Chelsea Cinema

02 Jun 2009 questionsarchive

I seek leave to make an explanation before asking the Minister for State/Local Government Relations a question about the Chelsea Cinema.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: The Chelsea Cinema, as members may be aware, is the property of the City of Burnside. It was purchased by a previous council, I believe, in 1964 and has been leased by Wallis Cinemas since 1971. In 1983 the building itself was heritage listed, but that does not preserve it as a picture theatre.

A number of members attended a meeting on 18 May at the theatre following the council's contested decision to sell the theatre and the adjacent property with a house on it and as part of the council's decision to subsequently consult on its decision. For the benefit of honourable members, there are four particular sites there and only one of them is listed as community land, that being the parking lot immediately behind the theatre at 35 May Terrace.

Honourable members may be aware that, in order for that community land to be changed in use, it would need to go through a consultation process with council, and then the minister's approval would have to be sought. It was made apparent at that meeting that Wallis Cinemas would be unable to purchase the theatre itself and would be able to continue operations there only if it was able to purchase the car parks as well, which would mean a change of the community use and, therefore, it has declined to do so. My questions to the minister are:

1. Has she had representations from people on this matter?

2. Is she aware of any application by the Burnside council to change the car park use?

3. Would the government favourably consider a revocation of that car park to enable the Chelsea to continue to operate as a single theatre?

The Hon. G.E. GAGO (Minister for State/Local Government Relations, Minister for the Status of Women, Minister for Consumer Affairs, Minister for Government Enterprises, Minister Assisting the Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Energy) (14:30): I thank the honourable member for her important question. This very important landmark on Adelaide's landscape is a cinema that I have enjoyed attending in the past as well, so I have to declare a personal interest in the matter. In February this year, the City of Burnside took a decision to initiate the process of disposing of the Chelsea Cinema and to undertake a community consultation process.

In 1999, councils had to determine whether their land holdings fell into the community land category or the operational land category for the purposes of the Local Government Act 1999, as the honourable member has alluded to. For those holdings that were deemed community land, the legislation provides a fairly prescriptive process for revoking the community land title over that land and then disposing of the land or using it for a purpose different to its current use.

In 2001, the Burnside council took a decision to classify the Chelsea Cinema as operational land, so my understanding is that it is not community land. Councils are required to seek the minister's approval to revoke the status only of community land. The requirements for the disposal of operational land are not prescriptive. The processes that would apply to the disposal of operational land fall back into the strategic planning process of councils and their adopted policies as they might relate to tendering, seeking expressions of interest, sale and disposal of land, and community consultation, etc.

Nevertheless, inherent in that strategic planning process is, obviously, community consultation expectations. Councils are expected to plan well enough ahead so as to know, during their strategic and business planning processes, that they are thinking of disposing of a particular property or properties. You would expect a responsible council to be able to do that. When they consult with the community on their business plans, their intentions regarding the prospective sale of those sorts of assets should be outlined in their business plans.

In accordance with the Local Government Act 1999, councils have to conduct at least one public consultation meeting in addition to seeking public comment on their business plan, and at that time the community has an opportunity to comment and give feedback. Circumstances arise during the course of the financial year that obviously might, on occasions, necessitate a council deciding to dispose of an operational land holding. However, in such circumstances, the processes for ensuring that the interest of the community is protected should be covered in the council's policy that I have just outlined. One might expect that, from time to time, there would be such exceptional circumstances.

In the case of the Chelsea Cinema debate, I recently received a complaint, and I have asked my officers to make appropriate inquiries about the council processes that have been involved and are anticipated to be involved. Obviously, I need more information about what the Burnside council is doing in relation to this matter before I can offer a further comment or opinion in relation to the council's processes themselves.

Most recently, I am advised that the current operator, Wallis Cinemas, informed the council that it did not wish to submit an offer to purchase the cinema site within the 120 day period offered by the council. Previously the council had offered the current operator the opportunity to submit an offer prior to council going to an open bidding process. As a result, I understand that, on Tuesday 29 April, the council decided to halt the sale process until after it considered the outcomes of the community consultation process—a mighty fine idea, indeed, in light of the interest that the proposed sale has generated.

I understand that it is anticipated that a report outlining the results of the community consultation will be presented to council at the council meeting on 16 June. Obviously, to the best of my knowledge, no requests have been made to proceed with any revocation processes. Even if there were, that process requires extensive public consultation. Obviously, I will watch with great interest to see the outcome of the final consultation process and the council's response.