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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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As a lobby group BOMA did not attract a great deal of public attention. Like the Civic Trust and RAIA, its lobbying largely took the form of written submissions on specific government initiatives and editorials in its publications. Its president in the later 1980s, Brent Blanks, had a professional demeanour and set the standard for its public image. Former City Planner John Hodgson said in an interview that ‘[BOMA] wanted the rules to be recast in certain ways but they tended not to buy into the debates over individual buildings’.25 BOMA did not develop a comprehensive policy platform until 1991, when a committee chaired by developer Joe Walker recommended one.26 The platform contained 160 recommendations on issues of planning and building regulations, local government, property taxes, tourism, commercial tenancies, private funding of public infrastructure, the multi function polis, industrial relations and energy.

BOMA News was not entirely one-sided and occasionally published interviews expressing views that might not have rested easily with members. For example, in November 1991 the journal printed a speech by Roger Frinsdorf of the South

Australian Construction Department:

I’m not over-impressed by the design of buildings in Adelaide and the quality seems to vary considerably … A lot of the buildings in Adelaide have not been designed with the tenant in mind and I think, if a lot of developers had thought about who the end user was going to be and developed from a tenant’s perspective rather than from an investment perspective, we may not have the vacancies we have at the moment. …The developers of some of the buildings that are vacant at the moment really didn’t think very much of the tenants before they developed them.27 In December 1991, BOMA raised the contentious issue of the townscape initiative (see chapter 5), reiterating its earlier claim that it could become ‘no-demolition legislation’. BOMA warned members that, ‘in effect, [it] will mean that properties so listed will be unable to alter (sic) the façade of the building on the property or in all ibid..

John Hodgson, personal interview, 18 October 2001.

BOMA News, 3, 5, November 1991, p.4.

ibid., p.5.

Heritage Politics in Adelaide probability to demolish (sic) the building to make way for new development’.28 At a public forum in June 1992 sponsored by BOMA, accountant Denis Sims proclaimed his suspicion that townscape listing would devalue properties: ‘many investors will find the refinancing of their loans more difficult with the reduced values caused by townscape’.29 Pro-development councillors circulated his claim throughout the city, despite evidence that residential buildings increase in value because of heritage or townscape listing. Townscape protection was seen ‘yet again as a further disincentive to investment in Adelaide’ that would stifle development within the city. BOMA submitted substantial comments on the townscape initiative to ACC and urged its members to express their views on the issue.

Developers were a small minority of the BOMA membership and had mixed views of the organisation. George Kambitsis, once a vice president of BOMA, claims he withdrew his membership because he regarded it as ‘a “big talkfest” representative mainly of [real estate] agents and consultants’. Heritage developer Theo Maras also claims he was ‘against what BOMA stood for’ and joined its planning committee to express his views within the organisation and act as its representative on the State Planning Review. On the other hand, Gerry Karidis and Joe Walker were long-term members and regarded BOMA as a good lobby group.30 However, developers were united in opposition to ACC’s townscape initiative and supported BOMA’s stand against it.

The Royal Australian Institute of Architects SA Chapter (RAIA) The RAIA engaged in various aspects of the heritage debate during the 1980s. It was not a monolithic organisation: some RAIA members supported preservation of only exceptional historic architecture (about 150 buildings on the Register of City of Adelaide Heritage Items) while others supported preservation of a broader range of vernacular buildings; some were heritage architects and still others were conservationists, active in heritage lobby groups.

The official journal of the RAIA, Building & Architecture, had been a trade journal until the mid-1980s, with focus on the recession and bread-and-butter issues, protection of professional standards, architectural criticism and new technology.

Generally, and unsurprisingly, the RAIA was conservative about heritage protection ibid., 3, 6, December 1991, p.6.

ibid., 4, 4, August/September 1992, p.21.

Personal interviews: George Kambitsis 24 June 2003, Theo Maras 19 June 2003, Gerry Karidis 18 July 2003 and Joe Walker 25 July 2003.

The Interest Groups at that time. In 1984, RAIA President G.J. Harrison wrote: ‘Few buildings are worth preservation just because of their age, and it must be recognised that unless the City as a whole is to become a museum piece many old buildings on prime sites will have to be demolished to make way for new ones’.31 Contributors to the journal defended the right of owners to demolish heritage buildings in order to gain the full development potential of their property. Outspoken architect John Chappel championed this cause with respect to the Kingsmead mansion in Brougham Place, North Adelaide: ‘In Australia, traditionally a land of home owners, any abrogation of property rights strikes at the heart of a life style of which a nation has been justly proud’.32 His view was supported in the next issue of Building & Architecture by architect W.G. Hames, who argued that ‘if preservation is what the community wants, then the private owner and builder should not bear the cost’.33 Also in 1984, architect Geoff Nairn suggested an architectural overhaul of the City of Adelaide, replacing its historic character: ‘It is time we graduated from horizontal zoning, low density development and monofunctional building’ [to high-rise modern architecture].34 The form of debate in the journal changed dramatically when planner David Ness became editor in 1984. He sought contributions representing a wide range of views from AHA, BOMA, the Minister for Environment and Planning, the City Planner and architects, some of which resulted in fierce debates in the journal. Environmental issues featured strongly. RAIA President John Cooper himself attacked a proposed marina at the seaside suburb of Glenelg in his president’s report in the journal in 1986.





The matter that roused the RAIA more than any other was the draft 1986–91 City of Adelaide Plan. The architects found the planning controls and design guidelines of City Planner Harry Bechervaise too restrictive. They did not object to the Adelaide heritage register, but to certain principles and guidelines that provided the development adjacent to heritage buildings and in areas which contributed to the historic character of the city be limited in terms of height, scale, design and materials. Ness wrote in an editorial: ‘If draft policies covering urban design, character, height and building design within the City of Adelaide are accepted, architects are Building & Architecture, 11, 4, May 1984, p.4.

Building & Architecture, 10, 10, November/December 1983, p.14.

Building & Architecture, 11, 1, January/February 1984, p.7.

Building & Architecture, 11, 4, September/October, 1984, p.14.

Heritage Politics in Adelaide sure to have their design freedom curtailed’.35 The May 1986 issue of Building & Architecture published resolutions carried by a meeting of architects the previous month. Among them was their concern that ‘the thrust of the Plan Review appears to encourage orderly development and growth but provides absolute design and aesthetic control by the elected members and the employed officers of the Council – such control is invidious and will, in all probability, stifle the future of Adelaide. … Design matters are (and must remain) outside the planning controls’.36 A group of 40 architects marched on the Town Hall on 24 April 1986 and heard RAIA President John Cooper present their objections to Lord Mayor Jim Jarvis. Professor Cooper also discussed the institute’s objections with the Premier, but there is no evidence that the Premier intervened. The City Planner did offer to review the development controls ‘which frustrate the design architect’,37 but most of the guidelines in the draft Plan were approved.

The conservative nature of the RAIA showed in 1987, when the RAIA council demanded total editorial control of the journal in exchange for a contribution to its publication costs. Clearly the RAIA, under president Rob Cheesman, opposed the range of debate Ness had encouraged. Ness continued to publish the journal privately until 1989. Architecture/SA, the new official journal of the RAIA, replaced it in 1990. Surprisingly, the next president, Gavan Ranger, revived the Ness style of architectural journalism to some extent. The theme of the December 1990 issue was ‘architecture and the environment’ covering a wide range of controversial views that demonstrated the strength of the institute’s environment committee.

Thus, while the RAIA had a strong financial interest in encouraging new property development, the views of its heterogeneous membership on the heritage debate varied widely.

The Heritage Activists With state and local governments encouraging development in Adelaide, and with finance readily available to support it until 1990, heritage activists were engaged in an asymmetrical contest over the built character of the city. Several interest groups were involved, but their collective influence was insufficient to moderate the building boom of the 1980s.

Building & Architecture, 13, 2, March 1986, p.2.

Building & Architecture, 13, 4, May 1986, p.7.

Building & Architecture, 13, 8, September 1986, p.10.

The Interest Groups From the 1970s to the mid-1980s, environmental activism, including heritage activism, most often took the form of public protests. According to Timothy Doyle, ‘[this] period saw the [Australian environmental] movement playing outsider politics. Environmental concern was largely based on direct, oppositional dissent to unrestrained environmental use’.38 The leaders of the protests, Matthews says, were primarily educated, middle-class residents who espoused the values of the new environmentalism or new politics.

‘New politics’ refers to a weakening of party identification among voters and a rise in issue voting. It also refers to a tendency for better educated, affluent and younger people to hold ‘post-materialist’ values; that is, to place less emphasis on economic self-interest and security and more on personal freedom, minority rights, quality of life and environmental protection.39 Post-materialist they may have been, but many heritage activists were not young and some resided in affluent older suburbs. They sought to retain the character of the suburbs they lived in, and many strove to safeguard the city centre from further encroachments of modernist development. In Adelaide, they resorted to street demonstrations partly because third parties had no right of appeal against ACC decisions under the City of Adelaide (Development Control) Act (1976).

Residents groups The first of the Adelaide protests took place before parliament passed the SA Heritage Act (1978). In 1969, a small group of residents successfully protested in front of Carclew at Montefiore Hill, the former residence of Sir John Langdon Bonython, where the state government planned to construct the Adelaide Festival Centre. Residents and business people again waged direct action in 1971 against the proposed demolition of the ANZ Bank building in King William St, now Edmund Wright House, which was saved by the intervention of Premier Don Dunstan and used for government departments. Premier Dunstan again intervened after a public demonstration in 1973 to save Elder Hall at the University of Adelaide.

Minor protests continued to occur after passage of the South Australian Heritage Act.

From 1980–83, Adelaide residents successfully joined to save three major sites, the Timothy Doyle, Green power (Sydney: UNSW Press, 2000), p.xxiv.

Trevor Matthews, ‘Interest Groups’, in Rodney Smith (ed.), Politics in Australia, 2nd edn (Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 1993), p.245.

Heritage Politics in Adelaide Edmund Wright House, King William St. Courtesy John Emerson

–  –  –

mansions of Kingsmead and Belmont House in Brougham Place, North Adelaide, and development in the grounds of Dimora in East Terrace, Adelaide, facing the parklands. All of the above buildings now appear on the State Heritage Register.

There were fewer such protests in Adelaide during the 1970s than in the eastern states because Adelaide had not experienced the same building boom at the time.

By the early 1980s, a sizeable stock of nineteenth-century buildings remained in Adelaide’s streets. However, the Majestic Hotel and former Tivoli (then Warner) Theatre in King William St were lost, despite a public protest and petition in 1981, and replaced by Commonwealth Bank headquarters.

Construction Unions Middle-class environmentalists were not the only groups attempting to halt the rapid spread of modern urban development. The BLF of New South Wales imposed green bans from 1971–74, refusing to construct buildings if a residents’ group picketed at a site. Jack Mundey, leader of the NSW branch of the union, contended that ‘as the workers who had raised the buildings we had a right to express an opinion on social questions relating to the building industry’.40 The first green ban in 1971 stopped commencement of a residential project on Sydney’s last harbourside bushland at Kelly’s Bush, while many others prevented the demolition of historic buildings. The BLF imposed green bans on sites from Woolloomooloo to Newcastle until the state government deregistered the NSW Branch in 1974. In 1973 the Tasmanian branch of the BLF stopped demolition of Salamanca Place warehouses at Hobart’s Battery Point, and the Victorian branch saved Tasma House, Parliament Place, Melbourne, which became headquarters for the National Trust, and imposed bans on other developments in support of protesters in the 1970s.41 In Adelaide, the Plumbers and Gasfitters Union supported the ANZ Bank protest in 1971, and the Building Construction Workers Federation (BCWF) supported the Dimora protest in 1980. The BCWF also refused to demolish the Aurora Hotel for nearly two months in 1983. The Building Trades Federation, representing all SA building unions, resolved to support retention of the heritagelisted buildings in the North Terrace side of the REMM-Myer site in 1987, and the Construction, Mines and Energy Union imposed a green ban in support of a picket at the ‘House of Chow’ building in Hutt St in 1991. The building workers Jack Mundey, Green Bans and Beyond (Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1981), p 81.

Builders’ Laborers Federation, Builders’ Laborers Defend the People’s Heritage (Melbourne: BLF, 1975), p.1.

Heritage Politics in Adelaide in Adelaide were no less militant than their colleagues in NSW but were called upon less often to support residents’ public stands to save what they perceived to be their built heritage.

The National Trust (SA) Until 1983, the National Trust was the major non-government heritage body in South Australia, represented on the SA Heritage Committee by its president and consulted by government agencies and the public. The Trust was part of the Establishment, with its executive drawn from Adelaide’s social elites.42 An Act of Parliament founded the South Australian Branch of the National Trust in 1955.

Like its English forefather, its original objects were ‘to provide for the preservation and maintenance of places and of chattels of any description of national historical artistic or national interest or natural beauty, and for purposes incidental thereto’.

The places it maintained were those it had acquired as gifts or bequests since 1955.

By 1982, its property holdings were substantial.

The Trust also classified properties that merited preservation. These properties were graded A, B or C in order of merit, and most of the Trust’s well-documented A-classified places were the first buildings considered for the State Heritage Register.



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