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September 29, 2021

Adelaide City councillors rebuff Riverbank Code Amendment

At a workshop designed to gauge elected members’ thoughts on controversial plans to rezone up to 71ha of Adelaide Park Lands — almost 10 per cent of the city’s green belt — Adelaide City Councillors agreed on a clear message: “oppose building on the Park Lands".

  • Words: Angela Skujins
  • Pictures: Johnny von Einem

Only one item was discussed at the City of Adelaide Special Committee Meeting this week, which was the recent Adelaide Park Lands rezoning initiative, initially proposed by Attorney-General and Minister for Planning Vickie Chapman in June this year.

Councillors discussed the implications of the State Government’s plan to rezone sections of the park lands through carving out new zone and subzones across up to 140ha of green space, to be divided into four precincts: health and biomedical, entertainment, active waterfront and innovation.

The Attorney-General’s initial proposal document outlines the rezoning initiative aims to “progress” infrastructure initiatives of “state significance” along the Adelaide Riverbank Precinct. 

Projects include Premier Steven Marshall’s 15,000-capacity Riverbank Arena; the new Women’s and Children’s Hospital and adjoining multi-storey carpark; and small-scale development, such as cafés and shops, contributing to the “activation of the riverfront” on Karrawirra Parri River Torrens. 

On Tuesday night, the message from present Adelaide City Councillors was direct: no additional built form should be constructed on the Adelaide Park Lands.

“I oppose building on the Park Lands, absolutely and completely,” councillor Anne Moran said.

Feedback from the committee meeting will be used to help the Adelaide City Council prepare a report and a draft submission for the State Government’s community consultation, which is also open to the public until 27 October 2021.

Prior to the meeting, however, the City of Adelaide prepared their own report on the effects of the Riverbank Precinct Code Amendment and how it will interact with existing legislation. The report says the most recent Adelaide Park Lands Management Strategy (2015-2025) — the document outlining how the park lands should be managed — does not contemplate some of the proposed ambitions.

These include:

  • Large scale, permanent multi-storey built form, residential development or tourist accommodation;
  • A large indoor Riverbank Arena in Helen Mayo Park or a multi-storey car park in Kate Cocks Park; and
  • A second hospital at the western end of the Royal Adelaide Hospital site.

It also says car parking on the park lands is “only contemplated” when associated with use of the park lands and when “no reasonable alternative is available.”

Report co-author Madeleine Frew, who is the City of Adelaide’s Team Leader of City Planning and Heritage, also said at the meeting some of the documentation from the State Government is “missing” and the City of Adelaide is “unable to undertake a thorough analysis of the entire consultation documentation”. 

“The assessment tables is what we seek to use when a development application [comes] in, [and] they’re currently missing,” she told the chamber.

“Any background information or research for the area, or provision for the area, has not been provided. 

“It’s a legislative requirement that code amendments speak to higher planning policy documents, so the state planning policies. One of the state planning policies speaks to biodiversity and that has not been recognised in the code amendments.”

Proposed zone and subzone changes to the Adelaide Park Lands. This picture: PlanSA



The first subzone discussed was the health and biomedical precinct, which, if the proposal is successful, would rezone of a large swathe of the Adelaide Park Lands — the bottom end of Tulya Wardli Bonython Park, east of the new Royal Adelaide Hospital — into the “City Riverbank Zone / Health Subzone”.

“That portion of the rezoning is a land area of about 22ha… It’s quite a significant site,” Frew said.

She explained the policies of the new subzones would overrule those of the Adelaide Park Lands Zone.

“The policies of the subzone would be looked at first and foremost before the zone principles.”

According to the report, this new zone and subzone would allow buildings of a “possible” height of 15-storeys, as well as the new Women’s and Children’s multi-storey car park being constructed on Helen Mayo Park. 

Councillor Keiran Snape said he rejected any development on the Park Lands, saying he was particularly concerned the State Government had failed to provide all the information, specifically the documents pertaining to public notification for development applications.

“The issue of the Park Lands isn’t the height [of the buildings],” he said, “it’s the building on the Park Lands. 

“It doesn’t matter if it’s two storeys, it doesn’t matter if it’s 50 storeys. I think the issue is building on green land.”

Councillor Anne Moran similarly opposed any Riverbank rezoning, and cautioned other councillors from offering a negotiable stance.

“To negotiate for something that you don’t want and you know your community doesn’t want, to keep a seat at the table, which you won’t be listened to, I can absolutely assure you, you won’t be listened to,” she said.

Councillor Franz Knoll echoed the no-development sentiment, but said he believed in the recently established line of communication between the State Government and City of Adelaide on the rezoning.

He said this should not be severed, so councillors can “minimise whatever we can” on behalf of the “rate-payers and our community”.

The proposed health and biomedical precinct is the blue area to the left, circled in red. This picture: PlanSA

Lord Mayor Sandy Verschoor also opposed the new Women’s and Children’s car park being built on Adelaide Park Lands, saying the City of Adelaide has previously asked SA Health to consider exploring other infrastructure alternatives, such as the car park being built underground or over the adjacent rail yard.

She expressed overall concern regarding the boundaries of the precinct.

“I’m concerned as to the size of the health subzone,” the Lord Mayor said, “[as] it seems to indicate there’s future and further development on the site.”

“I know there’s a heritage overlay but I’m not sure how they’re going to address that. As councillor Snape said, my major concern is there will be no consultation and any further development on that site.”

Councillor Helen Donovan offered an “absolute definite no” to the carpark facility being built on Adelaide Park Lands, as and that rezoning would not service the community.

“I would come back to the central principle: is there any benefit to us in supporting any of this zoning?” councillor Donovan said. 

“I would say no, based on the information provided. We should be looking to identify ways we can work with considering ongoing possibilities, without handing over any rezoning and losing that control, and losing potentially even more of our open space.”

Deputy Lord Mayor Mary Couros agreed, saying she felt “very uncomfortable” with the rezoning of this area.

“In regards to this bit, the health and biomedical precinct, I understand they want to build a hospital there, it’s near the RAH, and it’s Crown Land and they (State Government) will do what they want to do,” the Deputy Lord Mayor said.

“But at the end of the day, that’s all I would agree to: the hospital. But not extra car parking, and nothing else.”

SA Health sent a request to the Adelaide City Council to relinquish land west of the rail corridor for the proposed car park and associated roads, the Adelaide City Council report says. 

A separate report will be presented to council members on this request on 26 October 2021.



The proposed entertainment precinct would be achieved by rezoning another Adelaide Park Lands parcel — 9ha of west park lands, sitting along the southern edge of the Karrawirra Parri River Torrens — as the “City Riverbank Zone – Entertainment Zone”.

Frew said this part of the proposal conflicted with existing legislation.

The proposed entertainment precinct is the blue area to the left, below the green, circled in red. This picture: PlanSA

“The subzone would trump the zone, but the Adelaide Park Lands Zone has specific principles trying to minimise building footprint,” she said.

She also said she believed this new policy would enable “an arena” in this location, alluding to the Marshall Government’s proposed Riverbank Arena.

Buildings along this rezoned section of the Riverbank could be 20-storeys high, spanning commercial, amenity and residential.

Councillor Donovan said the Adelaide City Council already had a system that effectively assessed potential activity along the waterfront — the Council Assessment Panel.

“Our existing framework works. We don’t need to make the suggested zone changes,” she said.

The Deputy Lord Mayor concurred.

“I agree with Councillor Donovan,” she said. “Why do we need to rezone anything?”



The Innovation Precinct would be realised by taking 3ha of northeastern Park Lands — a site predominantly occupied by the Adelaide Botanic High School — and labelling it under the “City Riverbank Zone (Innovation Subzone)”.

The proposed innovation precinct is the blue area to right, circled in red. This picture: PlanSA

Councillor Moran highlighted there had already been significant Adelaide City Council infrastructure investment in the area, such as an entrance to the Adelaide Botanic Gardens. She also highlighted the proposed area was near a Kaurna burial ground. 

Councillor Knoll said his colleagues should look at what’s being proposed, and ask themselves: “Why do we need to change anything?”

“As the city, at this minute we have a lot of change happening,” he said. “There is a lot of space available within our city we can use. Innovation can be anywhere in Adelaide. So why don’t we use the city and use that? Innovation is usually about commercial-type activity and ideas.

“Why do we need to change this so that it [removes] our ability to influence? And when we should be influencing the city’s development, and not necessarily the place on the Park Lands.”



The “Active Waterfront Precinct” will be achieved by creating a “Riverbank Subzone” to sit on top of this Adelaide Park Lands Zone, spanning 37ha along the northern edge of Karrawirra Parri River Torrens.

This subzone would allow for on-water and off-water development, however, Frew said she needed clarification on what on-water meant. 

There would be up to 200sqm of gross leasable area in the subzone, offering opportunities for retail, cafés and licensed premises.

“Permanent commercial activities. I think that’s what the Park Lands shouldn’t be: permanent shops and permanent bars,” councillor Moran said.

“I think our current council sees that the vigorous activities in that area are enough and we should not agree to any further.”

The proposed active waterfront precinct is the green area above Karrawirra Parri River Torrens, circled in red. This picture: PlanSA

The Lord Mayor said she agreed with councillor Moran, and that the Adelaide City Council did enough with its existing temporary activations.

“We engage with festivals, events, Walking SA, all sorts of community groups who use that area,” she said.

Regarding ‘on-water’ developments, the Lord Mayor said her understanding is that “could be any number of things. But again, do we want built form in the middle of the river is the question. The policies that we currently have are quite adequate for the activation of those sites”.

The Deputy Lord Mayor said she was concerned about the noise generated from new activity possibly reverberating up into North Adelaide, as the Adelaide City Council has previously found this to be the case. 

“We’ve worked out [that] the water does transcend the noise back into the north. I think that would even be worse if we start building in that area there,” she said.

“I’m also concerned about water quality. Why would we want to have anything on that river when the water quality is really bad. I think we’d need to concentrate on that rather than activating anything on the water.”

Councillors Phil Martin, Greg Mackie, Jessy Khera and Alex Hyde were absent from the meeting.


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