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«Welcome to the electronic edition of Heritage Politics in Adelaide. The book opens with the bookmark panel and you will see the contents page. Click on ...»

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Until 1987, presidents of the Trust were reluctant to lead the organisation into public disputes. It was primarily concerned with maintaining its museums and other properties and commenting on such policy matters as tax incentives for heritage conservation. The Trust was strongly criticised in 1971 for its failure to join the campaign to save the A-classified ANZ Bank building (now Edmund Wright House) in King William St. In fact, the Trust’s acting president, C.W. Bonython, attempted to negotiate with the government and with the owner of the building for its purchase but could not meet the developer’s terms.43 The Trust’s quarterly newsletters show it to have been an inward-looking organisation in the early 1980s. In 1983, Director Bryan Hodson expressed regret that the Trust had failed to inspire young people ‘in a way that inspired our founding Its first five presidents were Sir Arthur Rymill MLC, 1956–60, Sir Edward Morgan, 1961, HC Morphett Esq MC, 1962–65, prominent architect Dean W Berry, 1966–70, and C Warren Bonython Esq 1971–75. National Trust of South Australia, Silver Jubilee Handbook 1955–1980 (Adelaide: National Trust SA, 1980), p.12.

For details of the failed negotiations by Bonython and criticism of the Trust for its unwillingness to risk failure, see Barbara J Best, Preserving Our Heritage (Adelaide: privately published, 1973), chapter 4.

The Interest Groups (and now older) members to serve it with great dedication’.44 In 1987, the Trust’s new director, Kenneth ‘Tim’ McDonald, formerly of the Australian diplomatic corps in Washington, began to change the profile of the SA Branch. He made public statements on building projects, particularly proposals for development of the East End Market site, and collaborated with Aurora Heritage Action, Inc., on several heritage issues. Phillippa Menses replaced McDonald in 1990, and continued his high-profile political style. Through Menses, the Trust was actively involved in the East End Market development and the proposed demolition of heritage-listed Tram Barn A at the Hackney Bus Depot site in 1993.

The Trust expressed its first public commitment to local heritage, or townscape, conservation in its newsletter of April 1989, after it organised a seminar on the subject with speakers historian Norman Etherington, Rob Fowler of the University of Adelaide Law School, Nigel Leavis of Melbourne’s Urban Conservation Areas and two local planners. The Trust’s vice-president David Gilbert, an architect, later supported the introduction of conservation areas in the City, rather than the townscape initiative, but added, ‘I don’t think there would be a large number of conservation zones in Adelaide. One would have to consider the South East Corner, East End Market, three of the six squares, the Parklands and large parts of North Adelaide’.45 Possibly because the Trust commented on planning matters affecting all local government areas of the state, it advocated a uniform system of local heritage conservation zones as already established in some council districts. Its stance may have promoted consistency in the state but ACC would not have adopted it in 1990.

Aurora Heritage Action, Inc.

Aurora Heritage Action, Inc. (AHA) began in 1983 as an ad hoc group protesting against demolition of the Aurora Hotel, located at the Pirie St end on the eastern side of Hindmarsh Square, Adelaide. Although recommended for listing on the City of Adelaide Heritage Register then under consideration, ACC approved redevelopment of the hotel site on 27 June 1983. Four months later, a residents’ protest meeting was held in front of the hotel, followed by a round-the-clock vigil, where passersbys signed petitions to ACC and state parliament. The Building Construction Workers Federation imposed a green ban on the site in support of the residents in the style of their NSW BLF colleagues of the 1970s. The Aurora campaign lasted 35 days, ending in demolition of the hotel (see chapter 7).

National Trust Newsletter, 117, February 1983, p.5.

National Trust Newsletter, 158, December 1989, p.3.

Heritage Politics in Adelaide Though a defeat, the 1983 Aurora campaign marked a turning point in Adelaide’s heritage politics. The protesters, encouraged by massive media coverage and public support, formed a lobby group, Aurora Heritage Action, Inc., which became a leading NGO involved in Adelaide’s heritage debate for more than a decade. AHA shifted the focus of South Australian heritage politics from a narrow range of architectural icons to conservation of the built character of Adelaide and broader concepts of historic merit. AHA aimed ‘to protect the built heritage and the environment in South Australia, to promote the proper management of the built heritage … to encourage public participation in the process of the proper management of the built heritage … [and] to do all such other things … conducive to the attainment of the aforesaid objects’.46 The strategy for achieving those lofty aims was vague at first, other than to stage public protests as the occasion arose and to use the media for the promotion of heritage issues in a way the National Trust was not willing to do and the State Heritage Branch not able to do.

In May 1984, AHA protesters again brandished placards, this time on the steps of the heritage-listed Commonwealth Bank Building in Currie St in opposition a proposal to construct an office tower on the site. The proposal was withdrawn, but the campaigners did not then know that a year later the State Bank would lodge an application to build the State Bank Centre on the site with funding from SASFIT.





AHA organised another successful protest in front of the Colonel Light Hotel in January 1985 after the developer, Gerry Karidis, lodged an application for office and rental accommodation plus a corner tavern, the latter with about the same floor space as the original hotel at Light Square. In addition to mounting a residents’ picket, AHA members negotiated with Karidis for retention of the hotel within his development. He agreed that incorporating the existing building into his plan would save construction costs, and the hotel, listed on the first Register of City of Adelaide Heritage Items, was renamed the Heritage Hotel.

While the public face of AHA was that of a group of street protesters and chimney huggers, ACC and other civic bodies experienced a more professional aspect. The Aurora campaign had shown there was no hope of saving a building after ACC had approved its demolition. Believing that the presentation of full information about the architectural and historic merits of threatened buildings would persuade ACC to vote against certain demolitions, rostered pairs of AHA members, each pair including an architect, examined all development applications, visited the sites and submitted comments to the planning approvals committee (later planning and environment Constitution of Aurora Heritage Action, Inc., p.1, in possession of the author.

The Interest Groups

Commonwealth Bank Building, 1984. AHA collection

committee). Soon the comments became an accepted — if largely ignored — part of the committee documentation, although Lord Mayor Jim Jarvis (1985–87) called attention to them on occasion. Submitting comments on the historic or architectural value of buildings to councillors with fixed minds about development in Adelaide proved fruitless. Nevertheless, the group persisted for nearly a decade before abandoning the exercise.

Recognising the critical importance of having a council that represented a balance of views on development applications, in 1985 the AHA began to campaign in city elections. As noted in chapter 4, ACC had largely represented the commercial interests of the city in the post-World War II era. Only four of the 19 ACC members primarily represented the interests of residents in 1983–85. In the May 1985 election, AHA letterboxed a ‘how-to-vote-heritage’ leaflet throughout the city and handed it to electors at polling booths. Heritage protection became a major issue of the 1985 campaign. Lord mayoral candidate Jim Jarvis, a marketing consultant and property developer, declared the ‘city should provide balanced development and proper preservation of the city’s heritage and publicise the heritage list’, but in reality both he and incumbent lord mayoral candidate Wendy Chapman ‘tailored Heritage Politics in Adelaide their campaigns to attract maximum votes from both the commercial and residential interests’.47 Two AHA members failed to win seats in 1985, but other candidates supported by the group were successful, notably Norman Etherington, who had been actively involved in the Aurora campaign, and Ross Davies. The 1985 election increased by two the residential representation on ACC, to six of 19 members. This

outcome appears to have influenced the state election campaign later that year:

while Premier Bannon highlighted a building boom, Leader of the Opposition John Olsen announced a package of financial incentives to encourage the preservation and restoration of registered heritage properties. In December 1985, Bannon formed government for the second time.

AHA campaigned in every ACC election from 1985 to 1995, the only NGO other than the Adelaide residents associations to participate actively in city elections. The pattern of increasing the number of ACC members who represented residential interests continued, until in 1991 they held the majority of seats for the first time. As Paul Stark wrote in 1988, ‘the determination of what comprises our heritage is a remarkably political activity’,48 and AHA strove to ensure that the political numbers were on the side of heritage by actively supporting nominees who would vote in favour of heritage conservation. Community sentiment was swinging in favour of conservation as increasing numbers of historic buildings in the city were lost during the building boom, changing the character of the residential and commercial sectors, and voting patterns reflected that feeling at the local government level.

AHA maintained regular media coverage and became an accepted segment of heritage politics in the city. As it gained respectability and as it experienced the limited effects of direct action, the group changed tactics toward working with governments to influence heritage policies. It intensified its direct lobbying of Ministers, councillors, heritage and planning staff. The group’s leaders prepared extensive submissions and appeared before state and local government committees. AHA architects also met with company CEOs and developers to try to persuade them to alter plans to improve the impact of developments on streetscapes. Among plans modified because of this direct contact were those for the Telecom Building in Flinders St and the last two-storey Victorian mansion in South Terrace, the latter standing until very recently as a tribute to the heritage architects and Pulteney Grammar School.

Advertiser, 3 May 1985, p.9.

Susan Marsden and Robert Nicol, ‘The Politics of Heritage’ (Adelaide: History Trust of SA Conference papers, 1990), p.36.

The Interest Groups AHA found this strategy more likely to be effective if they met CEOs and developers before detailed plans had been finalised, although they had no influence on the State Bank Centre after a meeting with its architect and executives.

AHA members continued to participate in state and local government committees in the early 1990s, among them the State Heritage Branch, the Ministerial Working Party on the Townscape Initiative and the City of Adelaide Heritage Advisory Committee. Some AHA members were elected to ACC. The evolution of the AHA’s strategies at this stage is consonant with Doyle’s analysis of the development of green politics: environmental groups transformed their tactics from direct action to insider politics by the mid-1980s, working with governments to formulate and implement environmental policy.49 As the AHA became more reputable, the National Trust became more publicly involved in heritage issues. From the 1987 appointment of McDonald as Trust director, the two heritage bodies began to work together while maintaining separate profiles, particularly on the East End Market redevelopment proposal and the REMM-Myer redevelopment. AHA usually took uncompromising positions on heritage conservation, which gave the National Trust room to pull the government and other groups that supported non-complying developments to the centre, where compromise might be possible. McDonald’s replacement in 1990, Phillippa Menses, continued this working relationship and the Trust’s public political involvement in heritage issues.

The two heritage groups diverged on ACC’s townscape initiative. While first supporting the model of Melbourne’s Urban Conservation Zones, AHA accepted the townscape model initiated by ACC and moved to extend the number of historic buildings embraced by the concept, whereas the Trust proposed a more limited approach of identifying a small number of historic zones in Adelaide.

Having lost the campaign for townscape protection in Adelaide when a local heritage register replaced the scheme, AHA disbanded in 1995 after Henry Ninio was elected Lord Mayor. Until that time, AHA had been the most vocal heritage lobby group, and its campaigns of public education were particularly effective in gaining public support for heritage protection.

Civic Trust of South Australia The Civic Trust was not expressly a heritage interest group, but it commented on public heritage issues from time to time. Modelled on the UK Civic Trust, Doyle, Green Power, p.xxiv.

Heritage Politics in Adelaide architects dominated its council when it was founded in 1969. Its first president was prominent Adelaide architect J.H. McConnell. One of its constitutional aims was to help preserve structures of architectural distinction or historic interest, along with ‘promoting public awareness of factors affecting our environment, encouraging quality in architecture and civic design and helping to preserve the natural qualities of the regional landscape’. Its style was conservative and professional.

This self-appointed guardian of good taste in architecture, ‘never saw itself as a body to man the barricades’.50 The Civic Trust has had most media attention for its awards for civic design and restored and recycled buildings, and especially for its brickbats for poor civic design introduced in 1977. In 1984, ACC received a brickbat for ‘permitting its own plan to be eroded to a point where it has become irrelevant and, in particular, allowing the destruction of an amenity the Plan set out to conserve — namely the Aurora Hotel’.

The Civic Trust’s then newsletter editor added, ‘a precedent has now been set for the destruction of the remaining hotels and restaurants and their replacement with faceless office buildings’.51 These strong words from a group formed by architects demonstrated there were critics of modern architecture within that profession.

The criticisms did not stop there. The Civic Trust joined the National Trust and AHA, among others, in reproaching the Premier for ensuring the progress of the ASER project through the Adelaide Railway Station Development Act (1984), bypassing the City of Adelaide (Development Control) Act (1976) and other controls (see chapter 4). It emphasized the failure to conform to the City of Adelaide Plan and objected to such indenture agreements that provided inadequately for public participation in developments under a special Act of Parliament. Other major government projects opposed by the Civic Trust were the Jubilee Point marine development (1986), the carpark in the parklands for Botanic Gardens employees (1986) and the Mt Lofty development (1988), which contravened many principles of development control in the Hills Face Zone. It also prepared comprehensive submissions on five-yearly reviews of the City of Adelaide Plans.

In 1988, the Civic Trust presented AHA with a special award for its important contribution to the awareness in the community of the importance and value of quality in the environment, demonstrating its commitment to heritage conservation as well as good civic design.

James Warburton, Sustaining Our Heritage (Adelaide: Civic Trust of SA, 1986), p.1.

Civic Trust Newsletter, November 1984, p.1.



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