«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 ...»
The Interest Groups Residents Associations By the mid-1980s, the Adelaide Residents’ Association had all but disbanded and played little part in the heritage debates of that decade. The group formed in 1974 when the first City of Adelaide Plan was framed. It represented residents of the Adelaide Square Mile below the River Torrens. Its founding members included architects Hamish Ramsay, Peter Birdsey and Sue Rogers, and property developer Rob Walbridge. They lobbied for the use of the Box Factory in Regent Street South as a community centre (closed in 2003 but soon to be revived) and reviewed all planning applications submitted to ACC.52 In 1983, the association collaborated with Andrew Cawthorne in the protest against demolition of the Aurora Hotel, and in 1985 it campaigned in the Young and Grey Ward council elections before ceasing operations.
The North Adelaide Society, founded in 1970, continues to represent its residents on civic matters. From its inception, its aims were to provide a responsible voice on matters affecting the overall character and development of North Adelaide, to improve North Adelaide as a desirable residential area without destroying its unique character, to encourage the retention and maintenance of buildings of historic and aesthetic value and to reduce pollution in all its form in the area. Other objects in its constitution focused on local issues affecting residents, such as population growth, protection of significant trees and shopping facilities.53 It was formed initially to oppose the MATS plan, which would have created a new major arterial road from the city along Margaret St to the northern suburbs. The result of this would have been the loss of many historic cottages in North Adelaide and the bisection of the northeastern part of the community. The society also opposed further high-rise developments such as those that ACC had approved in the 1960s, and contributed significantly to the first City of Adelaide Plan. Among its founding members were historian Hugh Stretton and John Watson, who later became Lord Mayor of Adelaide (1981–83).
In 1983, the society commented on the draft Register of City of Adelaide Heritage Items, expressing concern that the listing of buildings privately owned could result in unacceptable financial hardship to their owners. The society suggested ACC acquire the listed properties, restore them and dispose of them — an unlikely scenario. The society played no part in the 1983 public protest over demolition of the Aurora Hotel, which was below the North Adelaide boundary.
Peter Birdsey, personal interview, 2 July 2003.
North Adelaide Society Constitution, Objects.
Heritage Politics in Adelaide Like the Civic Trust, the North Adelaide Society commented on major public policies, including an objection in 1984 to the ASER project, deemed the biggest blunder and subject to the least scrutiny of the city’s major projects under the Adelaide Railway Station Development Act (1984). The 1986–91 City Plan included height limits on residential development in North Adelaide, as the Society advocated.
However, the Society failed in its 1985 plea for third party rights of appeal in planning matters through amendments to the City of Adelaide (Development Control) Act (1976) on the ground that residents of all other local government areas in South Australia had this privilege.
The society did not actively campaign in ACC elections, but invited all candidates to public forums for residents to meet the candidates during each campaign. Nor did it resort to direct action or public protests to try to save buildings. Its submissions to ACC and the state government on planning issues were somewhat conservative, comparable to those of the Civic Trust and National Trust. In 1992, it reported favourably on ACC’s townscape initiative but noted that much misinformation was patently causing residents concern. By then it had found favour with heritage conservation and no longer advocated compensation for owners of privately owned heritage buildings. Indeed, it became a strong advocate of heritage protection in North Adelaide and opposed the voluntary listing of buildings on the local heritage register in the 1990s.
Conservation Council of South Australia (CCSA) The CCSA was founded in 1971, partly funded by the state government, as an umbrella organisation for the burgeoning conservationist groups in South Australia. It became the major environmental lobby group and the first contact on environmental issues by governments. Its primary focus had been on conservation of the natural environment, but from time to time it was involved in planning and heritage protests. AHA became a member group of CCSA in 1984 as the leading lobby group on built heritage matters, and the CCSA generally left those issues to its expert member.
The CCSA protested about development proposals that would involve damage to the natural environment, such as proposed marina projects at Jubilee Point and Aldinga and tourist complexes in or adjacent to national parks. They opposed the state government’s plan for a chair lift with supporting towers to Mount Lofty, which would have impacted upon Cleland Conservation Park, as well as a proposed hotel complex at the summit. None of these proposals eventuated, but a tourist centre and restaurant replaced a shop at the summit, with some loss of the natural environment.
The Interest Groups Led by its Executive Officer Marcus Beresford, in 1988 the CCSA organised a public protest against demolition of the art deco-style Westpac Bank building in North Terrace at King William St, which had been nominated for listing on the State Heritage Register and was entered on the Register of the National Estate. ACC had approved demolition of the bank and adjacent SA Tourism buildings to make way for a $45 million 17-storey office development, but the CAPC had deferred the application. When Minister for Environment and Planning Dr Hopgood announced in April 1988 that the bank would not be heritage listed, the CCSA sought support for a public protest from AHA, journalist Peter Ward and Barry Rowney, architectural historian of The University of Adelaide. The developer withdrew the application and the building was later entered on the Register of City of Adelaide Heritage Items with the 1991–96 City of Adelaide Plan.
Beresford became a member of the SA Heritage Committee in 1989 but found the experience frustrating and did not renominate for a second term.54 The direct involvement of the CCSA with the SAHC ended with Beresford’s term, and the organisation resumed its primary interest in issues affecting the natural environment, with occasional comments on major planning matters until the AHA disbanded in 1995.
The two decades after the proclamation of the SA Heritage Act (1978) were a frenetic period for heritage activists. The dramatic downturn in the property market from 1991 brought a respite, leaving them to concentrate on the State Planning Review 1991–93. A team of the Department of Planning headed by planner Michael Lennon reviewed the SA Planning Act (1982), City of Adelaide (Development Control) Act (1976), SA Heritage Act (1978) and other relevant planning legislation.
All groups described in this chapter participated in the review, and the review team consulted interested parties around the state. The review culminated in passage of the Development Act (1993), the SA Heritage Act (1993) and the Environment, Development and Resources Court Act (1993). The latter Act established a new court (replacing the Planning Appeals Tribunal) that would consider appeals against ACC decisions as well as cases involving environmental matters. These Acts reflected primarily the views of the Planning Department and Parliament that development applications should be streamlined and complying developments approved quickly, but it took into account some public concerns, particularly the lack of third-party appeal rights in the City of Adelaide.
Marcus Beresford, personal interview, 6 February 2003.
Heritage Politics in Adelaide Conclusion Public protests against demolition of historic buildings had taken place in several parts of Adelaide before parliament passed the SA Heritage Act (1978) and well before the building boom of the later 1980s. With no third-party rights of appeal under the City of Adelaide (Development Control) Act (1976), residents and interest groups found direct action was their only means of expression to stop unwanted development. Through these protests, residents asserted a right to preserve the character of their community and an interest in the retention of historic buildings in commercial areas. At times, building workers also asserted the right to express an opinion on social issues relating to the building industry through withdrawal of their labour. Developers and some property owners, on the other hand, asserted their right to maximise the economic value of their property by increasing its magnitude, either by building taller buildings or by replacing one dwelling with several smaller ones, or both. These were the competing values that framed heritage politics and with which councillors and politicians had to grapple during the 1980s and 1990s, a period of over-optimism and uncontrolled speculation in urban construction.
New players entered the property market in the 1980s: superannuation funds, insurance companies, foreign companies and banks, competing alongside property trusts, property development companies and Australian banks which expanded at a prodigious rate. They created a building boom that was finance-driven, investing as if the boom would never end.
Among the conservationist interest groups, AHA was the only one devoted solely to preserving the built heritage and developing more comprehensive heritage and parklands policies for Adelaide. The National Trust (SA) evolved from an ‘Establishment’ organisation concerned primarily with its own properties in the built and natural environment into a true political lobby and even militant group from 1987, but its policies on townscape protection or local heritage were more conservative than those of AHA. The North Adelaide Society also strengthened its position and its submissions on heritage conservation by the mid-1980s, but it did not engage in direct action to save historic buildings in North Adelaide. The Civic Trust and CCSA were involved in the heritage debates, but those debates were not their major focus. These interest groups confronted the formidable combination of a state government that encouraged building development as a major means of economic recovery, the ACC which comprised a majority of pro-development members until 1991, a deregulated and speculative financial system that invested recklessly in the property market, and the collective lobbying
The Interest Groups
and influence of developers and architects on those institutions. The NGOs had some influence on planning policies and were able to modify the excesses of some projects. They also raised public awareness and strengthened public opinion in favour of heritage conservation (this chapter cites a number of instances in which buildings were heritage listed after public protests). However, they were engaged in an asymmetrical conflict in which the development sector held the economic and political power.
The period 1978–95 was one of rapid change for Adelaide City Council (ACC) in terms of city-state relations, planning controls, heritage protection, landscape and skyscape changes, demographic changes and the membership of ACC. In that period, ACC, the oldest municipal government in Australia, was far more autonomous than any other SA local government body because of its powers to control development under the City of Adelaide (Development Control) Act (1976) and its representation on the CAPC. This Dunstan Government legislation exempted Adelaide from the state planning controls affecting all other local governments through the South Australian Planning Act (1982). Under the 1976 statute, all development, including demolitions, within the municipality required approval by ACC, until new legislation passed by the state government came into effect in 1993.
In 1983, the Bannon government showed it would bypass city planning authority when it introduced the Adelaide Railway Station Environs Bill, giving the state government control over a major North Terrace project adjacent to the railway station. The project violated principles of the City of Adelaide Plan, triggering strong opposition from some members of ACC. From that time, ACC was wary of criticising state government projects in Adelaide, knowing the government could again legislate to circumvent council powers. A decade later, after a review of the state’s planning processes, the state government repealed the City of Adelaide (Development Control) Act (1976) and replaced it with the Development Act (1993),
The Role of Adelaide City Council
which brought Adelaide under the same planning processes as all other local government authorities in South Australia.
While the city was struggling with the state for control over development, it also had to contend with an increasingly restive community as Adelaide’s built character was rapidly disappearing. Residents’ associations, heritage lobby groups and individuals demanded more extensive protection of Adelaide’s distinctive Victorian and Edwardian buildings, while developers, architects, financiers and the building industry demanded less. ACC responded by proposing the first local government heritage register in 1982. The prolonged approval process required for the register to become part of the City of Adelaide Plan meant that the list of 363 buildings was not finally ratified until 1987. By then, it was considered too conservative and inadequate to protect the built character of Adelaide. Heritage activists continued to protest loudly and publicly against the ongoing demolition of Adelaide’s Victorian buildings that had not been heritage listed.
For the first time in the history of ACC, the business sector began to lose its council majority by 1987, partly because of increased community involvement in ACC elections. Discord in ACC meetings escalated as the elected membership divided into pro-heritage and pro-development factions. Development applications involving the demolition of unlisted buildings, such as St Paul’s Church and the Somerset Hotel in Pulteney St in 1989, brought the conflicts over the boundaries of heritage listing to a head. ACC began to consider additions to its heritage register, and at the same time ACC was developing a scheme to protect Adelaide’s built character, causing further conflicts between council members. The issues that triggered the conflicts over Adelaide’s heritage are this subject’s chapter.
Membership of the ACC and the Franchise ACC has never been a truly democratic institution. The Lord Mayor’s title itself is inherited from an undemocratic English social system, and plural voting based on property ownership has always been characteristic of the local government franchise in Australia. Until 1984, that franchise was restricted to property owners, including businesses, and ACC thus represented propertied persons and business interests.
Electors for businesses who were also resident in Adelaide had more than one vote, as did ratepayers who owned property in more than one ward. If a company had 30 branches or subsidiaries, that company and its subsidiaries could cast 31 votes. It was common for a developer to set up a company for each of his or her projects to limit the liability if a project failed to return a profit. Some entrepreneurs who were Heritage Politics in Adelaide expansive in establishing businesses were eligible to cast as many as 135 votes and hence could control the outcome of ACC elections.
In 1978, the City of Adelaide was divided into six wards, two in residential North Adelaide and four in the city’s square mile south of the River Torrens. The number of electors in each varied considerably. Although two councillors represented each ward, there were twice as many electors in the residential wards as in the business wards. Residential Young Ward in the southeast of the city had more than three times as many potential voters as the commercial Gawler Ward in the northwest. The two commercial wards, Gawler and Hindmarsh, were subsequently amalgamated in 1992 after a periodic review of representation under the Local Government Act (1934), reducing the number of council wards to five.