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Trust prevented demolition of Ayers House

A Lockdown Letter from Deborah Morgan

President, National Trust of South Australia...

Many of you are also aware that the National Trust has been in the firing line lately and the subject of unfair criticism for objecting to the government's plan to evict us from Ayers House after 50 years.

Today, the Advertiser has published a piece from me designed to start to set the record straight in this matter. I attach it here.

​I encourage you to read it and share with your members as it may be hard to access newspapers in the current lock down situation.

It was the National Trust that stood in the way to prevent the demolition of Ayers House in the 1960s –

I WRITE on behalf of The National Trust in response to the article by Christopher Pyne “Heritage battle stuck in the past”

Why the National Trust needs to be based at one of the most expensive pieces of real estate in Adelaide is yet to be explained, writes Christopher Pyne.

The National Trust of South Australia is one of our state’s most respected public charities with 6000 members and volunteers across the state.

The Trust stands accused by Mr Pyne of selfish behaviour for questioning the state government’s decision to evict it from Ayers House after 50 years of serving the community there.

This has come as a great shock to the people who give hundreds of thousands of voluntary hours each year to protecting, preserving and sharing our heritage through the Trust.

As history will show, it was the National Trust that “stood in the way” to prevent the demolition of Ayers House in the 1960s.

It was the National Trust that restored Ayers House in the early 1970s and has maintained it and kept it accessible to the public ever since, with minimal government support.

Of course, the Trust welcomes long-overdue government investment in the property.

The Trust proposed an exciting masterplan for Ayers House in 2017 which this government supported before the 2018 election.

What has changed since then, is the government is unhappy about our challenges to its

  1. decision to demolish Shed 26 at Port Adelaide,

  2. attempt to demolish the Waite Gatehouse,

  3. changes to planning laws and

  4. threat to open Martindale Hall up to privatisation.

Standing up for our heritage sometimes means questioning government decisions.

Coming up with better solutions, rather than resorting to denigration,

would be a more helpful response.

Mr Pyne starts from the false premise the Trust has its headquarters at Ayers House.

It does not. In fact, our headquarters are at Beaumont in Mr Pyne’s former federal electorate of Sturt.

Painting the Trust as a block to investment is a tired and familiar tactic from the property development industry.

  • The Trust is not a block to investment but in fact one of the leading investors in heritage regeneration and sustainability in Australia.

  • We are working with the commonwealth government to invest more than $11m in sites across SA across the next two years.

The state government proposes to move the administration of the government-run History Trust into Ayers House, converting significant parts of the building into offices.

  • The emerging picture is not “restoring Ayers House to its former glory”, as government media statements proclaim,

  • but removing it from community hands

  • to facilitate increased commercial use and accommodate gilt-edged government offices.

We understand the cost of those offices is in the order of $60,000 a person.

  • Those funds could be so much better spent.

  • Particularly when many individuals, businesses and charities are struggling with the economic consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic

  • and there are hundreds of heritage buildings across the state crying out for investment – many of them government owned.

By evicting the Trust from the building and creating new offices for the History Trust,

  • the public will lose access to big and significant parts of Ayers House.

  • The thousands of children who participate in our hands-on learning programs each year will lose their chance to explore the house and

  • to feed their imaginations and creativity in this unique historic space.

The National Trust of SA listens to, and gives voice to, the strong desire of South Australians to preserve their heritage for future generations.

We say yes to preserving our heritage for all to enjoy.

And we say no to needless demolitions as we did in the 1960s, which is why magnificent Ayers House is still here. We urge the parliament to intervene to keep Ayers House for the people.

We will be writing further to all members later in the week.

​In the meantime, stay safe and warm.

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