Trust cuts harm history, Miles Kemp, Advertiser

16 April 2012

Some of the state's most historic public properties are crumbling as the National Trust considers abandoning them due to State Government funding cuts.

The Trust is drawing up a hit list of properties it must return to the ownership of taxpayers because it cannot pay for maintenance.

Nine properties have already been identified.

The State Government gave the trust 42 properties to manage two years ago but at the same time cut its annual budget of $200,000 for maintenance.

Trust chief executive Eric Heapy said the organisation was also suffering from reduced bequests and donations. Revenue had fallen from $3,737,905 to $2,340,853 between 2010 and 2011.

"...we need desperately to put our own house in order, find new ways of generating income and to get some funding from government," he said.

"A report has been put to the Government about their 42 properties saying we can no longer afford to fund them and we are examining ways we can return some of them to the Government.

"There are five we need to return immediately because we are created under an Act of Parliament, we are there for the public good for all South Australians and we believe there should be some public (taxpayer) support." Those five properties are Nappers Accommodation in Barmera, the Bery Bery Reserve and Memdelbuik Reserve in Berri, the Old Council Chambers in Cleve and the relic Whim in Booleroo.

Mr Heapy said the trust was also trying to find new owners, mainly councils, for four other government owned, but trust-managed properties the Cobdogla Chimney at Barmera, the Old School at Maitland, the Police Station and Courthouse at Melrose and Graves Reserve at Whyalla.

A Department of Environment and Natural Resources spokesperson said: "Representatives from DENR have been meeting regularly with the National Trust and will be meeting with them again when their strategic planning process is more advanced to discuss how best to address this issue." Mr Heapy revealed an injection of $1.6 million in Federal Government funds in the past 18 months "literally saved the skin" of some of the properties.

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