Environment Minister David Spiers has introduced a Bill into Parliament seeking to remove existing legislative protections by abolishing the existing Martindale Hall Conservation Park and extinguishing the charitable trust established when the property was gifted to the people of South Australia.
Instead the ‘care control and management’ of the Hall would be vested solely in the Minister, including the power to enter into private lease arrangements of indefinite length. The bill proposes some undefined policies to protect the building and its remaining historical contents, but these can all be amended at any time at the discretion of the Minister so they cannot be relied upon.
The bill also states that ‘The State Planning Commission will be taken to be the relevant authority…in relation to any proposed development at Martindale Hall’. In other words the fate of the Hall will be in the hands of an unelected and publicly unaccountable body with clear proclivities for favouring development over heritage. The public would lose all say on the future of this much loved community asset.
Martindale Hall dates from 1880, and was originally bequeathed by the Mortlock family to the University of Adelaide. In 1980 it was entered on the State Heritage Register and in 1986 it was gifted to the people of South Australia. Since then it has lapsed into various leasing iterations under the management of the Department of the Environment, which has repeatedly attempted to offload the property and failed to invest in its long term preservation.
The bill would enable the privatisation of the Hall at the Minister's sole discretion, including the restriction of public access.
The Martindale Hall situation is another example of the Environment Minister promoting development over conservation. His attempt to do this by offering part of Belair National Park for extensive and environmentally damaging private development, was only reversed in response to public opinion, and, possibly, by the prospect of electoral damage. He also, presumably, recently afforded an extra overlay of protection for State Heritage listed Colonel Light Gardens in response to community pressure in a very marginal Liberal seat.
This history echoes the original Waite bequest to the University of the property incorporating the State Heritage Listed Gatehouse Lodge, which was recently threatened with demolition. Neither Minister Spiers, nor his Government showed any interest in preventing this outcome until intense community pressure effected a reversal of this plan.
The clear message now abroad in the community is that this Government cannot be trusted to preserve and protect our Heritage. We must stand up to defend it.
This new threat to Martindale Hall requires a strong public response to resist the further privatisation of our heritage and parks. The National Trust has launched a petition to Parliament to keep Martindale Hall for the people. I urge all of you to download the petition and to collect signatures so we can ask the Parliament to intervene to keep Martindale Hall for the people.
I urge you also to let your local MP know that you do not support the privatisation of Martindale Hall . You can download a list of MP contacts here.
Parliamentarians should be aware that the Government's continued attack on our heritage and parks now has a high profile in the community and will undoubtedly be an Election issue in March 2022.
Thank you for your interest and support.
Warren Jones AO
Ask your MP to say no to privatising Martindale Hall
Please write to your State MP and ask them to oppose the bill to allow the privatisation of Martindale Hall.
Professor Warren Jones AO is the Convenor of the Protect our Heritage Alliance, a coalition of concerned organisations and individuals, working to protect our built and natural environment. GPO Box 2021 Adelaide, SA 5001
Phone: 0419 852 622 Email: [email protected].au