BILL: Vesting of Waite Trust Land

Today Mark outlined the Greens' opposition to the road widening project at the junction of Fullarton and Cross Roads and this bill which will allow an unspecified amount of land to be taken from Waite Arboretum and Urrbrae Agricultural High School. This Government bill passed with the support of Labor. Mark's speech and the Committee stage debate are below.


Waite Trust (Vesting of Land) Bill 2020

The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: The previous speaker has suggested there may have been some political motives in relation to this particular road project. I would refer the member and all members to the piece that appeared in the Sunday Mail in February of this year with the heading: 'Infrastructure fund analysis reveals 40 per cent of South Australian grants went to Nicolle Flint's marginal seat of Boothby.'

The article goes on to say that the vast bulk of these road projects nationwide went to Coalition seats or marginal Labor seats that the Coalition hoped to win. The article states:

In South Australia, the two Liberal-held urban seats received 58 per cent of the $361 million allocated to the state. And more than 40 per cent—$153.5 million—funded four projects in the marginal seat of Boothby, held by Nicolle Flint.

This $61 million colossal waste of federal and state taxpayers' money was a pork-barrel before the last federal election. The road widening project is unnecessary. It is dangerous for heritage and for the environment. The Greens do not support the project and, as a result, we certainly will not be supporting the bill.

Interestingly, Labor appears to have simply squibbed it because their reaction to the pork-barrel story from earlier this year was to get on their high horse and say how outrageous it all was. It was a waste of taxpayers' money that the government was using 'for its own political purposes'. So they were not too happy with how this pork-barrel was rolled out last year for the federal election. Now they seem to think they have had a major win because they managed to get the government to agree that if there is any high school land that they do not actually require, they will give it back.

What I find even more remarkable is that you cannot find any plans for this project; you cannot find the design work. There is no publicly available document that tells you exactly what land they are going to take from this intersection to widen it. I was on the DPTI website less than an hour ago and the best you can get is a generic intersection map, the one they use for all intersections—it just shows three lanes of traffic in each direction and turning circles and right-hand turn lanes—the same map they always use with the annotation, 'Please note this image is an artist's impression for illustrative purposes only, and not a final design.'

In fact, when you read their website there is no final design. They talk about a design process; they talk about, 'We better have a think about heritage.' There is a state heritage item in the way, but they do not say anything on the website about what they are going to do with that. My understanding is that they are going to do like they did with Captain Cook's cottage in Yorkshire, they are going to pick it up and move it. Probably not move it to Yorkshire, but certainly move it away from the intersection, because they are determined to get their three lanes in each direction.

According to the DPTI website, there is a list of eight or nine dot points that are key considerations in the planning and design development, but there is no final design. That begs the question: if there is no final design, how do we know they need this land? How do we know they need to undo this trust that was for the people of South Australia and for the specified purposes laid out by Peter Waite? How do we know how much of this land they need? How do we know they need any of it?

My understanding is that the legalities around this are complex. The Peter Waite Trust land crosses both sides of Fullarton Road. It includes the arboretum, but it also includes the high school. My understanding, from what DPTI says, is that they reckon they can take arboretum land just using compulsory acquisition powers but they need an Act of Parliament to take the school land.

That might be right or it might not be; but what gives me some comfort is the number of heritage experts, including retired lawyers, who live in this area who will, I think, delight in challenging some aspects of this project, particularly as they start eating into the university land and the arboretum land and start trying to knock down the state heritage-listed gatekeeper's cottage, which is the prominent feature on the corner of Cross Road and Fullarton Road.

What you have to love about DPTI—let us be honest here—is that they sort of exist to build roads, it is what they do. So I do not expect anything more, when given the opportunity to expand a road or build a new one or make a road wider, than that they will, of course, take it. It is what they do. However, as the Hon. David Ridgway knows—he is a regular through this intersection, as am I—you only have to go 1.5 kilometres south from this intersection and it becomes a single lane road. It stays a single lane road for 5.9 kilometres, it stays a single lane all the way up to the Blackwood shopping strip, and then it becomes two lanes again.

This is one of those classic examples of where the plan is to make it easy to get through the intersection, but you have bottlenecks; there is certainly a big bottleneck on one side, and it narrows down to two lanes on the other side of the intersection in all directions anyway. This is $61 million of taxpayers' money to maybe help people get through the lights one change faster.

My experience—and I do use this intersection a lot—is that it is not particularly congested even in peak periods. The definition of congestion in Adelaide is whether it takes you more than one go to get through the lights. If you say that to someone from Sydney or Melbourne they will laugh at you and say, 'You don't know what congestion is.' This is not a congested intersection.

There is also no indication I can see that safety is necessarily improved by adding multiple extra lanes in each direction. As members would know, this was the site of a horrific accident that killed two people earlier this year, an awful, awful accident. There was no indication from the circumstances of that accident that it was anything to do with the layout of the intersection or how the road was constructed. There were other behavioural issues involved that would have been the same regardless of how the intersection was designed.

So when we get into committee the first question I will be asking the Minister is, 'Show us the plans that convince the Legislative Council that you need to take high school land, and exactly how much land do you think you will need to take?' Honestly, I am not satisfied with a generic picture on the DPTI website that has just a bog standard four-way intersection and a disclaimer, 'Don't rely on this. For illustrative purposes only.'

When we get into committee I will also be asking exactly what the Government's intention is in relation to the state and local heritage-listed gatekeeper's cottage. This is an important item of state heritage. I was in front of the cottage back in January with the protesters, and they had a very nice banner—probably 30 metres long, one of the longer banners I have seen—basically pleading with the Government not to take away their heritage and not to take away the large number of significant trees that abut this intersection as well.

With a complete absence of any detailed plans, with no information whatsoever about what particular high school land is required, this government has the nerve to come to the Legislative Council and say, 'Give us as much of the high school as we need and we promise to give back the bits we don't use.' What an appalling way to manage infrastructure projects in South Australia. With those brief words, the Greens are not at all happy with this bill and we will be voting against it.

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY (Minister for Trade and Investment): I thank the Hon. Connie Bonaros, the Hon. Clare Scriven and the Hon. Mark Parnell for their contributions on this important bill. I note that the Hon. Connie Bonaros posed a couple of questions in her contribution, and that a number of questions were also posed during a briefing with her party on the bill. I will answer them now in my summing-up and maybe that will speed up the committee stage of the bill.

The first question is: what discussions have been had with the Urrbrae Agricultural High School? I am advised that in November 2019, a meeting was held with Joslyn Fox, the principal, and David Price, the deputy principal, to discuss the intersection upgrade. They were advised that a road widening is likely, but the extent was not known at that point in time, and the school provided valuable input.

In March 2020, the school was telephoned and advised that there were further investigations and a preferred concept design would be undertaken over the coming months. In April 2020, an email was sent to the school principal, Ms Joslyn Fox, advising that DPTI was still progressing with investigations at the intersection and advised that a vegetation survey would be undertaken in late April 2020. The vegetation survey was undertaken over several days in late April 2020.

Contact was made again with the school in June 2020 with the intention of setting up a further meeting; however, a meeting date and time has not yet been set. In summary, the school's input has been sought and the school has been kept advised of the progress. As the project design is fleshed out further, consultation with the school will continue.

The second question is: what is the likely impact on the school? I am advised that whilst the design has not yet been finalised there is likely to be an impact on the school which DPTI will attempt to keep to a minimum. In particular, it is currently expected that there will be an impact on the sporting courts due to the proposed widening of Cross Road to the south. The extent of the widening impact is not fully determined nor have the rectification of the impacts been incorporated into the design. The process, when it occurs, will be undertaken in consultation with the school.

The next question is: what land will be acquired from the school? While the design is still in the early stages, DPTI estimates that approximately 7,200 square metres of land will be acquired along the Fullarton Road and Cross Road boundary and the total land area within the certificate of title is approximately 440,600 square metres.

The final question I have been provided with is: given the design is not finalised, why does the Government need this bill to pass now? Uncertainty in relation to whether the Waite Trust land can be acquired will impact on the project planning and there will be a real risk of the project being delayed.

Some portion of the Waite Trust land will be required for the project to proceed and the government will attempt to keep the amount of land required to be taken from the trust to a minimum. As we have heard earlier, any leftover land from the project will be returned to the Waite Trust. They are some of the answers I have been provided with.

Bill read a second time.

Committee Stage

In committee.

Clause 1.

The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: I will talk slowly so the Minister's advisers can assume their position. I will reiterate what I asked before. The Minister partly answered it when he responded to the Hon. Connie Bonaros's question about the impact on the school, but just to make sure that I clearly understand what the minister is saying, he seems to be saying that they know they need some of the school land, but they do not know exactly how much they need.

He is pretty sure they are going to need some of the land on the south side of Cross Road. That is where the current tennis and basketball courts are but, again, they do not know how much. Are they likely to need any of the western side of Fullarton Road, because that is currently the school car park and it is also where they have their monthly market where you can buy honey and other produce the students have prepared.

I will get the Minister to answer that in relation to those, but I guess the more fundamental question is that it seems to be a case of chicken and egg. The Minister seemed to say that, unless we know we have Parliament's ability to take some of the school land, we are not in a position to advance our planning any further.

The second question is: have I understood correctly that they want Parliament's permission to take as much of the high school land as is required and that, unless they have that permission upfront, they are unable to progress the planning for the intersection upgrade?

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: Certainly, in relation to the western side of Fullarton Road, which is the car park market's space, I am advised that, yes, the preferred design is to take a portion of that and, of course, on the southern side of the Cross Road area that the honourable member referred to for the tennis courts and some of the other facilities that are there.

You are right when you assume that because Parliament has not given the Government any certainty yet that they can access the land, the design has been, if you like, partially done assuming that the land might be available. Until this bill passes the Parliament, there is no certainty that we can access the land to do it.

I accept that the honourable member thinks it may be a little bit of a chicken and egg scenario, but why would we get DPTI to do all of the final design work if the Parliament then says, 'We are not going to give you the land to do it'? It is not so much like, 'Trust us and we will do a good job.' I think that it would be a complete waste of DPTI resources to go through all the design work and all the activities if, in the end, the Parliament chose not to support the bill.

I am pleased for the sake of the residents of that area that we will get this intersection. It appears that the Opposition is supporting the Government. I know that the honourable member likes to have everything cut and dried so he knows exactly what is proposed. In this circumstance, my understanding is that the preferred design would take a slice off the western side of Fullarton Road and a portion on the southern side of Cross Road, but until that land is available they cannot finalise the design.

The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: I thank the minister for his answer. Can we speculate for a minute? If this bill did not pass, for example, is the intersection project still viable taking residential land from the north side of Cross Road or taking the arboretum land? It seems to be that the two alternatives to taking high school land would be to take more of the arboretum land or to take the residential land on the north side of Cross Road. Is that the case?

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: I am advised that there are, of course, always other options. There is more than one way to skin a cat. You can design the intersection differently. I am advised that it would be much more expensive to take residential land. I am reasonably familiar with the properties, as I drive past them regularly. They are quite valuable properties, so certainly that would have some impact on the cost, and there is also the issue of heritage. It would be a much more complicated project, given that, if you look at the nature of the intersection, clearly the preferred option and the most economical option is to take some land away from the school.

The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: How many significant or regulated trees are in the zone on the high school land that are likely to be required for the project?

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: I do not have the actual number of significant or regulated trees. We do not have that advice today. There are over 100 trees, shrubs, plants and bushes that will be impacted by the proposal. They have been identified in the vegetation study, but as far as regulated or significant trees we do not have that information here for you today.

The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: If the vegetation study has been completed, can that be made, firstly, publicly available and, secondly, available to the Parliament?

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: I do not know, but I will certainly ask the Minister if we can have that. I do not know whether it can be made available, but I undertake to at least pose that question to him.

The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: Is the Minister able to provide any more certainty about the fate of that part of the Waite land that includes the state heritage-listed gatehouse—or coach-house, as it is sometimes called—cottage? Am I correct that the current plan is to pick it up and move it somewhere?

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: I am advised that shifting it is an option that is being investigated at the moment. The advice that I have been given is that it appears to be possible to shift it. As to its new location or the distance it may be moved, I don't have that information with me here today, but it is possible to move that cottage away from the intersection. My advice is that there has not been final work done on a final resting place for that cottage.

The Hon. F. PANGALLO: Are there any economic benefits to this intersection upgrade?

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: It is a major intersection, and the Hon. Mark Parnell and I, as I said, go through it regularly.

The Hon. F. Pangallo: So do I.

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: Yes, of course, so do you. I do forget that sometimes. It can be a number of cycles of lights to get through that intersection on some mornings. Any efficiency that makes those intersections, and all of them across the state, flow more quickly gives an economic benefit—time is money. Cross Road is a major route into the city. A reasonable amount of freight comes along that road, unfortunately. We do see a fair bit of it go along Portrush Road, as the north-south connector. When finally that road is completed we will probably see more freight come down Cross Road. Anything that makes those intersections move more quickly will certainly deliver an economic benefit to the state.

The Hon. F. PANGALLO: That leads me to my next question. Are there plans to reroute heavy transport up and down Cross Road from Portrush Road in the long term?

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: That is not something I have any information on. As we know, Portrush Road has seen a significant amount heavy vehicles along it. Surely, if a road becomes more free-flowing it is better. Time is money. Whether it is passengers, light industrial or even bigger vehicles, they will use it simply because it is more efficient to do so, but there is no plan that I am aware of. I am not advised that there is any actual plan to change the traffic flows from Portrush Road down Cross Road.

The Hon. F. PANGALLO: I go back to my question about the economic benefits of this intersection. We have come to accept that it is a bit of pork-barrelling that happened. At the same time that they announced the Portrush Road-Magill Road intersection—again, there is heavy traffic that goes along Portrush Road—the Minister for Transport claimed in parliament and elsewhere that the economic benefits to South Australia would be somewhere in excess of $600 million. We have actually asked for the modelling—

The Hon. M.C. Parnell: Rubbish. There is no modelling.

The Hon. F. PANGALLO: No, there is not any, I gather—thank you to the Hon. Mark Parnell. The Minister was very forthcoming in throwing up a figure of $600 million of economic benefits. Surely there must be similar types of estimates for the economic benefits of transforming this intersection.

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: I have just asked my adviser here, and we do not have any information around the economic benefits here with us today.

The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: I make the observation, and it follows on from the Hon. Mr Pangallo's questions, that it is very, very rare for a proper cost-benefit analysis to be undertaken in relation to DPTI road projects because it rarely stacks up. They can pluck some numbers out of the air and pretend that that is what the benefit is. This is $61 million, $30.5 million of which comes from state coffers and the other half comes from federal coffers.

In Parliament over recent weeks, we have been talking about residents of South Australia—asylum seekers, people on bridging visas—who are getting food parcels from churches and charities, and here we are throwing over $30 million of South Australian taxpayers' money at an unnecessary project. My question, though, relates to an answer the Minister gave earlier when he was asked about consultation with the school. What consultation has there been with the National Trust of South Australia in relation to heritage impacts?

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: I have just been advised that we are not aware of any actual consultation with the National Trust, but clearly groups such as the one that you were demonstrating with in January, community groups and those that are interested—I am sure there is a Friends of the—

The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: Friends of the Waite.

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: Yes, Friends of the Waite. I probably should put on the record that my uncle was an employee of Waite and there are some bull oaks growing in the arboretum taken from seeds from the property that I grew up on, so I have some relatively small and tenuous connection to it, but I do enjoy the arboretum. Nonetheless, all those groups are actually being consulted, even though the National Trust specifically has not been. I am advised that DPTI is talking to all of the community groups.

The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: I am not going to ask any further questions, but I just want to put on the record that I see where the numbers lie in this chamber. I still think that this is a misguided project that wastes taxpayers' money and has not been justified on any cost-benefit analysis. Key stakeholders have been tolerated but not consulted. So when we do get to the third reading of the bill, the Greens will again be voting against it.

The Hon. C. BONAROS: I have one final question in relation to this, and that is: last year we passed legislation which allowed for a compensation payment of $50,000 to be made to those households that did have their properties acquired. As it turns out, those changes have not been implemented in time for the Portrush Road residents that we mentioned today. I would like to know whether the Government intends for those measures to be in place before any further properties are acquired as a result of this road upgrade and whether those payments will be made available to any home owners who lose their properties as a result?

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: I am advised that those provisions now do apply and that any properties that are acquired on this particular project will receive that payment. Others have talked about pork barrelling. The hardworking member for Boothby, who was working particularly hard in advocating for her community, has some wonderful road projects. It is a bit disappointing that there are members in here being critical of the hard work she has done to advocate on behalf of her constituents to get those projects funded.

Clause passed.

Remaining clauses (2 to 6) and title passed.

Bill reported without amendment.


Third Reading

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY (Minister for Trade and Investment): I move:

That this bill be now read a third time.

Bill read a third time and passed.