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State Govt cautious about park lands World Heritage bid

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Environment Minister David Speirs says he is not “fully satisfied” that nominating the park lands for UNESCO World Heritage listing would benefit the city, with the State Government instead favouring a joint bid with the Mt Lofty Ranges.

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It follows the release last week of a draft city council heritage strategy, which states “momentum has been building” to nominate the park lands and city’s layout for a World Heritage listing.

According to the council, the park lands and city layout “fit the criteria” for World Heritage listing as Adelaide is “the only city in the world with a town plan that splits the commercial from the residential using an expansive ring of public parks”.

“We believe that we fit the criteria and have good grounds to pursue World Heritage listing,” the council’s draft strategy states.

“Recently momentum to pursue the listing has grown as research has identified the truly unique characteristics of the park lands and city layout.”

World heritage listing of the park lands and city’s layout has been estimated to boost tourism spending in Adelaide by between 20 to 30 per cent.

The proposed nomination has the backing of Lord Mayor Sandy Verschoor and park lands advocates, but the State Government, which is responsible for nominating a worthy World Heritage site to the Federal Government, is yet to be convinced.

In a letter sent by Speirs to Verschoor last month – seen by InDaily – the Environment Minister warned achieving World Heritage listing was a “technical and complex process that requires sustained investment over a number of years”.

“As Minister for Environment and Water, it would be prudent for me to be fully satisfied with the credibility and prospects of a World Heritage proposal,” Speirs said.

In a report to the Adelaide Park Lands Authority last month, Verschoor wrote that a committee tasked with exploring the possibility of World Heritage listing for the park lands had sought confirmation from the State Government that it would provide $50,000 to help progress the bid.

She said staff from the Department of Environment and Water had advised that they were considering a concurrent bid from a group of Adelaide Hills councils to nominate the Mt Lofty Ranges for World Heritage listing.

“The State sees an overlap between the proposed nominations for Mt Lofty Ranges and the Adelaide park lands and city layout,” Verschoor wrote.

“In light of that, it is not prepared to support two related World Heritage nominations and would like the relationship between them explored and reconciled.”

The Mt Lofty Ranges bid spans the Clare and Barossa Valleys, Adelaide Hills, McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Peninsula.

A previous attempt to nominate the Mt Lofty Ranges for the National Heritage list was knocked back by the Federal Government in 2017, with a rehashed bid currently being considered.

According to Verschoor, there is an “inextricable link” between the Mt Lofty Ranges and Adelaide park lands bids.

“The overlap stems from the foundation of South Australia through the South Australia Act of 1834, which was based on the systematic colonisation model developed by Edward Gibbon Wakefield,” she said.

“The colonisation process began with the establishment of the city… and then progressed to the settlement of the hinterland areas.

“It was all part of one continuous process and so there is indeed an inextricable link between the two bids.”

In his letter to Verschoor, Speirs said the State Government had not given formal support to either proposal, but “there may be synergies between the two that are worthy of further consideration”.

“I support your intent to undertake a feasibility assessment of the extent to which the Adelaide park lands might meet the World Heritage criteria,” he wrote.

“I would like to receive this advice and the outcomes of the discussions with the Mount Lofty Ranges consortium and any independent advice on the synergies between the two proposals before considering formal State Government support.”

APLA has decided to spend $20,000 on an “expert review” to determine whether it should progress with the park lands and city layout bid separately or in conjunction with the Mt Lofty Ranges nomination.

Verschoor told InDaily this morning APLA would conduct the review and meet with the Adelaide Hills councils spearheading the Mt Lofty Ranges bid to discuss the “best way forward”.

The push to nominate the park lands and city layout for World Heritage listing began in 1996, with the areas added to the National Heritage list in 2008.

The State Government is currently considering a separate bid to add the park lands to the State Heritage list.

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