Port Waterfront Redevelopment

23 Jul 2008 archivespeech

This speech is to indicate the Liberal Party's support for the Port Waterfront Redevelopment motion.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (20:40): I am delighted to follow that contribution, as dubious as it was. I rise to indicate that the Liberal Party is supporting this motion, and I would like to outline the reasons why. A number of the members of the Environment, Resources and Development Committee of this parliament, including Mr Wortley, went to Port Adelaide on a minibus and received a very extensive briefing on the historic sites at risk in our port.

I will not repeat any of the details from the open letter, because the mover of this motion (Hon. Mark Parnell) read the letter in its entirety into the record in his contribution on 18 June, as well as naming all the distinguished people who put their signature to that letter. For those who might accuse us of being anti-development, I would like to state that it is really just asking for a stay of execution for these working boat yards to enable a proper assessment of them to be made. Port Adelaide was the earliest settlement site in South Australia and, therefore, is crucially important, not only as a place for the import and export of cargo and the transit of people for fishing but also for the construction and servicing of boats and ships.

Searles Boat Yard, A. McFarlane & Sons and Central Slipping Company are rare survivors of the continuous maritime activity in Jenkins Street at Birkenhead. These surviving boat yards at Birkenhead are living evidence of the importance to the growth up to the present day of South Australia's major port and the vital trades and activities that supported the craft using the port. In 2001, the LMC called for registrations of interest for a waterfront redevelopment. The billion dollar Newport Quays development was announced in 2004, to turn 52 hectares of government-owned land into medium and high density waterside residential development.

There is no dispute that development of Port Adelaide is a positive move for the area. However, the major concern in relation to the redevelopment is that Port Adelaide's maritime heritage is at risk of losing essential physical elements of its history as a working port. It has been identified by the National Trust as a site at risk. I note that the Port Adelaide branch of the National Trust is the newest branch in South Australia and, interestingly, is now the largest. I think that is directly related to the fact that the LMC has changed its agenda in terms of redevelopment more times than it has changed its socks and, indeed, I think it has indulged in some fairly shady behaviour in its treatment of people in the local area who are making a meaningful living out of this area and who have a historical and a heritage claim on the region, which is just effectively being driven over with a bulldozer.

The government has been the landlord of the boat yards in Port Adelaide and has sold on particular sites to third parties. A number of different operators, whether it be people at the boat yards or some of the fishermen, have tried to obtain parcels of land so that they could continue their operations. In fact, they have been fobbed off. They have heard on the grapevine that particular parcels have been available and then, when they approach the LMC, they are told that they are not available and then they have been on sold to developers. Indeed, I think the LMC has even acquired parcels of land at massively inflated prices, which has driven up the value of adjoining land. From a taxpayer point of view, that in itself is highly questionable.

One example about which I have been advised is a piece of land that was worth $390,000 and which, some six years later, was purchased by the LMC for some $7.4 million. I am not sure where on earth in South Australia you can get those sorts of windfalls, but if the LMC has that attitude, I would be willing to sell it a piece of land any day of the week. The LMC is driven by Messrs Foley and Conlon. It is interesting that, in 2002 and 2003, Treasurer Foley gave undertakings to the boat yards in particular but which he is now not interested in fulfilling. Indeed, in the initial expressions of interest and throughout some of the proposals over a number of years, it has been proposed that the boat yards be incorporated in the Inner Harbour as working boat yards. However, these current developers have demanded that they be provided with a greenfield site and, indeed, I am told that they will sue the government if the boat yards stay. I wonder at what cost that will be to the taxpayer if that takes place.

This is a deal that has been in so many places over the years that, it is fair to say, it has not been properly planned from the outset and the agenda which should have been stuck to has not been. Marinas were not part of the original plan. The government often cites the pollution from the boat yards, whereas the EPA continues to provide the boat yards with a licence, which is a very strong indication that they are not a problem. Indeed, when we visited that site, we were shown where the tins of paint and so forth are placed in the event of a king tide. The operators are given a fair amount of notice and so they are able to place anything that might be hazardous at a much higher level.

We know very well that much of the pollution that has gone into the Port River has come from other sources, whether it be from Penrice, stormwater, local drains in the area, or the old treatment plant at Royal Park which was operated by SA Water. I think it is unfair for the government to make those sorts of claims against the boat yards: it is just an excuse for it to put another nail in the coffin and it is dishonest. My final points are as follows. Some interesting funds have been raised at that particular site involving Adelaide Progressive Business (or whatever the fundraising arm of the Australian Labor Party is called) and I think that, if we had an ICAC in this state, then that issue alone would certainly be referred to it. I think that some of the plans that have been published are very unimaginative. When we drove around the area, I have to say that I was not impressed with the quality of some of the construction, and I would predict that some of those apartments will be the ghettoes of tomorrow. In fact, I do not know why you would want to live in a high-rise that distance from the city and next to a noisy railway track. We saw some good examples of—

The Hon. P. Holloway interjecting:

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Yes, how far away is that? That will be next century under you guys. Indeed, the chairman of the local National Trust, Tony Kearney, was generous enough to show us his apartment which, from memory, was an old flour mill. It was quite innovative and very attractive. In comparison to those apartments, it is a hundred times more liveable than the apartments that have been built. I question many elements of this particular development. I think government ministers' ego have got in the way of this and it is a disgrace.

In relation to the preceding speaker's comments, of course the heritage-listed items will be preserved but a number of items have not yet made it onto the list. We know that heritage listing is a problem, as we saw recently at Stepney where, thankfully, the council has realised the error of its ways and pulled back from bulldozing historic cottages. It is my view that this government's attitude is that if it is not listed do not give it a second chance but, rather, just bulldoze it. For that reason I support the motion.