Ex-Lord Mayor to head SA Heritage Council

Former Adelaide Lord Mayor Sandy Verschoor has been appointed chair of the SA Heritage Council, replacing Keith Conlon who bitterly opposed the Malinauskas Government’s move to bulldoze the state heritage-listed Thebarton Police Barracks for a new park lands hospital.

Mar 24, 2023, updated Mar 24, 2023
Former Lord Mayor Sandy Verschoor has been named new chair of the SA Heritage Council. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

Former Lord Mayor Sandy Verschoor has been named new chair of the SA Heritage Council. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

The government this morning said that Verschoor, – who lost her mayoral re-election bid to former Lord Mayor and Labor minister Dr Jane Lomax-Smith in November – would take up her three-year role in April after beating 16 other applicants.

It said that SA Heritage Council funding had also been boosted by an extra $10m over 10 years, with the money allocated under the mid-year budget review.

The funding includes an extra $250,000 a year for Heritage Conservation Grants to “support the owners of State Heritage Places”, and will also allow for Aboriginal engagement on state heritage listings, reduce a listing backlog and build an online register.

Vershoor replaces outgoing Heritage Council chair Keith Conlon, who publicly criticised the Malinauskas Government’s decision to over-ride heritage protections with legislation in order to demolish the state heritage-listed Police Barracks for a Women’s and Children’s Hospital.

Conlon said heritage protection was meaningless if the development proceeded, and threatened to stand in front of bulldozers.

In February, Conlon told InDaily that the “shattering and inconceivable” decision played a part in his decision to step down in March after serving five years as Heritage Council chair.

The new Women’s and Children’s Hospital will be build on a park lands site currently home to the state heritage-listed Thebarton Police Barracks next to Bonython Park. Image supplied by State Govt.

Verschoor said today that she had “a passion for our state’s heritage and its ongoing conservation, protection and promotion”.

“I very much look forward to the opportunity to work on policy and strategy that ensures the heritage vision for our state is contemporary, inclusive and relevant,” she said in a statement.

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“I believe the heritage of South Australia is unique in Australian and world history. Great cities are designed for people and are supported by strong diverse communities who respect, preserve and value our heritage.”

Deputy Premier Susan Close said she was “looking forward to working with Sandy and the members of the Council on the formulation of strategic heritage policies that reflect public value and public consultation”.

“Key focus areas for the future will be the implementation of the heritage tourism strategy, activating heritage through tourism and job growth initiatives, and increasing community engagement around heritage protection,” Close said.

Labor MP for Adelaide Lucy Hood said extra grant funding would “assist many locals in my community to maintain and refurbish their heritage homes, which are an intrinsic part of the character and history of our neighbourhoods”.

The Thebarton Barracks and park lands development issue prompted former Labor Attorney-General Chris Sumner to write that the Malinauskas Government had reversed decades of Labor government park lands protection and was a return to treating them as a free land bank.

Earlier this month, it was revealed that the mounted police unit now based at Thebarton Barracks would be rehoused at a new city park lands site, Park 21 near Greenhill Rd.

The move will see the public open space and revegetation site fenced off and a series of new buildings constructed – a development roundly criticised by current Lord Mayor and former Labor minister Dr Jane Lomax-Smith. 

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