So much for the Vibrant City

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 40 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 40 sites rejected for listing are mapped here.  Use Google Street View to see the buildings in question.

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