Legislative Council: Wednesday, April 10, 2024


Crown and Anchor Hotel

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (16:03): I move:

That this council—

1. Notes that Singapore-based developer Wee Hur Holdings Ltd has made an application for partial demolition and adaptive reuse of the site of the Crown and Anchor Hotel, which was first licensed in 1853 and has been a cornerstone of Adelaide's live music scene for over three decades.

2. Acknowledges an online petition signed by over 15,000 people opposing any attempts at demolition or change in the use of the Crown and Anchor Hotel.

3. Recognises that Adelaide is a designated UNESCO City of Music for the vibrancy of the city’s music culture, including its live music venues.

4. Calls on the Malinauskas government to:

(a) oppose any partial demolition or adaptive reuse of the Crown and Anchor Hotel;

(b) make a submission to the State Commission Assessment Panel indicating that position; and

(c) move to amend state heritage laws to ensure that cultural and social value is considered in the development assessment of heritage sites like the Crown and Anchor Hotel.

I rise today to speak about the proposed redevelopment of the Crown and Anchor Hotel. The Crown and Anchor was first licensed 171 years ago and is one of the oldest pubs in Adelaide. Its long and colourful history has included everything from coronial inquests to election forums. For the last 30 years it has been a stalwart of Adelaide's music scene, hosting live and loud music acts almost every night of the week.

The Cranker proudly calls itself the home of cold beer and amplified music. Countless local and touring independent bands have entertained South Australian audiences on the Cranker's stage, and many South Australians have enjoyed a pint or two at the Cranker after work before watching their favourite band play a gig. Indeed, I remember enjoying a few drinks myself at the Cranker during my uni days. It is a pub that has earned a good reputation as being an inclusive and queer-friendly venue, and there are not many of those in our city.

Last month, Singapore-based developer, Wee Hur Holdings Ltd, applied for planning construction for a multi-student level accommodation at 188 and 196 Grenfell Street. That is currently home to the venues Roxie, Chateau Apollo and Midnight Spaghetti, as well as the Cranker. The application proposes partial demolition and adaptive reuse of the Cranker site.

The Greens are not opposed to more student accommodation in the city but the question must be asked: why this location, when we have an abundance of vacant sites in the CBD? There is a site on Gouger Street that has been vacant for years, there is another on Sturt Street, there are a number of areas in the city that could house student accommodation. We do not have to be destroying our historic pubs and our historic icons.

It would be a huge loss to Adelaide's cultural heritage if this proposed development leads to the Cranker closing its doors. It is no surprise that news of this development application has prompted a huge groundswell of community support to protect the Cranker. So far, over 15,000 people have signed a petition against any attempts at demolition or a change in the Cranker's use that would rob South Australians of this iconic pub and music venue—and I expect that many more South Australians will soon add their names. I want to praise all those who have been campaigning on this issue and the great work they are doing in terms of activating the community.

Last night, the Adelaide City Council passed a motion calling on the Lord Mayor to write to the Premier asking for state support for the Cranker and for a change in the planning code for better protections for living cultural heritage. The community is sending the Malinauskas government a very clear message, and that is: save the Cranker.

The proposed redevelopment of the Cranker hotel is especially concerning given Adelaide has the honour of being Australia's first and only city to be a designated UNESCO City of Music. It was Adelaide's vibrant live music and pub rock culture which has produced some of the Australia's most successful and best-loved bands like Cold Chisel and The Angels, as well as up-and-coming artists like Bad Dreems and West Thebarton, who contribute to our city being recognised in this way.

However, the sad reality is that the Cranker is one of the few survivors of a once thriving live music scene in the CBD in the East End. We have seen the closure of many of our historic pubs and music venues in recent years. The Producers on Grenfell Street and Pirie Street's Tivoli have both stopped operating. The Austral on Rundle Street has declined as a music venue because it has been required to build a soundproof bunker over its beer garden due to the construction of an apartment block directly behind it. The loss of the Cranker would be yet another blow to Adelaide's proud music history and tradition.

The Cranker has survived two world wars, 33 US Presidents, 31 Australian Prime Ministers, and so far all 47 Premiers of South Australia. But will it survive the Malinauskas government? This is a test for the Premier. Will he step up and support Adelaide's live music scene and support our local heritage, or will he sit back, remain silent and let the axe fall on yet another iconic Adelaide pub? This is a real test of leadership for the Premier, and he and his government need to step up.

The Premier is passionate about putting Adelaide on the map, and his government is doing much to promote Adelaide as a tourist destination. I commend him for that. It was great to see so much energy and activity in the city over the weekend for Gather Round, but the only thing that will be gathering in Adelaide in the future is dust, if we lose iconic pubs like the Cranker.

We need to ensure that Adelaide is a dynamic place to live and to work all year round, not just during major events and festivals. We simply cannot afford to lose more of our historic pubs and live music venues. The state government must listen to the community and unequivocally oppose the demolition and reuse of the Cranker and make this position clear to the State Commission Assessment Panel when it considers Wee Hur Holdings development application later this month.

If the government allows this development to go ahead without adopting any position then there is no way that they can claim that they are truly committed to creating opportunities for South Australian artists, preserving our cultural heritage or ensuring that Adelaide maintains its status as a UNESCO City of Music.

This saga has shed serious light on a significant flaw in South Australia's heritage protection planning laws. These laws focus almost entirely on our built form and exclude consideration of our state's cultural and social heritage. The result is that heritage places like the Cranker, which are of huge social significance to the community, can be bought by developers and gutted with only the facade remaining.

It is absurd to think that our laws allow a developer to hollow out a pub like the Cranker and convert it into the foyer of an apartment building and leave some of the exterior untouched. Cultural significance and ongoing social use should not be cast as being of lesser importance compared to the architectural or aesthetic significance in our planning and development processes.

Heritage is not simply about bricks and mortar; it is about the beating heart of our city and our state. The growing campaign to save the Cranker is living proof of this. It is clear to all that our planning laws simply are not fit for purpose. This motion is for the government to amend our laws, to plug these gaps by ensuring that the social and cultural value of heritage places is considered as part of any development assessment process. We need to do this before SA's heritage is lost forever.

The Labor Party is the architect of this failed planning regime. They are the architect of this failed planning regime which so often excludes community views and is blind to our city's cultural life, but Labor also has the power to fix this. The Labor Party has been in power for 18 of the last 30 years in South Australia. They own this failed planning system, they own this planning mess, they own the consequences that flow from it. They need to take action and they need to step up and fix it.

We need a planning system that actually serves the interests of the community, not developers. It is time for the Cranker and other pubs like it to finally get the protection they deserve. Save the Cranker! I commend the motion.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. R.B. Martin.