Protests as council sells park to developers

May 17, 2013
The St Clair Reserve. Photo:

A South Australian council has voted to swap a recreation park in St Clair with a former factory site. Under the proposal the popular St Clair reserve will be sold to developers and used for high-density housing. The Actil site —which has contaminated soil — will then be developed as an open space.

The decision by Charles Sturt council, on May 13, paves the way for the parkland — which had previously been earmarked for a war memorial park for World War II veterans — to be rezoned for housing development. The council’s may described the decision as "an affront to democracy."

Created as a result of a 1942 petition from local residents, the St Clair recreation park was kept in trust by the council until recently. The intention to swap the park for contaminated factory land sparked fiery local protest, resulting in campaign leader Kirsten Alexander being elected as mayor.

"We realised that we had no option but to try to restore independence to our council,” Alexander told the Green Left Weekly. “We did not realise how hard this would be. I had no intention of running for mayor at the outset, but decided to nominate in order to help do what I could to highlight and support the campaigns of all of the independent candidates that had put up their hands to run.”

"For the first 12 months of the new council there were clearly some councillors routinely voting together," Alexander said. "However, the majority of council was voting independently as far as I could see.

“Unfortunately that seemed to change after the vote on the deputy mayor position in late 2011, where there was a change in the voting patterns and it appeared that the group of councillors routinely voting together increased. This pattern has held ever since and appears unmoved by community views."

SA planning minister John Rau told GLW that the vote was "a matter for the council". Rau employs one of the Charles Sturt councillors, Edgar Agius at his Enfield electorate office.

Agius abstained from the St Clair rescission vote because of a possible conflict of interest.

Last February the legislative council of South Australia passed a motion condemning the SA government for "its continual arrogance in pursuing the St Clair 'deal', including a land swap which will destroy one of the few remaining open spaces for locals, ignoring the overwhelming message from the Charles Sturt council election result and labelling the latest Development Plan Amendment under the deceptive title of 'Woodville Station Development Plan Amendment’.”

In his speech introducing the motion, the Liberal leader of the legislative assembly, David Ridgway, said: "The Labor dominated City of Charles Sturt council, in cahoots with its Labor mates in parliament, swapped a large, beautiful, popular park for a polluted scrap of industrial wasteland at Woodville in Adelaide's western suburbs.

“How could this have happened, you might ask. Through greed, duplicity, manipulation, dishonesty, bullying, intimidation and coercion."

Former RSL state vice-president Peter Stanford recently organised an Anzac eve commemorative service at the park, saying: "That is the area that was specifically requested by the community in 1942 to honour those who had given so much for our country." About 150 people attended the sunset service.

Alexander said she was "unhappy" that the council had rescinded its earlier protection of the park. "Such a decision from an ALP-controlled council should be ignored as it is made in the face of the community and on behalf of the government. It is my sincere belief that in voting for the rescission motion the council have failed to do what they are elected to do; represent their residents and ratepayers."

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