QUESTION: Transport Department car park

During Question Time today, Mark asked the Treasurer, representing the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, a question about the former Department of Transport car park on the banks of the River Torrens at Walkerville.


The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: Anyone who has walked or cycled the River Torrens Linear Park Trail would be familiar with the old multistorey Department of Transport building on the banks of the River Torrens at Walkerville. The department left Walkerville years ago, and their office building was converted into apartments and a hotel and, I am reliably informed, an excellent coffee shop.

However, attached to the old Department of Transport building by footbridge across the River Torrens is a vast bitumen car park. This car park is roughly triangular in shape, surrounded by the River Torrens and the linear park on two sides and the O-Bahn on the third. According to satellite images, the paved area looks to be around 7½ thousand square metres, and it's marked out for around 400 cars. The entire site, including the connecting driveway from Holton Court, is probably over 10,000 square metres.

I understand that this vast expanse of bitumen has been fenced off and unused ever since the department vacated their Walkerville headquarters a decade or so ago. It is not used by the new development, which has its own onsite car parking.

My question of the minister is: why won't the government return this area back into the Torrens linear park for the benefit of the environment, the neighbourhood and all South Australians who enjoy this important bushland so close to the city centre?

The Hon. R.I. LUCAS (Treasurer): I am happy to refer the honourable member's question to the minister and bring back a reply, but I suspect that, in part, the minister might say that there's potentially some role for Treasury in relation to this issue. That is, I think I announced some two years ago that the government was probably doing a survey at the time of all surplus or unused land and properties in various departments and agencies. 

If there are properties that are surplus and unused, if one puts a business hat on and if you have a lazy balance sheet and there are assets that can be recycled and regenerated into building new assets for the public benefit, that's the way business is operated, and the business of running the state should be no different. 

The honourable member raises an additional element, and that is that it should be used for other purposes. I am sure the minister and the government can consider those uses as well, but in the alternative, if it has a value—and unused land in the Walkerville precinct may have some value, I suspect—the issue for the government is, as we look to regenerate the hospital assets, school assets and important social infrastructure, and indeed housing infrastructure right across the board, that using the capacity and the lazy balance sheet is one element of being able to find funding for important social infrastructure, which this government is clearly committed to in terms of the massive $1.3 billion that we are spending on school infrastructure.

I have lost count of the amount of money my very hardworking colleague in health spends on infrastructure, but I'm sure it's a very large sum of money—soon to be even larger when we talk about the Women's and Children's Hospital in terms of potentially massive expenditure on the Women's and Children's Hospital. It is a very wideranging program he is embarking on in the interests of the people of South Australia at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital and Flinders, Modbury, Lyell McEwin, Women's and Children's and regional hospitals. Everywhere one looks, the minister is busily regenerating the problems we have inherited from 16 years of Labor inactivity.

That is a very long answer to a very important question, but nevertheless it raises an important issue. I will refer it to the minister to see whether he can add to my comprehensive reply. He may well think that I have more than adequately covered it and that we are actually looking at various options, one of which might be the purpose that the member has raised. But he might take on notice that I have also canvassed that there might be other options for the potential use of the sale value of any particular surplus land the government has on its balance sheet.