Opinion: So much for the Vibrant City

Opinion: So much for the Vibrant City

A peculiarity of the current government is that it appears to have two ministers for heritage – one for and one against. Ian Hunter oversees the Heritage Council which looks after places of importance to the State and occasionally adds some. John Rau, Minister for Planning, acts as the Minister Against Heritage, using veto power to prevent local councils from implementing their recommendations for the listing of Local Heritage Places. While I haven’t personally checked, it’s quite possible Minister Rau’s department employs more staff and consultants to quash heritage listings than Minister Hunter employs to protect heritage places.

Over the last five years the Adelaide City Council has gone to a great deal of trouble to identify places worth adding to its register. When they forwarded a list of 77 new places to the Minister for approval, he vetoed 41 of them. Many of the grounds listed for refusal appear dubious. For example, several were said to occupy ‘strategic sites’. Others were said to be of a type ‘over-represented’. These reasons have nothing to do with the legal criteria for heritage listing. Minister Rau is also on record as saying that too much heritage listing imperils his goal of making Adelaide a more vibrant city by raising the Council area’s population to 50,000.

Anyone who knows what goes on within our ring of Parklands knows this is hogwash. The most vibrant areas of the city – and the most populous – are to be found where old buildings abound. The most desolate and underdeveloped parts of the city are where heritage buildings have been wiped off the map.
Take a walk along King William Street south of Victoria Square and see for yourself. Where old buildings stand along the west side of the street there is life. Otherwise the streetscape looks like the postwar city of London, dotted by empty blocks.

Compare the bustle of Leigh Street with its bustling restaurant scene with nearby Peel Street or Bank Streets which are anything but vibrant. What makes the difference? Old buildings.
If what we want is more population, where do we find most people? Near the heritage clusters in North Adelaide, North Terrace and the southeast corner.
Where do we find the least? West of Morphett Street where old buildings are few and far between. As far as people are concerned the Parkland frontage of West Terrace is as dead as the cemetery across the road.

By vetoing the considered recommendations of the City Council, the Minister Against Heritage shoots down the prospects for a more vibrant city, and shoots himself in the foot.

-Professor Norman Etherington, President, National Trust of South Australia.

See for yourself

The 41 sites rejected for listing are mapped here. You can use Google Street View to see the buildings in question.

For the full details on each of the sites – listed in alphabetical street order- you can download the full report from the Adelaide City Council.

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8 thoughts on “Opinion: So much for the Vibrant City

  1. Good on you Norm for your comments in support of heritage in the City, but don’t underrate the beautiful 19 C cottages of the SW Corner!

  2. Dear Professor Etherington,

    Just something else you may find interesting.

    I had a dispute for almost two years with the Cemeteries Authority over my Great Grandparents headstone which had been resumed from Cheltenham Cemetery and was about to be crushed and turned into roadbase, which I found appalling and disgusting. I could not believe that this was what they were doing with the history of the state in the name of progress. (And I believe hundreds if not thousands of headstones have met this fate.)

    Initially the Solicitor General wanted to pay a fee for it before they would release it to me. This I refused and argued that it did not belong to the State Govt. and had been paid for by my Great Grandmother, and was therefore the property of the family and the heritage of SA and they did not have the right to ask for payment.

    Eventually the Board (which is under the control of minister Rau) decided that I could take possession of it and I received documentation to be signed and returned.
    This I took to my Solicitor who is an Officer of the Supreme Court and had him sign off on it as a witness to my signature instead of the requested JP.

    I came home, faxed it off at around 4pm and got a call at 9am the next morning saying I could pick it up from Enfield Cemetery.

    I am now having it restored, and it will reside in my garden wearing a plaque stating that should I fall off the perch, it remains the property of the family, with three contacts who will hopefully ensure it is looked after for another 100 years and by then maybe our history will be appreciated.

    I like the English idea of memorial walls in some cemeteries where head stones from resumed plots are built into a wall for perpetuity and also to allow ancestors to look into their family history.

    In the case of my Great Grandfather, he was one of 12 children brought to SA in 1837 by his parents, and his father was a coachbuilder who owned a business in King William Street building coaches for arriving immigrants to travel to the mines in the mid north.
    Search for William Laity Morris.


  3. Well done Mr Rau. Many councils use heritage laws to restrict innovation and development not protect heritage. Local council election are a joke. One may have just over 100 votes and become elected member. Small minds make big decisions and fail.

  4. We should be wary of centralising planning powers. Council Development Assessment Panels may be imperfect, but they are well informed and their porocesses are relatively transparent.

    The Minister’s office tends to be more accessible to the development industry than to small landowners. Consider the recent history of rezoning, for example at Mt Barker and at Gillman. In both cases it could be argued that the Minister was too much under the influence of major developers, and that as a result, the community came off second best. Be very careful that the ‘cure’ is not worse than the disease.

  5. Can I have a contact for Ray Robinson in regard to the 2nd Opinion below.My Great Great Great Grandfather is William Laity Morris.

  6. Hi Ray William laity Morris was my great great grandfather and I would like to learn more about him and where his business is. It would be a shame if it was to be destroyed if it is still there in any form.