Mark's speech today focussed on Adelaide's precious Park Lands, and how, as certain as night follows day, the Park Lands are under constant threat from proposals to develop, privatise or alienate this open space.
We are often told that the only two certainties in life are death and taxes. However, in South Australia we can add to that list the certainty that at any point in time someone has an agenda to develop and privatise vast tracts of Adelaide's iconic Park Lands. As certain as night follows day, the Park Lands are under constant threat, and the only reason why they still exist today is the vigilance and hard work of generations of Park Lands defenders. In their most recent newsletter, the Adelaide Park Lands Preservation Association identifies a range of worrying and often secret proposals to further alienate public open space. According to the association:
"Repeated Park Lands losses were once characterised as like 'mice nibbling away at cheese'. However the recent attacks seem more like a debaucherous feast with participants devouring whatever is available, while it lasts.
The rate of Park Lands loss seems set to ratchet up exponentially unless the public can be alerted to save what's really precious and priceless.
Attempting to emulate the infrastructure of other cities by discarding parts of our priceless and world-unique asset is a short-sighted and self-defeating exercise."
The Adelaide Park Lands Preservation Association is not a partisan political organisation. Without fear or favour, they name the threats and they seek to shame the culprits. No government has survived their vigilance, whether Mike Rann's plan for Victoria Park or Jay Weatherill's alienation of Park Lands for infrastructure, medical precincts, schools or new facilities for private sporting organisations.
Now the spotlight is on the current government and what it will do, particularly in relation to the old Royal Adelaide Hospital site and also those parts of the Riverbank Precinct that have not already been handed over to the Walker Corporation, the casino and other developers. One thing that is alarming Park Lands defenders is the type of advice that the new government is seeking. Recently, the minister established the Riverbank Entertainment Precinct Advisory Committee (REPAC). According to the Park Lands Preservation Association:
"Very little of Tarntanya Wama (Park 26) remains as Park Lands after decades of attacks by successive Governments, alienating land for commercial [and] private uses…Now, it appears, this Park has not been disappearing fast enough for the newly-[elected] State Government."
The association points out that:
"REPAC includes a representative each from the institutions which have taken over most of Park 26: SkyCity Casino, the InterContinental Hotel, Adelaide Convention Centre, Adelaide Festival Centre, and the Adelaide Oval Stadium Management Authority, as well as a representative each from the Adelaide City Council and Renewal SA."
I have to say that it is remarkable that those with the greatest stake in taking over public land are given a seat at the table whilst dedicated Park Lands defenders are not. Until recently, I would have said that the Adelaide city council could fulfil that role because history has shown them to provide an important brake on the excesses of state government. I would go so far as to say that they have overwhelmingly been a force for the protection of the Park Lands; however, now I am not so sure.
I was disappointed to read that the Adelaide city council is now spruiking new development opportunities in the Park Lands to overseas investors. My attention has been drawn to a glossy 32-page 'Adelaide investments prospectus', bearing the City of Adelaide logo, which was apparently used by the Lord Mayor during a mission to Singapore in July. Included in that prospectus is a proposed 27-storey hotel on the Park Lands.
Hot on the heels of their failure over the commercial helipad on Park 27 near the Morphett Street bridge, the council is now spruiking the same site as the location of a 27-storey riverbank hotel. Rather than look at degraded and underutilised sections of the Parklands and working out how best to protect and activate them for community use, the council now seems intent on joining the rush to privatise.
At the state government level, plans to move the Entertainment Centre and the nearby soccer stadium from Hindmarsh into the Park Lands are causing alarm about the potential further loss of publicly accessible open space. Despite assurances from the tourism minister that no formal business case has been presented to him on the viability of a new stadium or arena for the Park Lands, the fact that the push is coming from former Liberal premier John Olsen means that it is likely to get serious consideration. At the end of the day, my plea to the government and to the Adelaide city council is to reflect on the legacy of public open space that you have inherited and make decisions that preserve this legacy into the future for the benefit of the generations that will follow.