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-- [ Page 7 ] --

Personal interview, 29 November 2000.

Peter Bell, personal interview, 24 October 2000.

Barry Rowney, personal interview, 13 December 2000.

Heritage Politics in Adelaide By 1990, the South Australian Planning Act (1982) was widely considered outdated, and the Bannon government began a review of planning in South Australia.

The government extended the Planning Review to include state heritage and the role of the SAHC, and the Director-General of Environment and Planning appointed a committee to review the administration of the South Australian Heritage Act (1978).

The relationship between the SAHC and the SHB was on the SAHC agenda in 1991.

A position paper based on the discussion included statements that the committee was seen as ‘obstructionist’ and the SHB ‘reactive’. Further, ‘heritage management lay in the Branch, went from the Branch to the Minister and back down through the same process. The … committee represented the community, but had not had much influence over recent times’.66 At its December 1991 meeting, the committee acknowledged that its future was limited and that it should ‘support and assist the Branch in its changing directions’. Other goals were to strengthen cooperative ties with other agencies, understand the review of the Heritage Act and Planning Act initiated by the Bannon government, expand financial incentives for owners of heritage buildings and monitor local government approaches to local heritage.67 The successor to the SAHC under the new Heritage Act (1993), the eightmember State Heritage Authority, obtained some of the powers previously held by the Minister. A prescribed range of skills was required of its members. The new Act specified criteria for state heritage listing (s.17) and referred to local heritage and state heritage areas, which were to be defined in the new Development Act (1993).

At the local government level, the Department of Planning considered heritage conservation Planning primarily in terms of development control.68 Committees established under the Act are the Development Assessment Committee, to advise the Minister on matters relating to planning and development control, and the Development Policy Advisory Committee, concerned with policy advice.

The City of Adelaide Planning Commission Premier Dunstan believed that the City of Adelaide (Development Control) Act (1976) should regulate planning for the capital city separately from suburban and regional areas. Detailed planning principles and guidelines were contained in a schedule to SAHC minutes 16 January 1991, item 3.2, pp.6–7.

SAHC minutes 11 December 1991, item 4.2.

Samuels, op cit., entry for 1988, p 3. Samuels adds that ‘thinking in the [State Heritage] Branch was heading away from that view’, showing the divide between the Department of Environment and Land Management and the Department of Planning with respect to built heritage protection.

Australian Governments and Heritage the Act, known as the City of Adelaide Plan (the Plan). All development proposals for Adelaide, whether involving state, ACC or private properties, first passed through ACC’s planning processes. Chapter 4 discusses these processes.

The Act established the CAPC as a joint planning body of ACC and the state government to coordinate planning by both tiers of government in the state capital. In practice, Premier Dunstan’s joint committee approved nearly all private developments recommended by ACC, although occasionally it had a moderating effect on those recommendations. The ACC representatives on the commission, chaired by the Lord Mayor, generally voted as a bloc on development proposals.

Until the late 1980s, ACC represented the business and property interests of the city. Government representatives, from departments such as transport, housing, urban affairs, public buildings, environment and planning, on the other hand, would be likely to comment only when the interests of their particular departments were affected. The composition of the Commission remained similar throughout the 1980s: all members were male except Lord Mayor Wendy Chapman (1983–84) until 1985, when Dr Judith Brine, then deputy head of the University of Adelaide architecture department, was appointed as a public representative. Before 1985, the commission membership was equally divided between ACC and government representatives. Dr Brine then brought the membership to nine, and often hers was the lone vote against developments that did not comply with the City Plan.

From 1977–83, the Commission refused only a few private developments,69 and given that the Commission only considered proposals that did not comply with the City of Adelaide Plan, the Commission clearly supported development over planning principles in the city. The CAPC minutes show that they sometimes invited proponents of major developments to attend CAPC meetings; they rarely offered opponents or heritage activists the same privilege.

The CAPC maintained its record of supporting the overwhelming majority of non-complying private developments referred to it by ACC until the Development Act (1993) was proclaimed. Applications refused by the CAPC generally involved minor projects, such as an application to extend office and storage space for the Red Cross Society in Childers St, North Adelaide, and another to extend a crash repair shop in Fenchurch St in 1991.70 They ultimately approved major projects, although sometimes amendments were required or conditions imposed. Thus, while the Commission may have fulfilled its role in bringing together representatives of See Annual Reports of the CAPC, 1977–86, and minutes of CAPC meetings 1987–93.





Minutes of CAPC, 8 November 1989, p.2, and 10 July 1991, p.3.

Heritage Politics in Adelaide city and state governments to agree on development projects within Adelaide, the potential for the Commission to assess major developments critically in the public interest may not have been satisfied.

The Special Projects Unit The Special Projects Unit (SPU) was a non-statutory body established by Premier Bannon in the Department of the Premier and Cabinet under the directorship of Mr Hugh Davies, a former developer. The government entrusted it in particular with ideas for state government tourism projects. In its best work, the SPU restored a heritage precinct in Port Adelaide as a tourist development to help promote growth in the ailing Port area. Other projects included redevelopment of the heritage-listed Lion-Fowler site in North Terrace at Morphett St as a living arts centre, the Hindmarsh Entertainment Centre, the controversial Hindmarsh Island Bridge (opened in 2001 by the Olsen government), a cable car to Mt Lofty summit, a golf course and resort in the Flinders Ranges, a resort at West Beach and marinas at Jubilee Point and Silver Sands Beach. Few of these tourist projects were developed, and the Department of Tourism opposed many of them. The SPU had a lot of money poured into it, according to a former ministerial officer in the Bannon government who implied that a lot of the money was wasted. The source of the funds was the South Australian Financing Authority.

The SPU also managed the redevelopment of Town Acre 86 at Pulteney St, Hindmarsh Square and Rundle Mall, bequeathed to the Royal Adelaide Hospital by the Da Costa family. Many saw the 1985 development proposal, opposed by the Lord Mayor and heritage and planning groups, as a contest over control of city planning. Journalist David English described the tactics of the ‘powerful and highly successful’ Branch: ‘The SPU has a track record of being able to cut the red tape, make decisions, give good advice and businesslike support. It also has a track record of being able to bulldoze its way past objections’.71 The cohesive group of Victorian shops at Hindmarsh Square, Pulteney St and Rundle Mall comprising Town Acre 86 was demolished and replaced by postmodern two-storey shops with a mammoth blue reflecting-glass office tower emerging from their core, contravening principles of the City of Adelaide Plan and the views of ACC. According to former State Heritage Branch manager Peter Bell, ‘The SPU made a mockery of the planning system … From 1982–93 protection of heritage places was entirely dependent on the planning system as set out in the Planning Act Advertiser, 26 August 1985, p.7.

Australian Governments and Heritage [and City of Adelaide (Development Control) Act]. The SPU was outside and above the planning system’.72 The experiences of the Bannon years reinforce that heritage is a political concept and that in the end the Minister and the Premier held the power with respect to heritage decisions through its bureaucracy. As chapter 4 shows, the state government could also wield power over ACC. In the Bannon decade, with its focus on economic development, the political will of the state government to protect the built heritage was particularly weak.

Peter Bell, personal interview, 9 March 2001.

–  –  –

From the moment the South Australian Heritage Act was proclaimed in 1978, a range of interest groups sought to influence heritage policies at both state and local government levels. As noted positively by Davis et al., ‘organisations make a significant contribution to the distribution of influence and the circulation of policy ideas. Groups advocate solutions for public problems — whether through the discrete lobbying of business councils or the more public displays of farmers and conservationists’.2 With regard to heritage, the groups advocating policies that would permit unrestricted development in Adelaide, even occasionally for listed heritage buildings, were developers, architects, financial institutions and others with commercial interests in the building industry. Their lobby groups were the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA), the Property Owners and Ratepayers Association, and the Royal Australian Institute of Architects (RAIA), although many members of the RAIA supported the preservation of historic architecture. Among Adelaide’s heritage lobby groups, some were organised and more or less dedicated to the preservation of the city’s Victorian and Edwardian character that remained during the Bannon decade, and some were ad hoc and informal, with a more narrow focus on saving an individual building. The National Trust (SA Branch), Aurora Peter Spearritt, Sydney’s Century (Sydney: UNSW Press. 2000), p.257.

‘Parties and pressure groups’ in G. Davis and others, Public Policy in Australia (Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 1988), p.84.

The Interest Groups Heritage Action, Inc., the Civic Trust of SA, the Conservation Council of South Australia and residents’ associations were the organized groups. The ad hoc groups were generally formed by residents who objected to the proposed demolition of a particular building and were disbanded when their case was resolved. These included groups that protested against demolition of the Victorian mansions Carclew and Kingsmead and Belmont House in North Adelaide and later the House of Chow building in Adelaide.

The above were not the only organisations attempting to influence government heritage policies. Among local newspapers, The Advertiser reported early heritage protests fairly, but because it owned buildings that would be affected, it attacked and lobbied against ACC’s townscape initiative (see chapter 5), while The News always editorialised against heritage protests. The State Bank and other lending institutions strongly influenced governments with respect to major building developments. Not surprisingly, during the building boom of 1987–91, governments, to their cost, were more likely to be influenced by financial and development interest groups than by heritage groups.

The Financial Sector At the time the Heritage Act (1978) was proclaimed, building development in Adelaide was proceeding slowly during the recession and consisted of relatively small projects. As noted in chapter 2, Premier Bannon sought to foster economic recovery through major projects, leaving his government open to lobbying by developers.

Until 1987, the government, not the private sector, initiated most major commercial projects. ACC initiated the Citicom project at Hindmarsh Square and the Topham St development, the state government engaged in joint ventures in the ASER and the Grenfell St Mail Exchange projects, and the Commonwealth government built a large South Australian office complex in Waymouth St. The only non-government major development at the time was Satisfac Credit Union’s 15-storey office building in South Terrace, approved in 1984.

By 1986, there was a substantial increase in the number of residential development applications, as well as a major commercial project, the State Bank Centre. In late 1987, the commercial property market began to grow rapidly, attracting new investors. The stock market crash of that year lured institutional investors to the property market. These were the growing superannuation funds and insurance companies that were then entering risk-taking ventures. All the big insurance companies — AMP, CML, National Mutual and SGIC — had property portfolios.

Property trusts and property development companies undertook more than half of Heritage Politics in Adelaide the large construction projects in the CBD. Nationally, some of the large projects were joint ventures with Japanese partners. In Adelaide, the state and the Kumagai Gumi consortium jointly developed the ASER project and the Southgate (now Optus) building. Others involved Australian companies, such as the REMM-Myer project in Rundle Mall (with Brisbane’s Real Estate Marketing and Management company), the Australis building in Grenfell St developed by Hooker Multiplex Pty Ltd, and Chesser House developed by Jennings Industries, all financed by the SBSA. The number of planning applications involving new buildings did not vary significantly from year to year (the peak year was 1986 with 52 applications, descending to 30 in 1991), but the total value of the projects jumped dramatically from $28.4 million in 1986 to $144.8 million in 1987, reflecting the increased size of the projects.

Values remained over $110 million until 1991, when the total value dropped to $30.2 million.3 Under the deregulated Australian financial system, fifteen foreign banks had opened their doors for business in Adelaide, bringing new competition to the local banks. Adelaide’s big four banks (Westpac, National Australia, Commonwealth Bank and the State Bank of South Australia), along with their subsidiaries and second-tier financiers, competed with extraordinary expansion. One developer described the ease with which loans were made: ‘The banks were lending enormous debt-to-equity margins … One of the most fundamental [characteristics] of that period was that the bank manager was your mate and they pushed things through for you and did things on a handshake’.4 The property boom was thus finance driven, with banks and financial institutions lending freely, as if the boom would never end. All banks acted with the incautious optimism in commercial property characteristic of that period, but the SBSA and its subsidiary BFC were the most reckless.

By 1987, financial institutions were lending on the basis of ‘negative pledge’ loans rather than on tangible assets. These loans were based upon a promise from the client that assets would not be used as security to borrow from any other institution.

Business journalist Paul Coombs cites a financier describing such practices in Melbourne: ‘a magic sponge was passed over applicants’ accounts, previous year figures were used if current year figures weren’t good enough, books were massaged, Corporation of the City of Adelaide, Annual Report 1993, p.48.

George Kambitsis, personal interview, 24 June 2003. He added that ‘in the 1980s banks were lending up to 100% and 110%, and there were plenty of bogus valuations … that would pump up the value of the building … and be used as the basis for finance’.

The Interest Groups valuers cajoled … approvals were fast-tracked and standards were flexible, loyalty was to commission and no one was thinking of results in five years’ time’.5 Loans on commercial property meant large commissions for credit managers. When financial institutions tried to recall the loans, the developers could not repay. In early 1990 The Advertiser reported that construction groups were ‘falling like nine-pins’ as commercial property sales were brought to a standstill.



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