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While the Environment Minister has refused to comment on the heritage value of the gatehouse or whether it should be saved, Premier Steven Marshall has dismissed accusations his government was “passing the buck” by offering the university $2 million in heritage funds to move the building itself, if it wanted to save it.
Before offering the funding, Transport Minister Corey Wingard had backed his Department’s 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 building.
An independent engineering firm has quoted around $1 million to shift the building but Transport and Infrastructure Department officials have said they believe it would cost more than $3 million including associated works.
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 fight the land takeover and demolition by pursuing its “legal rights under the compulsory acquisition process”.
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 – a tactic described by the university as “passing the buck”.
Premier Steven Marshall said yesterday he would “not characterise it as handballing”.
“I think that there’s just an opportunity,” he said.
“We had already decided to create a fund for upgrades of heritage in that local area. It became appropriate to consider the university and whether they had a use for that building.
“The building hasn’t been utilised for many, many decades. We do think that there may be an opportunity to relocate it but somebody’s got to have a purpose for that.”
When asked what the point was in having heritage listing if it doesn’t provide heritage protection, the Premier said: “When you make these decisions you’ve got to take a large number of issues into consideration and that’s an important intersection.”
“It’s a building which has been unused,” he said.
“We do have a great focus on heritage in South Australia and that’s why we’re making this money available and if the university has a purpose for that building then we would love to know about that and work with them.”
The university said it was opposed to any land acquisition and demolition of the gatehouse “as a matter of principle because we do see that we are custodians of it as a gift to the people of SA”.
The university’s chief operating officer, Bruce Lines, told InDaily the institution was now waiting for details on the new costings of relocating the building from the department.
“If it is going to be moved then really what we want is a full assessment, a proper assessment, of moving the gatehouse and what that would cost,” he said.
Lines said it would ultimately “depend on the appetite of the Government” whether the gatehouse would be saved.
“The university has asked to understand what it would take to also upgrade (the gatehouse) regardless of who funded that but just to understand what it would take to upgrade it fully so that it was a useable facility,” he said.
“That’s still in train and we don’t have that yet. Once we’ve got that, the university can decide what its next steps are. But ultimately our position will have to be that we can’t take sole responsibility for deciding what happens to a state heritage asset.”
Lines said if the building was to be moved, the preferred site was “a little bit further up Fullarton Road but into the campus a bit” however he warned that any move would devalue its heritage.
He said one use for the building could be as a headquarters for the university’s volunteers.
InDaily asked Environment Minister David Speirs whether he thought the gatehouse was important to South Australia’s heritage and if it should be saved.
His spokesman responded: “The gatehouse falls under Minister Wingard’s portfolio and Minister Speirs doesn’t have anything further to add re the Gatehouse that Minister Wingard hasn’t said.”
Hundreds of protestors are expected to attend a community rally at the gatehouse on Sunday, January 31, starting at 11am.
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