Torrens Aqueduct

28 Oct 2009 questionsarchive

I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Urban Development and Planning a question about a parcel of land at Highbury, north of Nursery Way, known as the aqueduct land.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Members may be aware that the original open channel Torrens Aqueduct was constructed in the 1870s, delivering untreated bulk water from KangarooCreek reservoir to the Hope Valley reservoir. Following an extensive communication process in 2004-05 with all relevant stakeholders, a number of options to upgrade the means of maintaining a secure water supply to the Hope Valley reservoir were considered, with SA Water finally determining that a buried gravity pipeline laid in the confines of the River Torrens would best deliver the desired environmental, social and economic outcomes.

Construction of the pipeline commenced in 2007 and is now complete, and the disused aqueduct land has been transferred from SA Water to the control of the Minister for Urban Development and Planning. The minister announced in September a consultative group to consider the future management of the disused land.

In light of the formation of the committee, will the minister give an iron clad guarantee that the land will be kept in public hands and remain open space for the enjoyment and betterment of the local community; that the Rann Labor government will not seek to sell this piece of land; that the Rann Labor government will not seek to amend the River Torrens Linear Park Act in any way that would substantially alter the use of this land; that the community will be consulted on the use of the land prior to any decision being made about its future use; and that neither the minister's department nor any other government department is planning any form of future development that will alter the use of this land?

The Hon. P. HOLLOWAY (Minister for Mineral Resources Development, Minister for Urban Development and Planning, Minister for Small Business) (14:25): Some guarantees were given by the government prior to the 2006 election. It gave that undertaking then, it has honoured it and it will continue to honour it. That land is for open space.

The deputy leader is correct in that there is an open space group chaired by my colleague the member for Newland, Tom Kenyon. The land is in his electorate. The mayor of Tea Tree Gully (Miriam Smith) is also a member of that group.

Members interjecting:

The Hon. P. HOLLOWAY: What is your problem?

Members interjecting:

The Hon. P. HOLLOWAY: As announced, the amendments that this government made to the River Torrens Linear Park Bill were to stop the sorts of things that happened before. By incorporating that land within the Linear Park bill the only way it can be disposed of is by a resolution carried by both houses of parliament. The reason we introduced that was that the previous government allowed the University of South Australia at Underdale to sell off its land, which meant that a significant proportion of Linear Park land on the River Torrens that would have gone right down to the centre of the river, and the river frontage at Underdale, would have been lost for use by the people of South Australia.

In fact, it has cost taxpayers something like $1.5 million that this government has had to spend to buy back that land and landscape it. This government intends to incorporate the aqueduct land into the Linear Park, and it will be covered by legislation that we enacted to stop the sort of situation that happened at Underdale from happening again. There will be iron-clad protection in relation to that aqueduct land.

A committee has been set up, as the deputy leader referred to, to look at that. My understanding is that some work needs to be done on that particular land. The land was fenced off, obviously to stop people going on to the area. A number of trees have grown in that area, many of them Mediterranean pine trees, and some are in a fairly dangerous condition. That is one of the issues that the committee has been looking at.

Using the Planning and Development Fund, there will need to be some investment on the land in that area so that it can be made more useable by the community, and that is very much the intention of the committee. It is the role of that committee to consult with the local community to hear their views. I can assure everyone that the government intends to honour the promise that it made in 2006. We have gone a long way towards doing that by incorporating it within the Linear Parkā€”or we will be doing it.

The issue was that the land had to be transferred over from SA Water to the Department of Urban Development and Planning. From memory, that took place about mid-year. It has taken a long time for that transfer to take place. However, that enables the government to be able to incorporate it within the Linear Park.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (14:28): I have a supplementary question. Does the minister have a time frame for when the committee is expected to report to him?

The Hon. P. HOLLOWAY (Minister for Mineral Resources Development, Minister for Urban Development and Planning, Minister for Small Business) (14:28): I expect it to be ongoing. The committee has already met, and we have had some discussions. I believe there was an inspection of the area. As I indicated to the honourable member, one of the things that has been reported to me is that some of the Mediterranean pine trees growing there have falling branches and so on which will require attention before access is granted to the area, and that will take some time.

I believe that the committee has been looking at some interim measures it can take to try to make, at least for a start, some of the area available to the public. It is a very large piece of land. From memory, it is a significant proportion of the entire area in the River Torrens Linear Park. It is quite a large area and so, to make it safe to enable people to access it, it will take some time.

The government is hoping to hear some initial proposals, and we have to discuss that with the Tea Tree Gully council. As I said, the mayor, Miriam Smith, is a member of the committee. As soon as we get some specific proposals, the government will be happy to look at them. As I have said, our intention is to at least have some of those areas opened up for public open space as soon as possible. However, for the rest of it, we will have to look at some of the security issues because the land has never really been maintained to the extent that it was meant to be opened to the public: because it was carrying mains water, it was obviously fenced off. However, they are issues I would expect the committee to look at. I do not think it is just a matter of it providing one report. I suspect the committee will be providing me with a range of advice over the coming months.