not clear. The Riverbank precinct is a mess, the Festival Centre is dilapidated, the Rotunda and topography in Elder Park, as Adelaide's premium outdoor space, splits viewing and is a joke. Amidst all this is the Hyatt Plaza where the Casino has decided to build a hotel, at the immediate rear of Parliament House overt the Hyatt court and presumably over the parklands if that was somehow possible. The State Govt is attempting to camouflage this with the consultation, which if you go the Riverbank Park website, you will realise is a very bad joke.
I would like you interview the Friends of the Adelaide Parklands, National Trust, Conservation Council, the Greens, not the State opposition, not the Property Council to check out their perspectives on this massive fraud that is being perpetrated by this idiotic government. Bring on the election.
by alan. (score: 0|5) 2792 days ago
No, no, no and no! Don't touch our parks! I agree with Ozgle, the value of parks are by just being there. You don't have to be at the park to enjoy the benefits of the parks. Once developed, there will be no going back. We've got to fight to keep greedy hands off our parks. These parklands belong to our future generations. They are their inheritance. The government has a duty to maintain them notwithstanding the cost.
by wct (score: 1|32) 2792 days ago

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