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"Eyesore": Festival wants to keep pontoon on Torrens till 2019


The Adelaide Festival has asked for permission to keep its concrete and steel pontoon on the River Torrens until April 2019 “on a semi-permanent basis”.

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The pontoon was originally, reportedly, planned to be stored in a warehouse in Adelaide’s western suburbs – and only returned to the river during festival-time.

But the Adelaide City Council has received a request from the Adelaide Festival to keep the structure on the river “on a semi-permanent basis” until the end of the 2019 Adelaide Festival.

Riverbank Authority board member and Renewal SA chief executive John Hanlon says the State Government is willing – on certain conditions – to take responsibility for activating the pontoon outside of the Adelaide Festival season, should the council decide to let it stay on the river.

InDaily has obtained a letter from Riverbank Authority chair Andrew McEvoy suggesting the pontoon could be the site of a “demonstration project” for activation “at all times of the year”.

“This will rely on the Adelaide Festival, [the City] Council and the State coordinating its (sic) efforts, including the undertaking to improve the visual amenity of the pontoon,” the June 27 letter, addressed to Lord Mayor Martin Haese, reads.

But Haese told InDaily this morning that the council would not be contributing any money to improve the look of the platform – which hosted the Riverbank Palais event during this year’s Adelaide Festival.

“No council funding will be provided to improve the visual amenity of the pontoon, as this is the responsibility of the Adelaide Festival,” Haese said in a written statement.

“The future of the pontoon will be discussed at the next Adelaide Park Lands Authority meeting – APLA will provide advice for Council to consider and make a decision.”

According to the council’s administration, the Adelaide Festival’s intention is to keep the pontoon on the river and use it in 2018 and 2019 for a renamed event – The Floating Palais.

Festival revellers partying on the Riverbank Palais during the 2017 Adelaide Festival. Photo: Tony Lewis / Adelaide Festival

Hanlon said the Government was happy to activate the pontoon if the council gives the Adelaide Festival permission to keep the structure in the water – but only if the Adelaide Festival remediates the surface of the pontoon, so that it is flat.

“They [the Festival] have to spend some money … they have to flatten out the surface,” Hanlon told InDaily.

“Then we would pick up the cost of … activating it.

Asked how and why he believed the Festival wanted to leave the concrete structure where it is, he said: “I think taking it out of the water is reasonably expensive.”

InDaily has contacted the Adelaide Festival for comment.

Hanlon said the Government “didn’t want to get into the battle” between the city council and the Adelaide Festival over whether the structure would remain in place – but rather, provide activation in the event that it does remain there.

“It’s really between them … we just want to assist,” Hanlon said.

He denied that McEvoy’s letter amounted to a request for funding from the council to help improve the visual amenity of the pontoon.

“The visual amenity of the pontoon is the responsibility of the Festival,” Hanlon said.

“The way that it is at the moment is a bit of an eyesore.”

It’s a common descriptor.

Central Ward councillor Houssam Abiad and North Ward councillor Phil Martin both told InDaily the structure was an “eyesore” – and that it could not remain as it is, where it is.

“Something needs to be done … for it to be activated or removed,” said Abiad.

He added it was “not in any way, shape or form” the council’s responsibility to help activate the pontoon.

Martin told InDaily: “There is no doubt what you see in the river is butt-ugly.”

“The message I’ve been consistently getting from people is ‘it can’t stay as it is, where it is’ – and I think that’s spot on.”

He suggested the council had a role in helping the Festival “navigate what seem to be troubled waters”.

Photo: Tony Lewis / InDaily

“The barge doesn’t have to stay exactly where it is,” he said.

“It may be possible to tow it to some less prominent position for periods when it’s not activated, like from last March to now or whenever it is they come up with a worthwhile event.

“I’m not advocating we spend a fistful ratepayer dollars because we don’t own the problem, but I think [the] council should be prepared to help them navigate what seem to be troubled waters.”

Martin added that it was the council’s “first responsibility to care for and maintain the Park Lands for the people of South Australia – and that includes the river”.

Tonight will be the first time that the council has debated the issue in public.

Abiad said it had been debated at closed-door council meetings for some time, and that “councillors were very unhappy for it to be a confidential item” – so voted last week to bring it into the public sphere.

Previous council debates on the subject remain in confidence.

The Adelaide Park Lands Authority will meet next Wednesday.


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