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Opinion

Community still waits, watches over gatehouse

Opinion

A decision to relocate rather than demolish the Urrbrae gatehouse may have quelled protest and a potential local election issue, but the community remains watchful that the heritage building retains its integrity, says Warren Jones.

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In early 2020, in the wake of a decision to massively and unnecessarily widen the Cross/ Fullarton intersection, the State Government was prepared to allow the state heritage Waite Gatehouse to be consigned to landfill.

It was not until early this year that the public became fully aware of this situation, and a campaign was instituted to save the 130 year old Gatehouse from demolition.

The Gatehouse was collateral damage in the Government’s plan to excise and resume a parcel of land at the corner of the Arboretum which is part of the campus bequeathed in perpetuity to the State and the University by Peter Waite.

The campaign to save and relocate the Gatehouse was met with misinformation and stubbornness from the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Corey Wingard.

He maintained that 70 trees would be sacrificed if the Gatehouse were to be relocated. This was incorrect. The only trees at risk are those in the way of the intersection widening.

Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

Then, in attempting to abrogate responsibility for the fate of the Gatehouse, Minister Wingard moved to broker financial arrangements with the University which were cynical and unworkable. His offer of $2 million from a heritage fund, thereby depriving other worthwhile projects of support, was a blatant attempt to wedge the University if it, quite reasonably, refused the offer.

The Government also offered $2 million in land acquisition compensation for use in a relocation, being well aware that a University statute prevented the use of this money for anything other than teaching and research.

And, in a final move, the Government signalled its intent to apply to the State Government Assessment Panel for permission to demolish the Gatehouse if the University failed to take steps to move it.

By the time the Government capitulated and agreed to save the Gatehouse, the campaign had recruited 18,000 signatures on an on-line petition and 8,000 on a paper petition, and over 1000 people had attended the second of two effective community rallies.

The Government has offered to avoid demolition by ‘deconstructing and reconstructing’ the Gatehouse.  However, the preferred, safer and cheaper alternative would have been to relocate the whole building.

It is likely that the Government will wish to expedite the Gatehouse deconstruction (dismantling) to allow the intersection project to meet deadlines.  The risk, then, is that the materials will lie fallow, and there will be no imperative or urgency to efficiently and safely relocate and reconstruct this precious building.

Concerned community and heritage advocates will closely monitor these developments. It is vital that the Gatehouse reconstruction is accurate, creating like for like, using the original materials, and retaining its State Heritage Status.

Anything less than this will be met with a new and vigorous public campaign.

Warren Jones is convenor, Protect our Heritage Alliance

CLARIFICATION: The original version of this column stated that the University of Adelaide, along with the State Government, was prepared t0 accept gatehouse demolition. The university disputes this, saying it had from the start, expressed its opposition to the acquisition of Waite campus land. “Our preference has always been and remains for the Waite campus land and the Gatehouse to remain untouched and intact.”

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