Mr PEDERICK (Hammond) (16:36): I, too, rise to speak to the Martindale Hall (Protection and Management) Bill. My first few comments are that there has been a lot of misinformation about what we are trying to do here as a government with this bill. Last night, I was talking to a friend of mine who said, 'You're just going to sell it because that's what they said on the radio.' I said, 'Don't believe everything you hear.' That is not going to happen. What has been put so well in this place already by the member for Flinders is that it is about an opportunity for public ownership and private entrepreneurialism to make this gem really shine.
As has been indicated, Martindale Hall is a site located in the Mintaro region, a beautiful area of the Clare Valley, which has the real potential to be a significant tourism drawcard that would make a vibrant contribution to the cultural and economic landscape of the Clare Valley and surrounding region. Certainly, with the influx of regional tourism we have had right across the state because of what is going on with COVID and what we have done as a government, assisting with tourism vouchers, it is so good to see so many people out and about through the regions of this state. I suppose you could say there have been some positives with COVID simply because people cannot spend those billions of dollars overseas that they normally would have.
There is a desire within the community, articulated in a joint communiqué between the Regional Development Authority, the Clare and Gilbert Valleys Council and the Clare Valley Wine and Grape Association, to see the development of high-end accommodation offerings in the Clare Valley, and Martindale Hall has the potential to contribute to this vision for the region.
The hall was gifted to the government by the University of Adelaide in 1986, when specific heritage protection laws did not exist in South Australia. It was afforded protection under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972, through the creation of the Martindale Hall Conservation Park. Structures at the site, including the hall and coach-house, are listed on the state Heritage Register.
For many years, the hall was leased to the private sector as a tourist attraction and a venue for events and tourism accommodation. The terms of the lease were unsustainable over time to the government, and the lease concluded in 2014. Since that time, the hall has been open to the public just as a museum through a short-term caretaker arrangement.
A couple of years after that, during 2015 and 2016, the government received multiple unsolicited proposals for use of Martindale Hall, each of which sought to develop the site for use as a wellness retreat and maybe accommodation and a restaurant. Extensive community consultation occurred in response to these proposals, which indicated that the community wanted to see the heritage values of Martindale Hall and its collections preserved whilst ensuring ongoing public access to the site.
During consideration of these proposals, legal advice provided to the government indicated that through the gifting of Martindale Hall to the government a charitable trust was created, which would restrict the future use of the hall to a museum, which would ensure that visitors to the site could experience life as it was lived by the Mortlock family, who owned the property from 1892.
The terms of the charitable trust also prohibit any modernising development, including installation of public toilets, but that has previously occurred at the site. To allow for Martindale Hall to be used for a broader range of future uses whilst retaining it in public ownership—and I stress 'whilst retaining it in public ownership'—the terms and conditions of the charitable trust can be revoked through a legislative process, which is what we are going through here today, which explicitly seeks to vary or revoke the charitable trust. The Martindale Hall (Protection and Management) Bill 2020:
removes restrictions that presently limit the adaptive re-use of the hall;
abolishes the charitable trust over the site;
requires that the hall remains in public ownership, which honours the intention of the gift of the hall to be held for the people of South Australia, and that is extremely important;
strengthens its heritage protections—again, extremely important not just for the people of the Clare Valley and the Mintaro region but for the state and the country. This will be achieved by abolishing the Martindale Hall Conservation Park, proclaimed under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972, and placing Martindale Hall in the care and control of the Minister for Environment and Water as the minister responsible for the Heritage Places Act 1993;
ensures that Martindale Hall cannot be removed from the South Australian Heritage Register without the concurrence of both houses of parliament;
requires that the Minister for Environment and Water prepares and adopts a heritage conservation policy, and a material contents policy for the hall's collections, and that any lease or licence of Martindale Hall is consistent with these heritage polices; and
mandates a level of ongoing public access, which is expressly provided for in any lease or licence arrangement for Martindale Hall. This may include requiring that the hall and grounds are open to the public for a specified number of days per year.
It is certainly considered that in the major protections that are part of the bill, in particular the requirement that Martindale Hall remain in public ownership, along with the provisions of the Heritage Places Act 1993, provide a more appropriate form of protection to the hall than that which is currently afforded by the provisions of the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972, which is somewhat cumbersome in its protection of the hall through a conservation park. I stress again: it provides a more appropriate form of protection to Martindale Hall.
Importantly, the bill does not make any decisions about the future use of the hall, but it does allow the government the chance to work with the private sector and the community to develop heritage tourism and other economic opportunities at the property. It is proposed that any future private sector investment in Martindale Hall, the grounds and the surrounding buildings, would occur via a long-term lease, where the government retains a high level of oversight and strategic involvement in the future use of the hall and its collections.
At present, the highly restrictive operating framework at Martindale Hall prevents any profitable third-party commercial venture from being advanced and, in the meantime, the ongoing costs associated with operating and maintaining Martindale Hall are being borne by the state government, which, since being gifted to the state, are in excess of $5 million.
I think this is an excellent proposal, not only to keep one of these great heritage sites in public ownership and give Martindale Hall the appropriate protections that it deserves and requires to advance into the future, but also to give the people of South Australia, Australia and international visitors when they finally start coming back—and they will—the opportunity to visit this magnificent site.
It is not dissimilar to Padthaway Homestead on Padthaway Estate down in the South-East in the seat of MacKillop, which was owned by the former leader of the Liberal Party, Dale Baker, the former member for MacKillop. That is a place of similar ilk to Martindale Hall. I stayed there one evening. I had an excellent evening where all the guests had their own rooms upstairs but then the different groups or couples mingled downstairs for pre-dinner drinks and then went to their separate tables for dining. That was a little while ago.
Currently, the family that owns Padthaway house is renovating. These buildings do need a lot of care and love and they can be expensive to work with. Certainly, in light of the opportunities that Martindale Hall can give back to not only the Clare Valley but the state and the nation as a whole, you just cannot let these things disappear. That is why we are putting these protections in place, but we are also making sure as a government that we are giving the private operators that have the opportunity to come here the ability to open Martindale Hall up and give more access so that everyone can see life as it was in the late 1800s as this state was finding its feet. I fully commend the bill and hope it has a speedy passage through the parliament.