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Protecting Our Park Lands

22 September 2021

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (16:08): I move:


That this council—

  1. Notes that the site proposed by the state government for a ‘Riverbank Arena’, Helen Mayo Park (Park 27), is designated Parklands under the Adelaide Park Lands Act 2005;
  2. Notes that the Adelaide Parklands and city layout are listed on the national heritage register and parts of the proposed site fall within the area of the listing;
  3. Notes that the proposed development of the site could impact adversely on the heritage values of the Parklands; and
  4. Opposes the state government developing Helen Mayo Park on the basis that this represents a further erosion of the Parklands that is inconsistent with its status as a nationally heritage listed site.


The motion that I am speaking to today relates to the future of the Riverbank. Members will be aware that the state government has recently announced plans for a so-called Riverbank arena. Of course, as is often the case with projects such as this, the site that they have chosen is on our city's public green space, the Parklands, because this is free land and tends to be land that governments highlight for development.


That is a great shame because of course this is the land that belongs to all South Australians in common. But the land that has been chosen here is Helen Mayo Park, or Park 27 under the Adelaide Park Lands Act, and it is named after one of South Australia's most famous women, Helen Mayo, who was a pioneer in medicine and health education. I wonder what she would think of the Premier's plan to obliterate the park that had been named in her honour.


This is yet another project that has been earmarked for Park 27 over the last few years. It has already lost many hectares of public green space. There is now police, medical facilities, university buildings—the sky is the limit in terms of the developments that we see on that site. Indeed, a few years ago, it was the focus of potential development with a helipad. Members may recall the plans of the leader of the Town Hall arm of the Liberal Party, Team Adelaide, Houssam Abiad, who proposed that that site host a helipad for joy rides for the mega rich. Now, the state government are viewing this site and plan to use it for yet another development, this time, as I say, the so-called Riverbank arena.


It is not just the Greens that are concerned about the potential for this development to erode the Parklands and to damage our green space, the Adelaide Park Lands Authority has expressed concerns and on 25 March it sought an urgent meeting with Adelaide Venue Management Corporation. It says in a report, which I will read for your interest:


Noting that the Park Lands already hosts Adelaide Oval, Tennis Centre, two hotels, approximately 200 ha of licensed playing fields, a hospital, the Thebarton Police Barracks and the Road Safety Centre as well as other public infrastructure, the Authority is concerned about the impact of further built form on the publicly-accessible open space provided by the Adelaide Park Lands.


The Adelaide Parklands are on the National Heritage List register. This occurred back in 2008 under the leadership of the then environment minister Peter Garrett at a federal level. That national heritage listing means that the character of the Parklands should be protected for the public good. I am very concerned that this listing is going to be jeopardised if this Riverbank arena proceeds.


Those concerns were heightened when I read a report that was made available to the Adelaide Park Lands Authority from Lara Daddow, the Acting Associate Director, Park Lands, Policy and Sustainability at the City of Adelaide, and that looks at the implications of the Riverbank arena and what that means for the Adelaide Parklands.


I will read the relevant sections into Hansard. The report notes that under section 4 of the Adelaide Park Lands Act, there are seven statutory principles, which are person or body responsible for the care, control and management of any part of the Adelaide Parklands must have regard for and seek to apply. Of particular relevance here are the following—and, again, I will read them on to the public record:

  • 33.1 The land comprising the Adelaide Park Lands should, as far as is reasonably appropriate, correspond to the general intentions of Colonel William Light in establishing the first Plan of Adelaide in 1837.
  • 33.2 The Adelaide Park Lands should be held for the public benefit of the people of South Australia, and should be generally available to them [to use and enjoy]…
  • 33.3 The Adelaide Park Lands reflect and support a diverse range of environmental, cultural, recreational and social values and activities that should be protected and enhanced.
  • 33.4 The Adelaide Park Lands provide a defining feature to the City of Adelaide and contribute to the economic and social well-being of the City in a manner that should be recognised and enhanced.
  • 33.5 The contribution that the Adelaide Park Lands make to the natural heritage of the Adelaide Plains should be recognised, and consideration given to the extent to which initiatives involving the Park Lands can improve the biodiversity and sustainability of the Adelaide Plains.
  • 33.6 The State Government, State agencies and authorities, and the Adelaide City Council, should actively seek to co-operate and collaborate with each other in order to protect and enhance the Adelaide Park Lands.
  • 33.7 The interests of the South Australian community in ensuring the preservation of the Adelaide Park Lands are to be recognised, and 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 this report, it is further noted that the Adelaide Parklands and the city layout is listed on the national heritage register and that the boundaries of the proposed site for the Riverbank arena—that is, the Helen Mayo Park—overlap with those that are included within the national heritage register. What are the implications of this? The report notes, and again I quote:


Development on adjacent sites to land within the area of the National Heritage Listing, can still impact on the values of a National Heritage Listed site itself, for instance if the development impeded views into or of the Nationally Heritage Listed site.


And:


Together, or individually [in conjunction with the other projects], these projects could constitute actions under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity and Conservation Act…which impact the National Heritage Listing Values for the Adelaide Park Lands and City Layout.


It is noted further that:


Any construction on…Helen Mayo Park [or some of the other areas that have been earmarked for development by the state government] could be seen as actions which contribute to the cumulative erosion of Park Lands or possibly impact on the views/vistas across and into the Park Lands.


Further, it is noted that:


The Federal Government (Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment) has previously expressed concern about such cumulative erosions of the Adelaide Park Lands and these projects may constitute what is termed a 'controlled action' under the EPBC Act.


The State Government (as proponents) [of the project] will need to refer these…to the Federal Government.


In other words, what this report is highlighting is that if the state government is going to seize this public land and turn it into a Riverbank arena, that could jeopardise the status of the national listing of our Adelaide Parklands. That would be a disaster because we know that the Adelaide Parklands are some of the most unique parklands in the world. They are the lungs of our city and Adelaide is unique in being surrounded by a green belt such as this.


It has been recognised by the federal government through its inclusion on the National Heritage List and that unique character has been recognised by proponents in South Australia. We are waiting for the state government to provide associated recognition and inclusion on the state heritage list. There is also a campaign for this to be world heritage listed, so it would be disastrous if the national heritage listing were to be compromised in this way.


In terms of speaking to the benefits of the Parklands and their protection as green space, I do want to draw your attention to something that really the designers of our city knew all too well, and that is that there is a strong link between the physical and mental health and wellbeing of a community and their ability to freely access and enjoy green spaces.


A German study found the presence of parks helped prompt and facilitate greater social interaction as well as enhancing community satisfaction as a result of their aesthetic value. Access to green spaces has also been recorded to have a positive effect on those suffering from anxiety, depression and mood disorders. I think all of us would agree during the last few years where we have spent more time at home, particularly last year when many of us were working from home, having access to public green space has been vital for community health and wellbeing.


Before concluding my remarks, I want to make a few comments about the plans the Liberals have announced to redevelop the River Torrens under rezoning of the Riverbank Precinct. To accompany this Riverbank arena, it has been outlined—and I read this in The Advertiser a little earlier today—that the Riverbank Precinct rezoning will enable private bars, cafes, shops and tourist ventures to operate on both sides of the River Torrens. Apparently, departmental officers have outlined to the city council that the waterfront precinct between the Torrens Weir and Kintore Avenue will now provide opportunities for small, low-scale shops, cafes, and community, cultural and tourism activities located adjacent to the River Torrens.


So aside from all the existing developments that we have on the public space, we are going to see a Riverbank arena, or a sports stadium, as some have referred to it as, and then a series of shops, cafes and restaurants. So McDonald's on the Parklands alongside the Riverbank? This is a very dangerous precedent that is being established here in terms of commercialisation of our public space. If we go down that path, if we let the genie out of the bottle and allow commercial development on the Parklands in this way on our Riverbank, we will never be able to put the genie back in the bottle. We will never be able to undo it.


I fear that we will trash our unique Adelaide Parklands and we will lose their unique character. That is why I have moved this motion today and why the Greens are calling on all parties to join us in standing up for our unique Parklands and standing up for their unique status on the national heritage register by opposing this plan for a land grab by the state government.