Members of the public and an almost unanimous Adelaide City Council elected body last night joined forces to tell the State Government to find an “alternate” site for the $80 million swimming centre slated for development in the Adelaide Park Lands this year.
Community, council throw down gauntlet for new Aquatic Centre location
Last night almost all Adelaide city councillors voted to oppose the proposed new location of the Adelaide Aquatic Centre, which will be directly next to the centre’s old location at Pardipardinyilla Denise Norton Park in North Adelaide.
The motion called for the State Government to find another suggested new home for the ageing swimming centre, and was supported by all members except central ward councillor Simon Hou and area councillor Arman Abrahimzadeh.
The push was engineered by area councillor Janet Giles, who last night told the chamber the location for the new centre was not an issue exclusive to the “group of people that live very close to the Aquatic Centre”.
“It’s about the process of how we invite [the] community to decision-making and the impact decisions have on people’s basic rights as residents,” she said.
“I’ve been working closely with this group of people since the election.
“They are in a state of shock that they woke up one morning to find that what they thought was their house opposite parks — they bought or rented their house opposite a park — and [the] State Government had made an announcement that they were going to put a large structure right across the road from where they lived.”
She said if the council supported the development located “right outside the doors of people on the edges of the Park Lands” it could set a precedent for other development opportunities on “all the edges of the Park Lands”.
The motion was tweaked by north ward councillor Mary Couros to also request the City of Adelaide administration include the “potential impacts” of the development — such as noise, increased traffic and loss of amenity — in the council’s submission of the Department for Infrastructure and Transport’s code amendment consultation, which closes on 6 March 2023.
In a statement to CityMag, Minister for Infrastructure Tom Koutsantonis said the government “does not intend to seek alternative sites” and “has been completely upfront about its plans”.
The 50-year-old Aquatic Centre was built in the northern parcel of the Adelaide Park Lands in 1968—1969 and was upgraded in 1985 to include an enclosed roof.
Labor went to the 2022 state election promising to spend $80 million on building a new Aquatic Centre.
The current centre is considered no longer fit for purpose with several of its facilities, such as the diving boards and spas, closed due to safety and infrastructure concerns.
The council loses about $2.5 million each year running the centre, with approximately 80 per cent of the 700,000 yearly users residing in other local government areas.
The State Government announced in September that following community consultation the new centre would be built on an existing oval in the south-western quadrant of the park, near the corner of Jeffcott Road and Barton Terrace West.
It would be located near the current Aquatic Centre, which will be demolished and returned to park lands.
Premier Peter Malinauskas said at the time the location was selected because it would result in the fewest trees being felled to make way for development.
But the consultation process was followed by criticism, with the Adelaide Park Lands Association’s Shane Sody saying last year the government only envisaged Park Lands options for the rebuilt Aquatic Centre.
The Park Lands advocate suggested multiple other brownfield sites — previously developed land not currently in use — that could be used.
Peter Fenwick has been a North Adelaide resident of 15 years, and last night called for the Adelaide Lord Mayor and Adelaide city councillors to find an alternative “near-city brownfield” site for the Aquatic Centre’s new home.
He gave a speech to the chamber and presented a petition with 265 signatures supporting this request, which also asked the State Government to approve the “long-delayed State Heritage-listing” of the Adelaide Park Lands.
“Our petition specifically addresses the inappropriately intended location for the new Aquatic Centre and highlights the need for immediate action to ensure the permanent and irrevocable protection of our park lands from any such development,” Fenwick said.
“It has become crystal clear that the previous state Liberal Government did not, and the current Labor Government does not, have a commitment to protect and preserve our world unique park lands to the extent necessary.
“Both have demonstrated that these park lands are open for commercial and other development.”
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The realtor told CityMag this morning he was happy Giles’ motion was supported as the centre’s proposed new location would be directly opposite his home.
And although the centre would only be shifting 150 metres, “it wouldn’t seem like much unless you lived here,” he said.
“You’re already subjected to the parking issues, the noise issues, the lights, and in this case, the Aquatic Centre is open from 6am—9:30pm, five days a week,” Fenwick said. (Opening hours are 6am—9pm or 7am—9pm).
“Patronage is estimated to reach 1.2 million visits by 2030 and if you work out how many vehicles that means travelling to and from the centre… that’s a very significant impact on people’s amenity.”
Infrastructure Minister Tom Koutsantonis told CityMag the site’s planned new location was not “a radical proposal” and the Government would not shift its position.
“The new centre’s location is adjacent the current operating Aquatic Centre,” he said.
“The government has been completely upfront about its plans, has consulted broadly on the site location and does not intend to seek alternative sites.
“We have consulted with local residents — including Mr Fenwick — about the look and feel of the new centre, and will continue to do so.”
Koutsantonis said during the consultation period three potential sites were considered, with the final south-west location backed by 55 per cent of the 989 respondents who provided feedback.
“In addition, the government amended the original site proposal in response to residents’ feedback, moving the proposed footprint further north to allow the current centre’s car park to be utilised, ensuring the existing row of trees along Barton Terrace West is retained,” he said.
“Of the other proposals considered, only 20 per cent of respondents preferred the south-east corner, 15 per cent supported the north-east corner, and 10 per cent indicated no preference.
“A 12-member Community Reference Group then reviewed all feedback received during the engagement period before supporting the new south-west location, which attracted significant support due to its proximity to existing infrastructure.”
The Aquatic Centre has been plagued with controversy since the Adelaide Crows football club indicated an appetite to raze the dilapidated centre and build a multi-million-dollar sporting facility in 2019.
Debate ramped up when former Olympic swimmer Denise Norton said she would “stand in front of bulldozers” to prevent this from happening.
The $65 million bid was withdrawn after the club suffered an economic hit due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Correction: At the time of publication CityMag inaccurately said south ward councillor Mark Siebentritt was responsible for tweaking the motion, but it was actually north ward councillor Mary Couros.