Greg Barila

Journalist. Editor. Social Media specialist.

Please, no more empty promises at Port Adelaide

Tourism Minister Leon Bignell says Port Adelaide Enfield Council is “lazy” on local tourism. Photo: Tom Huntley
FOR the better part of a decade, a sign at the gateway to the historic township of Port Adelaide cautioned visitors to hang on to their hats because…. “It’s happening”.
It’s important not to get too cynical in these matters.
Because if you’re talking about an ad hoc programme of ugly residential development and court action ending in the shelving of the first major crack at rejuvenating the area, it’s hard to argue it hasn’t all been happening down at Port Adelaide in recent years.
Something else has been happening down on the waterfront.
A council, according to Mr Bignell, that hasn’t once bothered to pick up the phone and inundate the government with a bag full of winning ideas to flood the Port with cashed up tourists.
Port Adelaide Enfield Mayor Gary Johanson says Mr Bignell is welcome to pop down to the Port for a meeting to talk about the issue.
“It’s a lazy council,” he told The Advertiser.
The local council may well be bereft of good ideas to rejuvenate Port Adelaide.
But for a senior member of the Government, the Tourism Minister no less, to try to shift the blame for the missteps and chronic inaction that have held the Port back for more than a decade on the local council, isn’t just passing strange, it’s breathtaking in its hypocrisy.
Because a vibrant Port Adelaide doesn’t just depend on a few sexy weekend attractions, but a sustainable community that people actually want to live in.
There the government has a major responsibility and there, so far, it has failed.
They built it and they came. Hart’s Mill, one of the green shoots of optimism in Port Adelaide.
In October 2012, the government pulled the pin on the controversial Newport Quays development, a decade after it was approved by the then-Planning Minister Jay Weatherill.
Weatherill admitted the project (first announced by the Liberals) was ultimately “flawed” and seemed to suggest Labor only pushed it through so as not to send the wrong message to investors.
“Imagine if the first thing we did within weeks of coming into office was to cancel a tender process,” Mr Weatherill told the ABC at the time.
“Imagine the message that would have sent to the investing community”.
That same year, the government scrapped plans for another project, crucial to any hopes of a Port revival, an extension of the tram network to Port Adelaide and Semaphore.
The measure saved the Budget $35 million.
But even had the project gone ahead, it would have been 2019, a full five years from now, before the first trams would be ready for the run to Port Adelaide.
In other words, it’s likely another decade will pass before a tram ride to the Port becomes more than wishful thinking.
And yet amid all the reasons for pessimism, there are green tendrils of optimism to be found.
As Mr Bignell rightly points out, the markets at Hart’s Mill “are going well”, thanks to a $2.5 million Government investment.
And the Minister’s comments supporting a major, Sydney-style fish market are encouraging and exactly the kind of project the Government (and the local council) should be working to see
happen at the Port.
The Government’s latest rejuvenation plan, released in January, with its plans for a marine precinct at Fletcher’s Slip, public marina, high-density living and the promise of an influx of thousands of new people are similarly hopeful.
But we’ve heard it all before.
“We’ve been saying for 25 tears we need more residents”, Railway Hotel owner Fred Hiscock said in response to the latest vision.
Port Adelaide needs a lot of things.
One thing it doesn’t need is yet more empty promises.
What do you think should happen at The Port? Share your ideas below