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"Conflict of interest" claim on park lands heritage assessment

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The head of the architectural firm assessing whether the park lands should be given new heritage protection says there is no conflict of interest between that role and the firm's work on developments in the city's green belt.

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Adding the park lands to the State Heritage Register would mean that any development on them would require approval from an independent heritage expert panel appointed by the Government, on top of normal development assessment processes.

Earlier this year, the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources (DEWNR) appointed DASH Architects to undertake a comprehensive assessment of Adelaide’s park lands and city squares for possible State Heritage listing.

DASH director Jason Schulz confirmed his firm has a number of projects that are located in the park lands on its books.

Adelaide Park Lands Preservation Association [APPA] Vice President Damien Mugavin told InDaily: “The Government’s been caught without doing [its] due diligence on this one.”

“DASH has several design projects in the park lands, and it would be difficult to see how they could make impartial recommendations.”

He said the “business model” of architectural firms was being “paid to design buildings” and state heritage listing “may preclude further building”.

However Schulz said the firm had won an Australia-wide tender to assess the park lands for heritage significance, and that it had no conflict of interest in doing so.

“We don’t believe there’s any conflict of interest,” Schulz told InDaily.

“We have a broad range of projects on our books … some of which are in the park lands.”

He added that any questions about the firm’s appointment should be directed to DEWNR.

Manager of Heritage and Major Reform at DEWNR’s State Heritage Unit, Beverley Voigt, told InDaily DASH would be required to declare any conflict of interest once it presents its final report to the SA Heritage Council.

“DASH Architects has been chosen through a tender process to provide an assessment of the Adelaide Park Lands for possible State Heritage listing,” said Voigt.

“DASH Architects will prepare and submit an assessment report … [and] at that time the consultant will be required to declare any potential, actual or perceived conflicts of interest.

“The SA Heritage Council will make a decision under the Heritage Places Act 1993. As the Council makes the final decision there is no conflict of interest.”

InDaily asked DEWNR whether DASH was required to declare any conflicts during the tender process, whether it did so, and how any such declared conflict is being managed.

DASH is expected to present its report by the end of August.

City councillor and Adelaide Park Lands Authority member Anne Moran said APPA had “identified some real concerns about a perceived conflict [if not] an actual one”.

She said the Adelaide Park Lands Authority would considered the matter at its meeting tomorrow, and ask for advice from the council’s administration as to whether any conflict of interest exists in the appointment of DASH Architects.

She said the process of state heritage assessment had to be kept “very squeaky-clean”, and be seen as such.

She said the government had to explain how it was dealing with any conflict of interest related to the firm’s appointment, or look for a new firm to do the assessment.

“We’ll ask the administration … for their comments,” she said.

“We’ll certainly add our strong voice to it if we’re not satisfied.”

One of the projects DASH Architects has worked on in the park lands is a proposed hockey facility in Park 17 off Greenhill Road.

The facility was first proposed in February 2015, and a representative from DASH Architects presented to the Adelaide Park Lands Authority Board last September on the design of the facility – which features two fenced synthetic hockey pitches and a two-storey central pavilion.

The State Government has regularly clashed with the Adelaide City Council and the Park Lands Authority over park lands projects including the new Adelaide High School (to be known as Botanic High) the redevelopment of the Royal Adelaide Hospital site and the O-Bahn extension, which runs through Rymill Park.

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