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National Park City Status Creates “Higher Expectations” for Park Land Protection

Judges of Adelaide’s successful bid to become a globally recognized national park city said the title should lead to “higher expectations, accountability and standards” on planning decisions to rezone and market the lands of the city ​​park.

The UK-based National Park City Foundation announced this weekend that the South Australian government’s efforts to have Greater Adelaide named the world’s second national park had been successful, after months of deliberations of a global panel of judges.

The decision revealed at the World Congress of Urban Parks sees Adelaide join London as the only two cities to hold the coveted status.

Environment Minister David Speirs, who first signaled the candidacy in 2019, hailed the foundation’s decision as a “historic moment” for the state.

“The city status of Adelaide National Park is not just another title for our city, it is a trigger to promote and connect people with action on the ground to protect our environment for health and good. – to be of all as well as to stimulate our economy through increased tourism, ”said Speirs.

“Over the next several years, thanks to our Green Adelaide Urban Environment Council, you will see real action on the ground as the Adelaide National Park City movement to create a fresher, greener and wilder city.”

But Adelaide’s candidacy drew fierce criticism from supporters of the city park grounds, who argued that the push “cannot be taken seriously” because of the ongoing “attacks” on the city. urban green belt.

Critics cited pressure from the state government to dezone 71 hectares of park land for the new hospital for women and children and the 15,000-seat Riverbank Arena as reasons why the offer should be rejected.

The six judges of the “City of Adelaide National Park Assessment Team” said they received nearly 30 “letters of objection” from individuals and organizations.

“While many of these people supported the idea of ​​Adelaide in principle becoming a national park city, serious concerns were raised about the potential rezoning and development in the city’s central parks,” the judges said. in a joint email to the activists after the decision.

“The evaluation team met with activists and others who added their voices to these concerns.

“We found these conversations and information very useful and important. “

The situation is still playing out and part of National Park City’s status is that it should lead to higher expectations, accountability and standards.

The six judges – made up of two members of the National Park City Foundation, two of the World Organization of Urban Parks of New Zealand and two of the Salzburg Global Seminar – said that, overall, Adelaide’s candidacy had received greater support as more than 2,200 people signed on to the city charter from Adelaide National Park.

“The team is very sensitive to the concerns and encourages the government to develop policies that properly protect and create natural and recreational spaces in the city,” the judges said.

“We decided to endorse the related criteria because, on the specific issue of planning decisions in park lands, many people we spoke to felt that National Park City status would create a higher expectation of development. ‘a greener city and would create an environment where the right proposals and decisions were more likely to be made on this and other planning issues.

“The situation continues to play out and part of National Park City’s status is that it should lead to higher expectations, accountability and standards.”

The judges also said their assessment “took into consideration all of Adelaide and not just the center of the city.”

They added, “We don’t believe that a predominantly overseas National Park City assessment team should comment on individual planning requests or attempt to hamper the local democratic process.”

World Urban Parks CEO Neil McCarthy said the judges’ decision also took into account the support of Kaurna alumni for the candidacy.

“No national park is perfect and the National Park City movement needs a diversity of approaches to continue to challenge our thinking,” he said.

“The need to ensure recognition of traditional owners is a firm commitment from World Urban Parks and the leadership and knowledge of Kaurna from Adelaide inspires us and gives us hope that cities can be better.

“This is an important feature of the city of Adelaide National Park. “

Conservation Council CEO Craig Wilkins said his organization was “thrilled” with the judges’ decision, but said it was “just the beginning of the journey, not the end”.

“To live up to the title, it will take a major step in urban greening and biodiversity,” he said.

“While many good things are happening across the city, our forest cover continues to shrink.

“A big investment in urban greening and tree protection will help convince the citizens of Adelaide that ‘national park’ is not just an empty title.”

The state government highlighted its $ 5 million investment to “green our streets and CBD places”, as well as a $ 5 million project to “re-wild” the Torrens River, as proof of its credentials. in downtown Adelaide.

The National Park City Foundation says it hopes to recognize 25 national park cities by 2025.

Other cities currently campaigning for recognition include Berlin, Tokyo, Madrid, Sacramento, Galway, Newcastle and Glasgow.

Green Adelaide said she plans to hold a public celebration to launch the city of Adelaide National Park in the fall of next year.

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