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Motion: Kings Reserve

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: I move:

That this council—

1. Acknowledges the importance of Kings Reserve to the local community, and that its existing mature trees help cool one of Adelaide’s hottest councils on the heat map, and one of the lowest percentages of tree canopy;

2. Notes that under the current draft master plan, it is estimated that between 70 and 140 mature native trees will be cut down to accommodate a second training oval for the Adelaide Football Club development; and

3. Supports local community calls for quality outcomes for all stakeholders, and urgent protection for the mature trees currently at risk of removal.

Kings Reserve, described as one of the city's premier mixed-use open spaces, is a much-loved tree canopied park on the eastern edge of Torrensville. For those who do not know, that is in downtown westside 5031. Framed by 267 native mature trees, including blue gums, lemon scented gums, spotted gums and river red gums, and host to residents including the Nankeen kestrel and grey-headed flying fox, it is a keystone green space in the greater Adelaide metropolitan network of green corridors. It is also the only significant public green space in the area bounded by South, Holbrooks and Henley Beach roads and the River Torrens.

The formal and informal recreational opportunities presented by Kings Reserve are significantly enhanced by its existing mature tree canopy and the shade and the cooling it supplies. The value of Kings Reserve within the community is particularly amplified by the scarcity of green space in the City of West Torrens against a background of increasing housing density. For perspective, there are currently 173 hectares of public open space in West Torrens. That equates to 5.7 per cent of the council area, excluding Adelaide Airport, and it falls well below the 12.5 per cent open space contribution referenced by the Planning, Development and Infrastructure Act.

Community expectation for development of this land into a sustainable, high-value, high-quality public reserve was established when work commenced on the 2018 Kings Reserve master plan in mid 2019. This collaborative plan was innovative in its design and utilised community and expert engagement to conceptualise a coexisting nature and nurture play space to create a synergy of the natural environment and the intergenerational community that centres around it.

In 2023, after a three-year delay in the construction of the Kings Reserve master plan, it is now clear that both the master plan and the existing tree canopy are under threat. The City of West Torrens recently and rapidly entered into a pre-lease agreement with the Adelaide Football Club, agreeing to proceed to stage 2 of the development process, enabling the Adelaide Football Club to develop a master plan for Kings Reserve and the adjacent Thebarton Oval, which the Adelaide Football Club plan to develop as their new headquarters.

The AFC have insisted on the inclusion of Kings Reserve in the lease to establish a second full-size AFL standard training oval with associated infrastructure. The proposal will result in the destruction of approximately 150 mature trees and comes at a loss of over five hectares of mixed-use community parkland in a locality where tree canopy and green space are scarce. It is estimated that more than 60 per cent of the tree canopy on Kings Reserve will be lost if this lease proposal in its current form goes ahead.

At their AGM in March, the Adelaide Football Club indicated they are seeking almost $80 million funding from all three tiers of government: a local government contribution of up to $9 million, with an additional nine hectares of rate-free reduced-rent community land valued at around $65 million; $21 million of federal funding; and a $56 million dollar deficit that they indicated they will be looking to the state government to fund, which it is looking likely it will, out of various pots of taxpayer dollars.

This stadium is going to have enormous environmental and social impacts for the inner-west community and also flow-on effects for wider Adelaide. It is not fair, reasonable or sensible use of taxpayers' money. We have spiralling cost of living, increasing homelessness with no short-term answers on public housing or real investment in public housing, our health system is in crisis and, looking over to Tasmania, the stadium fiasco in that state has put a spotlight on government investment into what is essentially a multibillion-dollar corporate industry.

The nuance we have in this situation is that not only is this taxpayers' money but it is community land. It will be giving away of nine hectares of community asset with no direct benefit to that local community; questionable, unproven benefit to greater Adelaide; and huge cost. And it is against a backdrop of repeated government attacks on community green space and parkland.

By handing over Kings Reserve the community stands to lose a park. They do not gain an oval; they lose a park. The community stands to lose access to existing green space, as the Crows will control public access to both training ovals. They will only gain increased access to existing green space when the fencing around Thebarton Oval is removed, fencing already planned to be removed in the 2018 master plan. In that, they gained an upgraded Thebarton Oval and a park.

The community stands to lose up to 100 mature trees and an environmentally diverse green space, with the tree canopy replaced by flat, closely mown, highly maintained and unshaded grass. The community stands to lose money: most, if not all, of the community facilities listed in the Crows' draft plan will be funded by a $9 million contribution from the council, a similar cost to that incurred in the 2018 master plan yet with significantly less availability of community amenities.

The community stands to lose community groups that already, that currently, use the park, such as the MA Hawks Soccer Club, which has called that space home for decades. Finally, the community stands to lose potential: they lose community land, there is no increase in revenue, their rates are not lowered and there is no new revenue generated that could be invested into the community.

The AFC proposal and the deeply upsetting actions of the West Torrens council have brought together everyday citizens in that community from all walks of life to challenge what they see as grossly unjust. I note in the other place this week over 5,000 petitions signed were tabled by the local member in the other place, the member for West Torrens, and that is an indication of the strong feeling of the community on this issue.

They point to the fact that there has been no cost-benefit analysis considering this project against alternative uses for the land, there have been no traffic impact studies and no environmental impact studies. There has been no due diligence, just an apparent blinding by the lights of the shiny AFL dream. Instead of acting on behalf of all its people, the councillors chanced it to the goodwill of a commercial entity, which is investing its money, future and reputation into this facility and will be looking to maximise the benefit they can reap from that community land for the next 84 years.

There were over 5,500 hard copy signatures, and that petition tabled in the other place urges this state government not to provide public funding to the Adelaide Football Club to develop the Thebarton Oval Kings Reserve precinct unless—and this is a big thing—there is a commitment from the Adelaide Football Club to adopt an alternative design and preserve that almost 150 mature trees currently on the Kings Reserve.

The reason I move this motion to recognise the tabling of that petition and the reason the community has gotten together to get that petition up is because of course we are in the budget lead-up right now, and that government decision will impact on this local community into the future.

I say to this council: the Greens stand with the local community. We want to see all benefit from what goes forward here, and we certainly hope that, unlike the processes around the caretaker period of decision making, where there was some secrecy, where there was fast-tracked processes and the community was not heard, we hope that going forward the community's voice will be loudly heard, not only in this council but by this government. With that, I commend the motion.

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