Media Release

Secret Riverbank documents Court challenge

16/06/2014 6:00 am

In a desperate attempt to stop the Greens obtaining copies of documents about the proposed Riverbank redevelopment, Walker Corporation has launched legal proceedings in the District Court against Greens SA Parliamentary leader, Mark Parnell MLC.  The legal appeal follows a decision by the Ombudsman last month ordering the Planning Department to hand over documents including correspondence between Walker Corporation and the State Government, minutes of official meetings as well as plans for the Festival Centre plaza and surrounding public land.

Mark Parnell applied under the Freedom of Information Act over 12 months ago to the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure for documents relating to Walker Corporation’s plans for the Riverbank precinct and Adelaide Festival Centre carpark.  The Department & Walker Corporation refused access to the documents claiming commercial confidentiality.  This claim was rejected by the Ombudsman last month.

See: http://www.ombudsman.sa.gov.au/wp-content/uploads/Department-of-Planning-Transport-and-Infrastructure-Freedom-of-Information-determination.pdf

Court documents from Walker Corporation were served on Mr Parnell at Parliament House on Friday.

“The Riverbank precinct is one of the most significant public places in Adelaide.  The public is the number 1 stakeholder and has a right to know what is planned for such an important social and cultural zone.

“Secret deals between the Government and a private developer need to be brought into the light, so the community can judge whether the public interest is being served.

“Redevelopment of the Riverbank and Festival Centre precinct is long over-due, but the public want to be assured that public assets won’t be privatised and that commercial interests do not over-ride the public interest.

“If the Walker Corporation is prepared to spend tens of thousands of dollars to keep these documents secret, there must be something very smelly they are trying to hide.

“The last time property developers used the Courts to prevent me accessing public interest documents (Mt Barker), they lost the battle, but won the war.  Fighting this matter in Court can add years to the eventual disclosure, by which time the horse will have bolted and development approvals already been granted.

“The Freedom of Information Act needs an urgent overhaul to prevent parties using lengthy legal proceedings to deny access to genuine public interest documents.  I’ll be urging the Court to resolve this matter urgently”, concluded Mark Parnell.

See Ombudsman’s damning critique of how Agencies mis-use the Freedom of Information Act.

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