National Trust Heritage Forum Recap
More than 300 people attended the Valuing our Heritage forum at UniSA on 15 February. A panel of seven candidates and elected officials responded to a series of questions submitted by the public. Represented were the Liberals, Labor, Greens SA, SA Best, Australian Conservatives, Adelaide City Council and Advance SA. The questions covered a number of key areas including why heritage is important, the Minister’s powers to delist provisionally listed State heritage places, how to ensure heritage fabric is not compromised by unsympathetic development, demolition of heritage places and legal protection for several iconic places namely the Adelaide Park lands, Fort Largs and Martindale Hall.
All speakers spoke strongly about heritage values but several noted that more needs to be done to educate the community and promote adaptive reuse. As Martin Haese, the Lord Mayor of Adelaide pointed out “We need people who have a heritage building to see it as a badge of honour – not all do”. Liberal shadow Environment Minister David Speirs said “We have a lot of work to do to make sure local heritage isn’t seen as a burden to owners – it does scare people, and that’s unfortunate” and also “ Some of the most active heritage buildings are those with modern day purposes – we need to get better at that..”
In response to the delisting question the Environment Minister Ian Hunter responded “We need to understand how infrequently delisting happens” and he had only exercised this power on two occasions. David Speirs responded “there will always be a need for ministerial discretion… it should be maintained and used sparingly”. However a number of the other speakers were critical that the Minister is able to exercise such unfettered power and that any such decisions are not reviewable by parliament. Karen Hockley from SA Best took the view that “listing and delisting decisions should be given to an independent body for all decisions on heritage items”.
How to ensure heritage fabric is not compromised by unsympathetic development such as high rise produced a range of responses which included the need for careful drafting of policies and the will to protect important heritage places and streetscapes.
In relation to the contentious issue of how applications to demolish heritage places should be dealt with, Mark Parnell from the Greens SA had a four word slogan “easy in, hard out” and Karen Hockley took the view that “demolition of heritage places should not be on merit..” At present local councils across South Australia do not have a consistent approach to this issue.
It was generally agreed that whilst a little clunky, regulation of the Adelaide Park lands worked reasonably well although Mark Parnell warned us all to be ever vigilant.
Minister Hunter said the failure to progress preservation and adaptation works at Fort Largs was due to an inability to agree on as the funds needed but all speakers said it was an important heritage place and work should commence as soon as possible.
The complicated history of Martindale Hall came under the spotlight. Forum facilitator Christine Trenorden noted that late in 2017 the government formulated a proposal which involved legislation to remove the charitable trust and conservation park status which applies to the Hall and surrounds. In response Minister Hunter said the legislation was needed or nothing could happen in terms of better utilising the property. The Trust deplores the proposed removal of the charitable trust and conservation park status.
Watch the full forum video
Read full responses from each of the parties in the latest issue of Heritage Living