Bangalore Homestead Questions

The Hon. S.G. WADE (14:27): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation a question relating to the Bangalore homestead.

The Hon. S.G. WADE (14:27): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation a question relating to the Bangalore homestead.


Leave granted.

The Hon. S.G. WADE: The responsibility of the heritage-listed Bangalore homestead in Renmark lies with the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources. In 2005, the Friends of Bangalore Volunteers Group was formed to help maintain the property in response to concerns the property was becoming run down.

Most of the gardens, vines and fruit trees on the property have died. and I am advised that the house is approaching a state of total disrepair. The entrance gates to the property are padlocked, and the property has become an eyesore in the town. Last Friday, a fire broke out at the property. Fuelled by overgrown weeds and dead trees, the fire came within 20 metres of the historic homestead.

The government has provided minimal assistance for the maintenance of this 100-year-old property, though I am advised that the government did complete a conservation plan for the property in 2010. My questions are:

1. Can the minister advise of the actions and outcomes from the conservation plan for the Bangalore property?

2. Has the state government drawn up heritage agreements for the Bangalore homestead?

3. Given the risk highlighted by the recent fire, is the government considering increasing support for Bangalore to protect and preserve this important part of the heritage of both the Riverland and the state?

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation) (14:28): Bangalore is a fruit block and homestead located in Renmark. I am advised that the property was established in the 1890s and covers an area of about 12 hectares. In 1985, it was included in the South Australian Heritage Register as one of South Australia's best surviving examples of a diverse and historically significant fruit production property. I understand that the open channel system is one of only three that remain in Renmark and that the house represents unusual design and construction techniques.

The property was purchased by the Morant family in the 1890s and developed by them over the next 100 years. The government purchased the property at a time when a number of heritage-listed properties were being purchased to help preserve their heritage significance.

After the purchase, Ms Beryl Morant, the daughter of Arthur Morant, was granted life tenancy of the property, I am advised. From 1991 until her death in 2007, the state appointed a series of managers and lessees to continue the operation of the property. I am advised that the property has remained vacant since 2007, and the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources has been unable to secure a tenant or a lessee for the property.

A conservation action plan was prepared in 2009, which provided specific recommendations for the ongoing protection and management of the site's remaining heritage values. The recommendations of the plan are guiding the current actions of the department, including maintenance. I am advised that the department is working towards finding suitable adaptive re-use options that are sustainable and will help to protect the heritage values of the property. Departmental staff have met with Friends of Bangalore, a community-led group, and will continue to keep the group involved in the decision-making process about the future of the site.

The current on-site maintenance undertaken by the department is valued around $12,000 annually, I am advised. In the past financial year, the department has undertaken and removed public risks, including asbestos and tree limbs, and has reclad the original pickers' kitchen and undertaken pest management and grass slashing.

In relation to the fire, I am advised that a grass fire occurred at Bangalore on 25 October and was attended by the Renmark Metropolitan Fire Service. I am advised that the fire started outside the property and spread through the property, affecting the very low dry or dead vines. The cause of the fire is currently being investigated. The fire did not threaten the house, and the total area affected by fire has not been finalised, but I am advised that it is expected to be less than half a hectare.

I am also advised that the slashing program is undertaken at Bangalore two to three times a year, depending on the seasonal conditions. My department tells me that a contractor was engaged in August of this year to slash the grass at the site to reduce fire risk and that this contractor was scheduled to re-slash the grass at the site in mid-November of this year.