Industrialising Torrens Island - they're at it again!

The government’s ham fisted backdoor plan to industrialise land next to one of the metropolitan area’s last conservation parks took a new twist this week. Minister for Infrastructure Pat Conlon advised PAREPG that he intended to lease land zoned for “public purposes” around the Torrens Island quarantine station to private industrial interests.

A bit of history
Local MP Kevin Foley, state treasurer at the time, started the initial land grab in October 2009 by quietly lodging a subdivision application with the planning authorities.

People cottoned onto this pretty fast. Word spread and eventually Kevin was forced to admit that the subdivision was really for the benefit of three industrial enterprises Maritime Constructions, Origin Energy and a still unknown project by SARDI. (Portside Messenger 20/05/10).

The Maritime Constructions deal is interesting. The company left it's Birkenhead premises (presumably transferring the land to the government for the Newport Quays development) and promptly appeared in a very swish building in the government's very own maritime defence area at Osborne.

Not only has the the Newport Quays expansion has fallen through, but it seems the Osborne move did not really suit the company's purposes. The dredging fleet has been docked in the Inner Harbour ever since, presumably waiting on the government to deliver on a deal to provide a Torrens Island base.

Anyway, to cut a very long story shore, community opposition mounted, driven by heritage, environmental and small business concerns and Foley withdrew the subdivision application in December 2010.

An image of Torrens Island
Torrens Island - The government wants to industrialise the triangular area about 2/3 of the way up the image

A bit about the place
The planning legislation is quite clear about the intended use of the area – “public purposes”. Or to be more exact –

a. A zone for the continued operation and essential development of the Quarantine Station.
b. A zone for education, research and tourist development consistent with sound management and protection of the natural environment.
c. The protection and conservation of heritage items.

A heritage study has been completed, at public expense and is publicly available at the Department of Environment and Natural Resource’s heritage branch.

The development plan also reveals that the state government “in consultation with the Commonwealth Government” intends to “implement measures for the protection and conservation of heritage items and natural environment”

But the reality is different. Buildings have been allowed to decay, in contrast to other states where quarantine stations have been restored. The police Star Force and army have been allowed to shoot up buildings for exercises with live ammunition. Local groups have found bullet holes in buildings and discarded shells.

The management of the Torrens Island Conservation Park is much the same. According to the the Metropolitan Adelaide and Northern Coastal Action Plan, the National Parks and Wildlife Act "obliges DEH to engage in a management plan process for Torrens Island" (Vol 2 p263).

The reality is that Torrens Island conservation park is suffering years of neglect. Under ETSA, the state electricity generator, the island was rabbit free, but since privatisation the park is riddled with rabbits. Buffer zones between the park and proposed industrial areas appear to be nonexistent.

Rising sea levels
The green areas on the image represent mangroves, the purple coastal samphire. Both survive only because of regular tidal flooding. So it's quite clear that the proposed industrial areas are close to flooding already and will certainly be inundated quite quickly as sea level rise. If the State government retains ownership of the land then it's pretty clear that the SA public will be footing the bill.

What should happen
If the government wishes to change the zoning of the area (and we don't think it should) it should follow the normal procedure and initiate a Development Planning Amendments (DPA). A DPA would allow a transparent consideration of the pros and cons of a planning change.

Detail of PAREG's representations to date can be found here

For a quick look at how other states value their quarantine heritage try :

Point Nepean, Victoria

Manly, NSW

Port Adelaide Residents Environment Protection Group