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Rally planned to save Urrbrae gatehouse, as Govt accused of being 'tricky'

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Campaigners are stepping up their fight to save a heritage-listed gatehouse at Urrbrae, as the State Government is accused of “being tricky” and “passing the buck” by offering the University of Adelaide $2 million to move the building itself.

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Urrbrae gatehouse

Hundreds of protestors are expected to attend a community rally on Sunday, January 31, starting at 11am, organised by Waite MP Sam Duluk and the Mitcham Historical Society.

Transport Minister Corey Wingard has backed a Transport Department decision to demolish the 130-year-old gatehouse on the corner of Cross Road and Fullarton Road as part of a $61 million upgrade of the intersection – despite advice that it’s possible to move the state heritage-listed building.

An independent engineering firm has quoted around $1 million to shift the building but Transport Department officials have said they believe it would cost more than $3 million.

The gatehouse sits on the University of Adelaide’s Waite campus and is linked to its Urrbrae House historic precinct.

The university has vowed to “pursue its legal rights under the compulsory acquisition process” to stop the takeover and demolition.

The Government last week offered the university $2 million it had set aside for state heritage projects, along with compensation it will receive through the acquisition process, to move the gatehouse itself, if it wanted to save it.

Wingard said in total that would provide about $4 million for any move.

“The State Government will continue to engage with all interested stakeholders and the community to ensure these vital (road) upgrades can go ahead in the most appropriate way possible,” he said.

But the university has accused the Government of “passing the buck”.

“The University of Adelaide has a number of concerns about the Minister’s proposal,” a spokesperson said.

“The university is concerned that this is an attempt to shift responsibility for the future of the heritage-listed Gatehouse away from the State Government and onto the university, when actually the future of the gatehouse is in question because of the Government’s planned upgrade of the intersection.”

The spokesperson said the university had “made its position clear”.

“We are entirely opposed to the acquisition of Waite campus land and its impact on the heritage of that land and the legacy of Peter Waite,” the spokesperson said.

“The Waite campus, which includes the Waite Arboretum, is held in perpetuity by the University and is a South Australian treasure.”

The spokesperson said a full and detailed analysis of the immediate and mid-to-long-term heritage and cost implications of relocating the gatehouse and its impact on the rest of the campus had not been undertaken.

“That said, the Department itself is on the public record with an estimate that the relocation itself would cost far in excess of $2 million,” the spokesperson said.

“Were relocation contemplated, the community’s views would need to be explored in-depth and properly considered.

“It is important to note that the university has yet to receive formal written notification from the state of its intention to acquire a portion of the land on our campus.

“Once that notification is received, as the landowner the university will pursue its legal rights under the compulsory acquisition process. We will continue to make representations to government and the community about the need to protect the Waite heritage and the legacy of Peter Waite.”

Micham Historical Society committee member Joanna Wells told InDaily she thought the Government was “trying to be very tricky”.

“I think it is passing the buck and I think it’s designed to make the uni look bad,” she said.

“The key thing the Government wants to do is put it back on the university.”

Wells also accused the Government of “trying to split the heritage community” by offering up the $2 million it had already set aside for heritage projects generally.

Duluk said he expected at least 400 people to attend the rally at the gatehouse site – double the number that attended an earlier rally held last month.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for the community to express its disappointment at the Government’s decision to demolish the Waite Gatehouse,” he said.

When asked if he agreed the Government was passing the buck by asking the university to relocate the gatehouse if it wanted it saved, he said: “The Fullarton/Cross road upgrade is a government project and all aspects of that project should be managed as a government project.”

The State Government has been under mounting pressure to reverse its decision to bulldoze the building, with two of its own MPs saying “it’s heritage-listed for a reason” and “worthy of further consideration to either keep or restore”.

Davenport MP Steve Murray and Liberal MP for Chaffey and former minister Tim Whetstone have been among those advocating for more to be done to consider ways to save the building.

Liberal exile John Dawkins, the Legislative Council president, said “we should do the best that we can” to preserve the historic gatehouse.

“I think it’s important that we do as much as is possible to preserve the land and the assets of that land donated to the state by Peter Waite all that very long time ago,” he said.

“The issue does need to be resolved and I think the Government needs to take responsibility for resolving it.”

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