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The future of Ayers House as a treasured heritage property is under threat following the State Government’s decision to evict the National Trust from its 50-year stewardship of the House.

The Government proposes to transfer the tenancy of Ayers House to one of its statutory agencies, the History Trust of SA, which is seeking accommodation for administrative headquarters, offices and educational and other activities involving 15 staff.

The takeover of a State Heritage-listed property for this purpose makes no sense. There are several other suitable sites in the CBD, and, indeed, on North Terrace, for the location of the History Trust headquarters.

Not only would the public lose access and amenity, but it will foot the $1 million bill to create new government offices in this heritage building to accommodate the re-location of 15 public servants at a cost of $66,000 per person.

But the Government’s plans go far beyond the questionable need to re-locate the History Trust into Ayers House. The recent Report of the Parliamentary Public Works Committee indicates that most of the ground floor will be leased to a commercial tenant for catering and private events.

This is in addition to the appropriation of the upper floor for administration and office space and the basement for storage. These are all heritage areas.

In essence, the proposal aims to use a substantial sum of government money to remove a valuable asset from the public domain, in order to create new offices, and to promote private and commercial functions at this historic venue. The community, itself, will effectively be funding a loss of public benefit, made worse by the installation of government services, with the erosion of historic and cultural amenities, in a state heritage building.

It also appears that the decision to move the History Trust into Ayers House has conveniently created an opportunity for the Government to augment its presence in a prestigious property in proximity to its valuable corporate partners and supporters in Lot 14. There seems little doubt that at least part of the function of the House, with its re-purposed facilities, will be to host entertainment and commercial events at the behest of the Premier of the day.

This proposed desecration of Ayers House is ill-conceived, wasteful and destructive. It will provoke a major backlash from the wider South Australian community.


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