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National Park City judges 'take into account' Adelaide bid criticism

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The UK selection body judging Adelaide’s bid to become a globally recognised National Park City will talk to park lands advocates who have criticised the move, saying community opposition could “potentially impede” the application.

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Adelaide is one of five cities bidding to become only the second National Park City recognised by London’s National Park City Foundation, with a formal submission expected by the end of the year.

The “historic” push would promote Adelaide on the world stage and bring international investment and clear branding opportunities, according to Green Adelaide and Environment Minister David Speirs.

But the application came under fire on Monday when the Adelaide Park Lands Association – a not for profit community group and self-described “watchdog” of the city’s green belt – urged the UK selection panel to reject SA’s application, accusing the State Government of having an “anti-Parks agenda”.

“Large scale developments promoted by the South Australian Government are regularly reducing the Open Green Public spaces of the Adelaide Park Lands and replacing public Parks with large new buildings,” Association President Shane Sody said in a letter to the UK foundation on Monday.

Sody went on to detail eight development projects which, in his view, have or will result in “encroachments” on the park lands, including the 15,000 seat Riverbank Arena, the new Women’s and Children’s Hospital and the Adelaide Oval Hotel.

In response, National Park City Foundation Chair Paul de Zylva told InDaily he has asked to meet with the park lands group to “discuss their views in more detail”.

“The idea of National Park Cities came from grassroots community level and it is important that the views of communities in would-be National Park Cities can help inform decisions,” de Zylva said.

“Community opposition could potentially impede an application for National Park status.

“The assessment of the bid would not depend on 100 per cent of people agreeing to Adelaide becoming a National Park City, but we will be assessing if a majority supports the plans and listening closely to the details of any dissent.”

Regarding the eight “attacks” on the park lands raised by the association, de Zylva said he would not comment on individual planning decisions but “any loss of public, open, green or wild space is of concern to us”.

“It is our understanding that the Adelaide Park Lands Association supports the vision of Adelaide becoming a National Park City, but wants the city’s park lands to secure full and higher levels of protection first,” he said.

“Protecting, increasing and improving the quality, multifunctional role and use of green spaces are all part of making a National Park City a success.

“Cities applying for National Park City status that have policies and activities that are counter to this effort can harm, delay or block their ambitions.

“The assessment of Adelaide’s bid will take into account the Adelaide Park Lands Association’s views.”

He said anyone with opinions or evidence on Adelaide’s bid could make a submission to AdelaideOpinions@NationalParkCity.org, and the foundation would be holding a series of meetings with community groups “so we can hear a range of opinions and voices”.

“We do not expect everyone and all community interests to support Adelaide’s bid to become a National Park City, but we will listen to all views including objections to understand them,” de Zylva said.

“We will also be checking that the National Park City application reflects reality and that the city is moving in the right direction.”

Sody said it was “great” the foundation had asked to meet with his association.

“We are hoping that this controversy will lead the State Government to re-examine its attitude towards to the Adelaide Park Lands,” Sody said.

He told InDaily on Monday it could be “damaging” to the National Park City Foundation’s reputation if they supported Adelaide’s bid.

Asked whether he would express this view to the foundation at their meeting, Sody said: “I’d like to alert them to that possibility.”

He also said he hoped the association’s opposition to Adelaide’s submission would prompt the State Government to act on giving the park lands State Heritage Listing.

The area received National Heritage Listing in 2008, while talks continue between the Adelaide City Council and the State Government over a potential World Heritage bid for the site.

The State Government launched Adelaide’s bid to become a National Park City two years ago after London became the first and only metropolis bestowed with the honour in 2019.

Other cities campaigning for the recognition include Galway, Ireland; Newcastle, England and Glasgow, Scotland.

The foundation says it hopes to recognise 25 national park cities by 2025.

A Green Adelaide petition to demonstrate public support for Adelaide’s bid currently has just over 1850 signatures.

The Adelaide Park Lands Authority, the city council’s chief advisory body for management of the park lands, declined to comment on whether it supported the State Government’s bid or would be making its own submission to the foundation.

A State Government spokesperson told InDaily on Monday that the Park Lands Association’s opposition to Adelaide’s bid was “extremely disappointing” and the proposal had so far received “broad support”.

“This is something that’s being done alongside the community including local leaders from the environment, industry, government sectors and the Kaurna Nation,” the spokesperson said.

“The Marshall Liberal Government has done more to protect our natural environment than any other government in recent history by significantly expanding the area covered by national parks and investing record levels of funding to boost conservation and improve the visitor experience.”

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