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October 27, 2021

Councillors vote to reject State Gov’s Park Lands grab

With a majority vote, Adelaide City councillors formally supported the position of “no net loss of Park Lands”, while a former councillor will bring the Riverbank Precinct Code Amendment fight to parliament.

  • Words: Angela Skujins
  • Pictures: Andre Castellucci

At an Adelaide City Council special meeting this week, a majority of elected members voted in support of the council sending a message to the State Government rejecting its bid to rezone or subzone 71ha of the Adelaide Park Lands.

The councillors who did not vote in favour of the motion are Alexander Hyde, Simon Hou and Jessy Khera.

Formally titled City of Adelaide draft submission, the rejection will be submitted as part of a six-week community consultation process on the proposed Riverbank Precinct Code Amendment, which closes this week.

According to the PlanSA yourSAy website, the proposed changes to the Planning and Design Code would progress projects of “state significance”, including a multi-storey carpark associated with the new Women’s and Children’s Hospital and the Marshall Government’s 15,000-seated Riverbank Arena.

At Tuesday night’s meeting, discussion began with councillor Phil Martin proposing an amendment to the administration’s draft submission.

The draft originally highlighted concerns the State Government had not conducted proper investigations into its projects, that its proposal was missing information, and that an independent review of community engagement needed to be undertaken, among other issues.

The report also spoke about the benefits to the city of the Adelaide Park Lands, including combatting the urban heat island effect.

Despite these concerns, the original wording of the report did not outright reject the proposed rezoning, saying “the City of Adelaide acknowledges that an arena, with active uses at ground level may be appropriate, but only if there is no net loss of Park Lands”.

Councillor Martin suggested a more explicit rejection should be included.

“We don’t say straight up no [in the recommendation],” Martin told the chamber.

“We should be saying no.

“We can talk all that we like about that part of Helen Mayo Park being degraded. Nothing will degrade Park 27, Helen Mayo Park, more than a concrete and glass stadium. It will be permanently degraded.”

The proposed Riverbank Arena. This picture: State Government


Councillor Anne Moran said councillors were “not a branch of the Liberal state government” but “historical custodians and protectors of the Adelaide Park Lands”.

“Women’s and Children’s Hospital supported yes, no to car parks, no to stadiums, no to permanent buildings on the Park Lands,” she said.

“Saying no makes you not complicit in the biggest Park Lands grab in the history of Park Lands.”

Councillor Hyde removed himself from the room after councillors Moran and Martin both referred to him as Member for Waite, in reference to recent reports Hyde is considering standing for Liberal preselection for the seat of Waite.

Hyde told Town Hall there was an “actual conflict of interest” in the debate, as he “may suffer a detriment or gain and benefit in the future, depending on what position I may hold.”

Councillor Keiran Snape stood firm in his opposition to the Riverbank Precinct Code Amendment, telling the chamber We have to say no.

“Sometimes we have to be brave and stand up — stand up to the big guy,” Snape said.

Deputy Lord Mayor Mary Couros said she understood councillor Martin’s intentions, however the report implied the City of Adelaide was open to discussing “active uses of ground level”.

Refusing the State Government’s pitch may not allow council to advocate on behalf of the local community, she added. 

“That’s what part of having a seat at the table is,” Couros explained. 

“Part of the seat at the table is having that discussion, having that negotiation.”

The amendment was supported by all elected members except councillors Hyde, Khera and Hou, making it the substantive motion. This was adopted into the overall motion, which also received a majority vote. 

A render of the proposed new Women’s and Children’s Hospital.


Among the concerns raised regarding the State Government’s Park Lands grab was the proposed multi-storey car park to be built in Kate Cocks Park, which would service the new Women’s and Children’s Hospital nearby.

Representatives speaking on behalf of the hospital project presented to members an amended design for the car park, which is referred to in documentation as a ‘transit hub’.

Project director Brendan Hewitt said the “enhanced”  car park concept was a response to planners “listening” to issues raised in various community forums regarding the 15,500sqm infrastructure project, which would cater to 1215 cars. 

The revised option would be 8,350sqm, rather than the originally proposed 15,400sqm.

“The really important things are to reduce the footprint of impact on park lands by about 7,000 meters, so over 40 per cent,” Hewitt told the room.

“It’s a substantial reduction. It really does minimise the incursion onto the Park Lands.”

Minister for Health Stephen Wade said in a press release the design is “more sensitive” to the heritage and environment of the Park Lands, which is “incredibly important” to the Government and the Council.

Meanwhile, the History Council of South Australia (HSCA) sent an open letter to Premier Steven Marshall yesterday arguing against the rezoning and subzoning, saying the Adelaide Park Lands are “an integral component” to the state’s heritage.

If we allow [the Park Lands] to be rezoned for commercial or residential use, then they’re gone forever, and we can never get that space back.
—Robert Simms

“The HSCA objects to the Government’s proposal to acquire land for Government purposes… and to rezone it for uses other than open space and community recreation facilities,” the letter, seen by CityMag, says.

“The HSCA strongly objects to each of these proposals that will decrease the area of the green belt encompassing the city.”

Former Adelaide City councillor turned Member of the South Australian Legislative Council Robert Simms is also taking the fight to South Australian Parliament regarding the Park Lands grab. 

The Greens politician will bring a bill to a vote on Wednesday, 27 October, calling on the Legislative Council to oppose the rezoning of Helen Mayo Park on the basis it could have “adverse impacts on the National Heritage Listing of the Park Lands,” Simms tells CityMag.

“I’m also going to be giving notice of a bill that would amend the Planning Act, basically preventing the [Planning] Minister from being able to do any rezoning on the Park Lands without support of both houses of parliament.

“One of the big concerns we have at the moment around the redevelopment that’s been proposed is that this is really being pursued without appropriate parliamentary oversight, and the consultation process has been moving at lightning speed. 

“If you’re going to be proposing a rezoning of the Park Lands, really the least you can do is ensure that both houses of parliament have a say.”

Simms says he believes the Adelaide Park Lands belong to “all” South Australians. 

“If we allow them to be rezoned for commercial or residential use, then they’re gone forever, and we can never get that space back,” he said.

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