South Australian Tourism Assets

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY (Leader of the Opposition) ( 15:49 :09 ): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for the Environment a question about his mismanagement of the department's tourism assets.

Leave granted.

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: First, the Adelaide Gaol: since May last year all guided tours and functions have been suspended. Apparently there have been some internal issues between volunteers and the Adelaide Gaol Preservation Society. I am informed that as part of the DEWNR decision, an accredited South Australian tourism provider who was contracted to run the interpretive tours has had their contract cancelled. This year the government decided to award a Victorian company the contract for the provision of guided tours, so the Preservation Society applied for an injunction. I am told that at present—and for some time—the gaol's only actual generated revenue is from a public car park.

The Naracoorte Caves, South Australia's only World Heritage-listed site, are run down and neglected, and barely changed since my year six school excursion. In relation to Martindale Hall, just out of Clare, the last lessee (who, I believe, left the premises yesterday) had been living there and running the museum and a B&B for 14 years. She was asked to leave despite the government not having a plan for this iconic asset. The department said it was investigating options to recognise and maximise the hall's tourism value; however, we have heard nothing more than local tourism operators trying fruitlessly to leverage off the historic society.

At Granite Island, 14 years ago there were 2,000 baby penguins; in July this year there were just 38. Yet the penguin rescue centre has been prevented from breeding penguins, even having to destroy their eggs, due to DEWNR's refusal to grant permits. Meanwhile the island's cafe is on its knees due to poor business, and apparently its closure is imminent. Finally, tourists are confused and disoriented in Innes National Park. The local visitor centre is open only two days a week, and the automated ticket payment machines are not functional, resulting in frustration for visitors who subsequently turn away or enter the park without paying. My questions are:

1.As the owners of this state's largest tourism assets, how does the minister's mismanagement of DEWNR's tourism assets fit with Premier Weatherill's recently announced 10 point plan, in which tourism factors at number five in priority, which was reiterated by the Premier today at the AHA annual President's Lunch?

2.Given the tourism minister's recent criticism that the Port Adelaide Enfield council had been lazy in managing its tourism assets, why has the minister been, if you like, comatose or asleep when it comes to the mismanagement and management of his own department's tourism assets?

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation) ( 15:51 :53 ): What an outrageous question from this duplicitous man. He pretends that he has been to Naracoorte Caves in recent times, or since year six. He should know the great advances that have been made down at Naracoorte Caves, but I will come to that in a moment. I will go through some of the issues that the honourable member seeks to conflate together in some desperate attempt at relevance. What was in question number four from the Liberals today, Mr President? The leader of the Liberal Party in this place gets question number four—

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: The Hon. Mr Maher will allow the minister to answer the question.

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: You have to laugh, Mr President. Let me just go through some of these issues for the honourable member's delight and information. The Adelaide Gaol is on crown land and is owned by the state government. The Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources manages the site and has spent $1.3 million over the past three years on maintenance and restoration at the site. The department worked with the Adelaide Gaol Preservation Society for over 15 years to provide public access to the gaol through the provision of guided tours, special events and the development of information displays.

I understand that as of 1 June 2013 the department ceased the relationship with the Adelaide Gaol Preservation Society in order to establish new management arrangements for the gaol. The department undertook a review of options to determine how to best support the gaol's continued future operations. It sought public expressions of interest in conducting tours at the gaol, and shortlisting of submissions and evaluation of additional information was completed.

Volunteer opportunities at the gaol continue within the guidelines of the department's volunteer management framework and under the supervision of the department's Adelaide Gaol manager. I am told the new volunteer program has attracted a number of volunteers who meet and greet visitors to the gaol, providing them with information to enhance their visit, help to keep the site well presented, and catalogue and protect the important artefacts of the gaol.

It is important to note that the Adelaide Gaol remains open for business and self-guided access, and bookings for special events continue as usual. The gaol has a wealth of local history and will continue to be an important place for the South Australian community and visitors to the state. I would like to thank the many volunteers who have worked and are now working with the department, and highlight the fact that this government remains committed to continuing to provide volunteering opportunities.

In fact, probably several months ago now I received an email from a delighted person who has been working as a volunteer at Adelaide Gaol. She said she had never seen it being operated better, and she thanked me and the department for our involvement in upgrading the gaol and making it a better spot for tourists.

In relation to Martindale Hall, I have answered these questions before, but let me go through it again. We are committed as a government to preserving our built heritage for future generations. Martindale Hall is a significant example of our built heritage, and we are committed to ensuring that its future is preserved. For those who are not familiar, Martindale Hall is a grand Georgian mansion built in 1879, located in Mintaro in the Clare Valley. A portion of the Martindale Hall Conservation Park was held under lease, providing access to the historic hall for accommodation and functions.

The government recently undertook an expression of interest process, in consultation with key stakeholders, including the South Australian Tourism Commission, Regional Development Australia and State Heritage. The aim of the expression of interest process was to secure a sustainable, commercial operation at the site. No suitable responses to the expression of interest were received, I am advised. The grand coach house, located in the grounds of Martindale Hall, has significant potential for tourism and hospitability, but the expression of interest process did not identify any parties who were interested in upgrading and developing the building.

The former leaseholders were fully consulted, I am advised, in the period leading up to and throughout the expression of interest process. They were invited to apply for a new lease through the expression of interest process. The former leaseholders did lodge an expression of interest through the process, but I am advised that this offer would not have been financially sustainable; it therefore could not be recommended by the evaluation panel.

The lease was extended, I am told, to 1 December 2014 to enable the lessees to conclude their business. I understand that caretaker arrangements have been put in place. The hall will be closed from 1 to 7 December in order for a stocktake of the collection to be undertaken and for essential maintenance to be assessed. When a caretaker arrangement has been finalised, Martindale Hall will be reopened as a museum on 8 December, with the opening hours of 11am to 4pm seven days a week, except Christmas Day and Good Friday. The local tourism information centre, I am advised, has been told of the new arrangements.

It is not sustainable for the department to provide premises to a private enterprise where the income from that private enterprise does not go anywhere near covering the maintenance costs and the access costs for that building. In addition, the honourable member, in his question, obviously ignored the issues to do with tourism that this government has been dealing with, such as $1.6 million for the Adelaide bird sanctuary we are developing. Where is their policy on ecotourism? They didn't have one. Where is their policy on tourism assets replacement? This government has promised $10.4 million over the last several years for doing exactly what the honourable member said we are not doing.

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY (Leader of the Opposition) ( 15:57 :14 ): Supplementary question: has the Adelaide Gaol Preservation Society taken out an injunction against DEWNR?

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation) ( 15:57 :29 ): I thank the honourable member for his supplementary question. I understand that the finalisation of the expression of interest process for the provision of services to Adelaide Gaol has been put on hold pending the outcome of a matter raised in the Magistrates Court. It would obviously be inappropriate for me to comment on this matter—

The Hon. D.W. Ridgway: You didn't mention that in the first answer.

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: Well, it's currently before the courts.

The Hon. D.W. Ridgway: You didn't mention that in your first answer.

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: In fact, that's right, because that is the appropriate thing for a minister to do. When a matter is before the courts, Mr President, that is the appropriate thing for a minister to do. They should know better, but they have no responsibility whatsoever, Mr President.

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