The Courier: Editorial

Aged care change

Strathalbyn’s Kalimna Hostel is a victim of our changing times.
Built in the early 1980s, it was ideal for the aged care needs of seniors over three decades ago.
Back then those moving into the hostel were younger, fitter and more active.
Several still drove themselves around.
Now those needs have changed – the elderly have much better in-home care options, meaning they can stay in their own home much longer.
But that also means by the time they move into aged care, they require greater support.
Building and safety standards have also changed over the past 30 years.
To meet current standards, aged care homes need to accommodate the removal of residents on a wheeled bed in case of emergency such as a fire.
Kalimna Hostel does not meet that requirement and, engineers believe, it cannot be refurbished to fit the standard, meaning Country Health SA has no choice but to close the facility.
That decision no doubt will come as a blow to the 15 residents who call the site home.
They now face uncertain futures as they and their families look to find a new home either in the aged care facility next to the town’s hospital or in other homes in the region.
Country Health SA has committed to minimising that upheaval by working with residents to make their transition as smooth as possible.
Once the doors of the hostel close, Strathalbyn faces another uncertainty – what will happen to the facility itself.
With an increasing aging population, the loss of a 24-bed aged care home will be acutely felt in the local community.
While Country Health SA plans to retain the licenses for those 24 beds, whether it will establish a new facility on the site or in another part of the town remains unknown.
The hostel location is ideally suited to aged care, with its close proximity to the hospital and supporting health care providers.
If the State Government does not have the funds to redevelop the site, perhaps it could entice a private aged care operator to build a similar facility on the land.
It would be a shame to see the site lost to housing or commercial development.

What a year!

As 2016 draws to a close it is an appropriate time to look back on the year that was and ponder what lies ahead.
Sadly, the highlights seem to be overshadowed by some dark clouds.
It is hard to feel uplifted when images of atrocities in Syria spring so readily to mind.
This appalling disaster leaves the darkest stain over the year.
Once again much of the world has stood by and dithered as thousands of innocent people have been killed, murdered in cold blood, raped, orphaned, made homeless, disabled and had their lives destroyed in a struggle for political power.
It is the little people who have paid the highest price.
Perhaps it is no coincidence that so many Western communities have grown disenchanted with the status quo and stopped listening to the rhetoric of the political elite and sought answers elsewhere.
The Brexit vote in the UK in June was a stunning result which seemed to leave much of the nation, if not the world, in shock.
It is suggested that millions of people satisfied themselves with a protest vote simply to thumb their noses at the establishment which was steadfastly supporting the ‘stay’ position.
Then July’s Australian Federal election – a double dissolution called at a time of the Government’s choosing to cement its  position – almost turned into a disaster as a similar theme emerged.
Again the population moved away from the establishment in droves with a staggering 45% of people not voting for a major party in the Senate leading to the ‘second coming’ of Pauline Hanson and the rise of the NXT.
And the US election last month dished up Donald Trump, a candidate the ‘experts’ said would crash and burn after he was dis-endorsed by most of the respected power brokers in his own Republican Party and whose outrageous statements were ridiculed across the world.
But what those ‘experts’ and political elites didn’t have was an accurate understanding of the little people – the voters – who, once again, showed the establishment they’d had enough of the old ways and wanted something different. Anything, really.
Nobody knows what lies ahead in 2017 but let’s hope our politicians heed the lessons of this year and start leading by listening.
After all the word democracy evolved from the Latin demos (the people) and kratia (power or rule).

High rise future

Twenty years ago the prospect of Mt Barker welcoming five storey buildings into its town centre seemed a million miles away.

Now, as the once small country town creeps its way to becoming the second largest city in SA, a five storey future is plausible and, with the recent approval of the Mt Barker Council’s town centre zoning overhaul, it’s almost guaranteed.

The council’s Regional Town Centre Development Plan Amendment (DPA) allows for high density developments up to five storeys in parts of Mt Barker’s town centre.

This means high rise buildings will be allowed to be constructed in parts of the town centre including the vacant Woolworths-owned site on Druids Avenue and also on a strip of land between the Mt Barker Creek and railway line – basically on the land occupied by the bus terminal and Park n Ride facility.

This new mixed use zone allows for both residential and commercial developments to increase vibrancy and boost living and business opportunities.

The change to the zoning of the Woolworths-owned land – the site mooted for a European-style town square – is good news for many Hills residents who wanted a possible development to incorporate high rise apartments, a hotel, library and art gallery.

The council has acknowledged the changing face of Mt Barker, the growing need for greater housing diversity and the need for a more vibrant town centre.

As little as 15 years ago Adelaide was often dead after 5pm, but with an influx of inner city living developments, the city has an upbeat feel and the residents have fuelled a business revival to service their needs.

There will be growing pains with this prospective concrete jungle for Mt Barker and council staff face a difficult task to mould an historic town into a modern, 21st Century city.

The town centre rezoning  provides a promising preview of what Mt Barker is about to become.

Heritage sensitive parts of the town centre have been honored with height limit restrictions in Gawler Street (up to two storeys) and the northern part of Cameron Road (two-three storeys).

These changes to Mt Barker will allow for a rejuvenation of activity in the town, greater prospects for young or first home-buyers, tourism and business potential.

Glebe decision

The almost unanimous decision by Mt Barker Councillors to protect the Glebe – an undeveloped block of land on the outskirts of Littlehampton – from being sold is a prime example of democracy at its best … but it is yet to be seen if the process has delivered the best result.
For years the community has longed for the Mt Barker Council-owned land to be opened to the public as a place for passive recreation. On Monday night their voices were heard as Councillors voted for the entire 8ha to be protected from sale.
The council staff had wanted to sell some of the site for community use such as aged care accommodation in order to raise funds to develop the remainder.
Originally it was 4ha but over the months and a series of meetings it was gradually whittled down to 2ha, an area deemed large enough to fund part of the  development but small enough to still allow for a decent recreation space.
But that plan was rejected by the elected members who, with substantial community support behind them, gave the people exactly what they wanted.
Or did they?
The community now has an 8ha parcel of grazing land for its recreational pleasure but the council has limited resources with  which to deliver it.
There is a possibility that another 1.7ha parcel of vacant council-owned land on nearby Fulford Terrace could be sold to fund the project, but that outcome is far from assured.
The latest proposal by council staff was to quarantine a 2ha parcel of Glebe land as security in case Plan B – the Fulford Terrace plan – fell through.
But the councillors rejected that idea, seven votes to one, raising the possibility that the full 8ha could remain exactly as it is – a cow paddock – for many years to come if the money for a full development can’t be found.
The risk the councillors took on Monday night was delivering democracy … potentially at the detriment of the people.
They might have delivered a developed 6ha park complete with paths, open space, a barbecue area and a small oval but what the community has now is a long way short of that.
Everything may work out for the best in the fullness of time but the elected members took a risk on Monday.
Let’s hope it was worth it.

Water wars

It is said that in the 21st Century wars will be fought over water.
That prediction is yet to be tested fully but if Australia’s internal squabble over the Murray Darling Basin is anything to go by then it’s almost certainly correct.
Water, as we all know, is a vital commodity.
In Australia this is exacerbated by its sometimes erratic availability.
In a drought ravaged continent such as ours it is little wonder that water causes arguments which are difficult to solve.
We all thought we’d done that in 2012 when, after more than a century of arguing among the competing States, the Murray-Darling Basin plan was finalised.
This historic proposal was designed to give enough water for the Murray-Darling ecosystem to maintain a healthy base while, at the same time, allowing people living along its length to maintain their irrigation enterprises.
All the States agreed to allow the system 3200 billion litres a year – the minimum required to maintain its health. Of that amount, 2570 billion was guaranteed with the remaining 450 billion to be released if doing so was not going to have a significant impact on river communities.
And therein lies the problem.
Just what is significant and who decides when that point has been reached?
Deputy Prime Minister and Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce says it has been reached and the water won’t be forthcoming.
SA Senator Nick Xenophon says the environment needs that extra flow and the amount can come, not from buy backs – which removes water from upstream irrigators and deprives them of income – but from on-farm efficiencies.
SA irrigators along the Murray lead the nation in the wise use of water.
They’ve had to be miserly.
Being a small State at the end of the river, most irrigation water has already been removed upstream by farmers growing vast water-hungry crops such as rice and cotton leaving those at the bottom end to do more with less.
Those same lessons have not been learned by all irrigators upstream and until that occurs, it is not unreasonable to expect the promised flows to be maintained.

Tourist numbers

The quality of the tourist offerings in the Hills are no secret to the thousands of travellers who flock to the region to indulge in some of Australia’s finest cultural pleasures.
For years tourists have wandered along Hahndorf’s main street, admired the views from Mt Lofty Summit and cuddled koalas at Cleland Wildlife Park.
So the news that visitor numbers in the Hills have jumped almost 25% in the past four years must leave traders and industry leaders thinking – what are we doing better than before? The answer, the experts say, lies in the wine glass and on the food plate.
According to Tourism Research Australia the number of international tourists visiting Hills wineries has risen by 43% in the past four years.
Last year, the SA Tourism Commission marketed the Hills as ‘the land of the long lunch’ offering luxury food and wine pairings in rural towns less than an hour from the city.
It became less about driving through the picturesque countryside and more about eating and drinking local produce.
These days tourists are gathering fresh produce from farms, sampling world renowned cheeses, sipping award-winning beer and cider and swirling some of the best wines in the world … right on our doorstep.
Hahndorf’s main street is also kicking goals for the region and must take some of the credit for many of the positive tourist numbers.
Over the years the bustling tourist strip has lifted its professionalism and capitalised on nearby food and wine indulgences.
The multi-million dollar proposal for Sir Hans Heysen’s property The Cedars will add to the town’s cultural and artistic offerings and bring even more travellers to the region.
The Mt Barker Council also has its hand on the tourism mark with the near-completion of its Rural Development Plan Amendment.
The zoning overhaul will pave the way for more cellar doors, restaurants, art galleries and cafs on the outskirts of major towns in the district.
Even if you’re a local, visiting the Hills through a tourists eyes can still be a rewarding experience.
Yes, driving along Hahndorf’s main street can be a tense experience but do yourself a favor – park the car and go for a wander.
See what all the fuss is about.
It might surprise you.

Mighty nature

The amazing storm which passed over the Hills on Friday afternoon left a trail of destruction and the whole community in awe.
Those not walking, driving, sandbagging or unblocking gutters filled with hail were no doubt standing under verandahs and back porches watching the sound and light show.
Seemingly constant flashes of lightning and booming claps of thunder drew many people outside as the rain teemed down in torrents.
It was impossible to hold a conversation such was the noise of the downpour.
Such storms are not unusual in the tropics but a rarity in the Hills and Friday’s event was also remarkable in that it vanished almost as suddenly as it began.
About 30 minutes after the heavens opened the skies cleared, the wind dropped and the birds in the garden began to chirp again.
It was as if nothing had happened … except if your house had flooded, the pergola roof sheeting had been turned into a colander by apricot-sized hail or the car’s duco was left with more dimples than a golf ball!
Friday afternoon’s display showed the awesome power and wonder of nature.
Almost everyone who saw it must have been left feeling insignificant.
You can’t watch a billion volts of pure energy smash into the ground from a black thundercloud and feel big.
You can’t endure a bone rattling crack of thunder directly overhead and stand tall.
For those who think humans are the masters of nature, think again.
No-one standing on their verandah on Friday afternoon thought they were in control.
The storm was a timely reminder that, as a species, the best we can do is work with nature … we can never control it.
It is far too powerful and potentially destructive.
It is Mother Nature who rules us, despite what we think.
Sometimes nature is brutal such as the recent earthquake disasters in Italy and NZ, and sometimes it is quiet, like a slow and suffocating drought.
Either way we humans are privileged to live on this magnificent, all-providing planet and need to be reminded from time to time not to take it for granted.

Home detention

The State Government’s recently introduced  home detention laws appear to be taking some time to bed themselves in – both with the community, the judiciary and the lawmakers themselves.
State Attorney General John Rau announced earlier this week that the new laws – introduced in September – would be “modified” because judges and magistrates were sentencing people to home detention for crimes considered by many to be too serious.
A total of 30 people have been sentenced to home detention – 16 for driving offences including an inattentive driving case in which three people were killed and another dangerous driving case in which one man was killed.
Other home detention sentences involved drug dealing, fraud and theft.
There are three reasons why home detention laws have been introduced.
One is that jail is often the worst place for a convicted person whose crimes are minor and whose chances of re-offending are virtually non-existent.
The other reason is that the State’s jails are almost at capacity and the third is that it is too expensive for a cash-strapped government to keep a person in prison (almost $100,000 per year) unless it is absolutely necessary.
Home detention for low grade offences can be a good thing but it is clear the law needs revising.
What about community service or is this also too expensive to administer?
It is reasonable to expect a guilty party undertake some form of punishment for their crime.
Many may argue that being forced to stay at home except to travel to and from work is penalty enough but in some cases additional punishment is reasonable.
The Courier reported in October the angst of car crash survivor Timea Dixon whose partner Trevor Bird was killed by another driver near Houghton.
The driver was found guilty of dangerous driving when he crossed onto the wrong side of the road (travelling at 104km/h in an 80km/h zone) and killed Mr Bird. He was sentenced to four years of home detention.
What is Ms Dixon supposed to think?  Her partner is dead and the perpetrator – who had a long history of previous driving offences – is not required to give a single minute of his own time back to the community as punishment.

Remembering the women at home

For almost 100 years Australians have paused on November 11 to reflect on the sacrifices made by those who died or suffered in wars.
But during that minute of silence on Remembrance Day, little recognition is given to the women who were left behind in times of war and fought their own battles on the home front.
The Hahndorf Community Association’s Remembrance Day ceremony next Friday is a refreshing take on one of the nation’s most important and poignant days.
This Remembrance Day, Hahndorf will not only pay tribute to the fallen soldiers, but also the mothers, wives, partners, and sisters who made their own sacrifices and struggled to keep communities together.
In wartime, many women were left behind to raise children and take on male-dominated jobs, while dealing with grief, loneliness and the unknown of whether their loved one would ever return.
Women were thrust into mechanical and manufacturing roles to help keep businesses, factories and farms afloat.
They took on the men’s work by driving trucks, buses and machinery and making bombs, bullets, tanks and other military equipment.
Resources were scarce and the women were paid less than the men, but many would argue this shift in the workforce sparked the end of the housewife.
So this Remembrance Day let’s also spare a thought for the women who fought to keep the wheels turning while they waited for their loved ones to come home.

Speed blitz

The announcement that SA Police has launched a six-month speeding blitz in the Hills should be clearly noted by all road users.
Last year’s speed blitz in the district caught almost 1500 motorists – some travelling at more than 40km/h above the posted speed limit.
It sounds trite but if you don’t want to pay the fine then don’t speed.
There are plenty of examples of the State Government using speed cameras on suburban streets as an income stream.
But in the case of blatant and excessive speeding on country roads there can be no excuse.

District ignored

The State Government’s update of the 30-Year Plan For Greater Adelaide has ignored many promises made in 2010 when 1300ha of rural land in Mt Barker was rezoned for housing.
The scale of the rezoning went against the wishes of not only the Mt Barker Council but the vast majority of the community.
Mt Barker’s residents suddenly found themselves living in a town the State Government decided it wanted to grow into the second largest city in SA.
But six years later the recently released updated Greater Adelaide Plan appears to have largely ignored the pressing issues facing this rapidly growing hub.
The plan makes no mention of sporting facilities, the link between housing growth and jobs growth, or improved public transport for the town.
The proposed $28m regional sports hub – which appeared on the original plan – has somehow slipped completely off the radar.
Mt Barker councillors have voiced their disapproval of the updated plan saying it falls well short of the original document and is too “metro-centric”.
Sports facilities, health services, employment and public transport infrastructure are not just matters of great importance, they are essential ingredients in liveable communities, healthy neighborhoods and strong economies.
Without infrastructure directly linked to  growth, the community is already finding itself left with substandard and strained facilities and services.
The State Government’s decision to remove such targets and directions in outer-Adelaide areas is a perplexing political move.
The Hills community demonstrated in July’s Federal election that it was not prepared to be taken for granted and elected the first non-Liberal in the seat’s history.
With a State election looming in 2018, the State Government could have taken advantage of that community empowerment and the district’s changing demographic by delivering on its infrastructure promises and potentially making the seat more marginal.
But its silence on Mt Barker’s future is a strong indication it simply has no money.
It would seem that contributing to improvements such as a regional sports hub or a 24-hour doctor at the town’s hospital is a bridge too far.
Perhaps we’ll have to wait for the next Federal campaign to see some action.