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What a week! Waite Gatehouse saved from demolition


We have just seen a week of significant events for urban planning, the environment and heritage in South Australia.

First, Minister Corey Wingard made a long-overdue announcement on the fate of the Waite Gatehouse Lodge.   Given that, fourteen months ago, the Government, and indeed the University, were prepared to see this State Heritage building consigned to landfill, the decision, now, to save it from demolition must be seen as a win for a seriously concerned community.

Remember that, in a relatively short intensive campaign, 18,000 signatures were gathered on an on-line petition, 8,000 on a paper petition, and more than 1,000 people attended the second of two effective community rallies.  To all of you who supported the campaign, I say a heartfelt thanks for your interest and efforts.

It seems clear that the Government was forced to make an ill-formed but welcome decision through fear of the hard-copy petition reaching beyond its required target of 10,000 within a couple of weeks, mandating its formal consideration by the Legislative Review Committee, the Minister and the parliament.

This process would have revealed the ineptitude, misinformation and confusion imposed on this important public issue by the Minister and his Department.   As it is, the decision to deconstruct and reconstruct the Gatehouse on another site in the campus will likely cost no less than relocation of the intact building which, undoubtedly, was the preferred and safer option.

The Government will now wish to expedite the Gatehouse deconstruction /decommission to allow the road intersection project to meet deadlines.  Once this is done, there will be no clear imperative or urgency to efficiently and safely relocate and reconstruct the building.

For this reason, the Gatehouse Campaign team will closely monitor developments.  We will insist that the Gatehouse reconstruction is accurate, creating like for like, using the original materials and retaining its State Heritage status.  Anything less than this will be met with a new and vigorous public campaign.

The other major milestone was the implementation of the Phase 3 (metropolitan) of the new Planning and Design Code.   This marked the culmination of six years of political and bureaucratic bumbling, and a massive budget blowout.   The process was marked by endless revisions and delays and a manifesto that grew from 3,000 to 9,000 hard copy pages with the overall documentation totalling 75,000 paper and electronic pages. This is to be compared with the average of 700 pages which previously encompassed the planning process in local Councils.

The construction of the Code was developer- driven, lacked transparency and failed to adhere to the Community Engagement Charter mandated under the new legislation.  Eighteen community organisations have expressed their concern about the lack of genuine consultation in an open letter to the Planning Minister.

The Government has ignored or failed to address issues of community participation, rights of appeal, poor quality infill, suburban high rise, loss of heritage, trees and green space and the impacts of climate change.

Once again, this Alliance and the community at large will monitor the impacts of the Code on our heritage and lived environment as it is rolled out and will call the Government to account if and when our negative predictions are realised.

On the day the Code ‘went live’, the Chair of the State Planning Commission, Michael Lennon resigned.  The reasons for his resignation are unclear, but it is possible that he doesn’t want to live with the practical consequences of the new Code.   He disappears having presided over an inefficient, lengthy, convoluted and confusing saga which will leave its disturbing legacy on the South Australian community for decades to come.

On the same day that the Code was implemented, the Premier launched his Election campaign with the announcement of a massive, insensitive and unnecessary $700 million development on the riverbank.   And the forum for this announcement was a Property Council luncheon.   This says it all about the Government’s priorities and the pivotal role of the building and development industries in determining the formulation and intent of the Code.



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