Saving the waite gatehouse grievance

17 March 2021

Mr DULUK (Waite) (16:07): In early December 2020, the state government announced that they would be demolishing the state heritage 130-year-old Waite Gatehouse in my community, on the corner of Fullarton Road and Cross Road, including several significant trees in the Waite Arboretum. This announcement came as a shock to me and many in my community.

That weekend, on 6 December we organised a community rally. I gathered with hundreds on the corner of Cross Road to protest that decision to demolish the gatehouse. So many people attended and members of parliament, including the member for Florey, were there in attendance. Many local groups and organisations took an immediate stance against the demolition of this state heritage listed building, including Protect our Heritage SA, Mitcham Historical Society, Save our Heritage Alliance, Friends of the Waite Arboretum, Friends of Urrbrae House and, indeed, the University of Adelaide.

Why was this so important to this collection of individuals and people passionate about history that we came together? We were there to protect and save an iconic piece of South Australian heritage—a gatehouse since 1890, a building that was state heritage listed in 1982. It was discovered that, if demolished, the gatehouse would be the first state heritage listed building destroyed since the conception of the State Heritage Register four decades ago, in the 1980s. Demolishing the gatehouse would be one very significant step in destroying the integrity of state heritage listing in South Australia, and of course it would be destroying Peter Waite's legacy and the legacy of Peter Waite to the people of South Australia, and his bequest is quite phenomenal.

As the member for Waite, it has been my responsibility to represent the concerns of my community. After speaking at the initial rally, I was able to work with the Public Works Committee of this parliament, asking them to receive evidence from engineering company Mammoth Movers, who were quoted to move the gatehouse, and as such they did. This played an important role, in my view, in the government pursuing full and proper quotes to seek not the destruction of the gatehouse but alternative purposes for it and for its move.

We continued to pressure the government to change their position, with many features on radio, television and in the press. The petition that we initiated and I presented today to this parliament with over 8,741 signatures to protect that building and to stop its demolition was a key part of that press, television and radio campaign. I have spoken out in this place on numerous occasions to preserve heritage and to protect our environment.

In an interesting turn of events, the state government announced some months ago that they would offer the University of Adelaide $4 million to relocate the gatehouse. To many, this was very much seen by the community as the government trying to handball their decision-making in regard to the gatehouse to the university. Over the last couple of months, for those following the debate, there has been pressure, toing and froing, meetings and discussions between the university, the government and members of our community.

People could see that sentiment was changing and there was a huge upswell of support to save the gatehouse, with the hashtag #SaveTheGatehouse trending heavily on social media, for those who follow it. There has been an online petition, which over 17,000 people have signed, and there was a second rally held, with over 1,000 people attending that rally, which I think in this day and age is certainly an important milestone and measure, especially in relation to heritage matters.

It was fantastic at that rally to have George Morgan, the great-grandson of Peter Waite, speak, as well as Professor Norman Etherington from Adelaide University (retired), the head of the National Trust and Dr Jennifer Gardner OAM on behalf of the university. I thank the organising committee for saving the gatehouse, led by Professor Warren Jones AO, Joanna Wells, Ron Bellchambers, John Wood and Geoff Saurer. These individuals met with my office pretty much every Friday for the last three to four months to work out how we could work with the community to save the Waite Gatehouse.

On Monday, Mr Deputy Speaker, as you may be aware, the state government announced that they would not demolish the gatehouse but save it and work with the uni to repurpose it. I am glad that the minister has listened to the people of South Australia. I am glad to be able to have spoken to and worked with the minister to ensure that there is a better outcome for the people of South Australia. This shows the importance of community wins on grassroots campaigns. We saved the Repat hospital in our community, we saved the Mitcham Service SA centre in our community, we saved local bus routes in our community and, because we worked together, we saved the Waite Gatehouse.