Legislative Council

MATTERS OF INTEREST: Significant Trees being felled at Glenside

June 21st, 2017

The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: I rise today to speak about the Glenside Hospital redevelopment. I do so today because in the last 48 hours or so the chainsaws have been out and the first of 83 significant and regulated trees are being felled. I wanted to reflect a little bit on how it is we have got to this situation and what we might do to improve the way our planning system operates into the future.

To give members some background, many will recall that around nine years ago the government declared that the Glenside mental health facility, or the Glenside campus as it was known, was surplus to requirements and they resolved to sell it and rezone the land for a housing estate.

That debate was had—and from the government's point of view won, and from the Green's point of view lost—about nine years ago. The land was rezoned to accommodate up to 600 homes. I was part of the Environment, Resources and Development Committee at the time. I recall that it was a combination of the Liberals, the Greens and Independent the late Dr Bob Such who voted against rezoning Glenside Hospital. The Hon. Dr Such had a change of heart some weeks later and the government ultimately got the numbers through to rezone Glenside Hospital. To a certain extent, the fate of the site was sealed back then.

However, in more recent times the government, having found a preferred developer in the form of Cedar Woods and negotiated a sale price of $25.8 million for the 16 hectare site, then proceeded to again rezone the land, this time to bump up the number of houses from 600 to about 1,000. In the Environment, Resources and Development Committee I moved to not accept that rezoning. However, on this occasion I was alone.

The reason that I sought to do that was not an attempt to prevent the land being redeveloped. As I have said, that debate was had and determined some eight or nine years ago. But what I was keen to do was to see how many of the 83 significant and regulated trees could be saved and could be incorporated into the new development. This is where we come up with what I think is quite a ridiculous aspect of the planning system. That is, a person or company can lodge an application to remove the trees without having to offer anything in their place. The reason I say that is because as of about five minutes ago when I last checked the Development Assessment Commission website, there has been no application lodged to build any homes on the Glenside Hospital site, yet the fences are up, the chainsaws are out and the trees are coming down.

I think a far better approach in our planning laws would be to have a provision which says, if someone wants to apply to remove a significant or regulated tree that is unrelated to safety, then that application should be heard in conjunction with an application to build something in its place. In other words, do not allow people to just clear the site and then sometime in the future perhaps lodge an application to build apartments or something else on the site.

That is why I maintained that this application that was approved by the Development Assessment Commission was premature. When people say, 'That will never happen. Once they've knocked the trees down surely the apartments will come soon afterwards,' my response to that is: look at the Le Cornu site in North Adelaide. I do not know if there were any significant trees at the site, but whatever previous buildings were there were removed and it became a blight on the landscape for 20 years with nothing in its place.

I will certainly be bringing to this place some amendments to our planning laws which say that, if someone wants to chop down a significant or a regulated tree because it is a danger to the public, sure, let's deal with it, it is a danger to the public. If it is not a danger to the public, if it is just a convenience because the tree is in the way of the development, then do not allow that application to be approved unless it is in conjunction with an application to build apartments.

The residents who I represented in the Development Assessment Commission certainly were aware that they were never going to save all of these trees. They knew that this land had been earmarked for housing and that at some stage in the future housing was likely. But in the absence of any detailed lodged plans for the future of that site, it is impossible to say whether some of these trees might not have been saved.

I also point out that one of the obligations imposed on the developer was to check these trees for fauna, so we are talking about birds nests, possums and whatever. I am not aware whether any animals have been relocated, but certainly there is a vigilant community out there with their cameras: they are watching what is going on and they are going to hold the developer to every one of the conditions that was attached to their approval.

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