Fort Largs

Question Time
Legislative Council Wednesday 8 June.

Fort Largs

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS ( 14:37 :25 ): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Minister for Police regarding the Fort Largs site.

Leave granted.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: Fort Largs, as members would be aware, is a historic defence site on our coastal shores that was built in 1883. It is a significant feature of our state's defence and veteran history. In the 1960s, it was repurposed for use as the South Australian police academy.

On 30 November 1961 the South Australian army commander Brigadier Long handed over the keys to Fort Largs to the then police commissioner John Gilbert McKinna, saying, 'We are sorry to leave the fort with its long tradition of service and loyalty,' to which commissioner McKinna replied, 'We promise to maintain those traditions during our occupation of the fort.' In 2012, new police academy housing was constructed on the east portion of the site, and, as of 2014, the west portion of the site, including the historic defence constructions, was slated for redevelopment.

As members would also be aware, the Save Fort Largs group and members of the Port Adelaide National Trust have long campaigned to preserve this heritage. They quite rightly point to interstate examples of coastal forts, such as those in Victoria and New South Wales, proving to be local tourist attractions. In San Francisco, there is a coastal fort nature walk which is a tourist attraction in that region.

Dave Walsh, who is a history enthusiast of the local area, spoke to Sonya Feldhoff on ABC radio yesterday, noting that on his most recent visits, of many visits that he has undertaken, he has never seen such damage and vandalism to the 130-year-old building on that site. He said that the damage is not only occurring as a result of the vandals but also that there has been no gardening maintenance in the past four years (since 2012). So, the tree seeds have dropped into cracks in the building itself and are growing in the brickwork and now actually damaging it in that way.

He also noted that squatters appear to be living there, artefacts have been removed, including century-old military smoke grenades, used military shells and a cast-iron head. They are all missing since his previous visits. He also stated that locks that used to be on doors have now all been removed, doors are open, locks are lying on the ground and the armoury that was previously sealed with steel doors is now open and vulnerable to further vandalism and theft.

He observed security patrols stopping at the entrance but not going into the grounds of the fort, and is concerned that it is now being forced into ruin. It is of course state-heritage listed, and that means that the owner of the property is required to keep it in a reasonable condition. As local groups have long campaigned for, we want to see this used as an attraction, preserving our heritage for our future generations. My question is: why is SAPOL not defending the fort that defended us?

The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS (Minister for Police, Minister for Correctional Services, Minister for Emergency Services, Minister for Road Safety) ( 14:41 :00 ): I thank the Hon. Tammy Franks for her question. Fort Largs is an important site in the context of the history of South Australia, and particularly in the context of SAPOL. I had the great pleasure recently to go down to the new academy essentially adjacent to the old Fort Largs site that SAPOL currently occupy. It is an outstanding facility and a great example of the very substantial investment that the South Australian government has been making into policing in this state, and it is a training facility that I think serves the South Australian public and the people well when it comes to ensuring that our officers remain some of the best trained and well-equipped officers in the world.

Adjacent to the new facility is the old Fort Largs site. From a distance I was able to observe the site and the main historic buildings, which are of enormous public value to the local community and the state more generally. I am advised that the Hon. Ms Franks is right: it is a heritage-listed site, but the government agency with responsibility for the site is Renewal SA. I understand that the responsibility for Renewal SA sits with the Minister for Housing and Urban Development, my colleague and good friend in the other place. I would hope that the South Australian public can gain some clarity on the future of the site pending a decision that is likely to be made in the very near future. This is something to which South Australians should pay a great deal of attention, as it is a significant site.

Regarding the policing issues, SAPOL is the organisation that has operational responsibility for the policing of the site. I am advised that SAPOL regularly sends security patrols around the area. Information that the Hon. Tammy Franks has provided regarding patrols maybe only looking at the external part of the property and the perimeter and not going inside is information I will gladly pass on to SAPOL, and that may or may not help inform them of the effort that they need to put into the site going forward. I would critically pass on the message to all who are concerned with the site that, if they do witness any suspicious behaviour, or have any concerns around what is occurring around the site, they should not hesitate to call the police assistance line on 131444.

I have familiarised myself with the remarks made by Mr Walsh on the radio this morning, and very much thank him for his interest in the preservation of this historic site. I hope that going forward Mr Walsh, along with other key members of the community, will be satisfied with government plans and options currently being considered by Renewal SA and the government regarding the site going forward.

Fort Largs

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS ( 14:44 :23 ): Supplementary: could the minister confirm then that it is his advice that Renewal SA currently has ownership of the historic part of the fort?

The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS (Minister for Police, Minister for Correctional Services, Minister for Emergency Services, Minister for Road Safety) ( 14:44 :32 ): No, no that is not what I can confirm, Mr President. What I can confirm is that the agent responsible for the sale of the site around Fort Largs is Renewal SA, as I say. I am advised that the entity that owns the land still remains as SAPOL, and I am happy to double-check this, but I am advised that that is the case. But the responsibility regarding what happens to the site in the future, I understand and am advised that that responsibility is being dealt with by Renewal SA.


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