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Boost for Nairne

The Mt Barker Council’s $350,000 plan to beautify Nairne’s main street is a step towards building a more lively and prosperous town.
The perception that Nairne has been the poorer, forgotten cousin of Mt Barker for more than a decade is understandable.
The once thriving town fell into decline when the Chapman’s Smallgoods factory at the eastern end of the main street shut in 2002.
The factory was the lifeblood of Nairne and provided local employment to hundreds of people for more than a century.
Since its closure the main street has become tired and lacks business vibrancy despite Nairne being home to more than 5000 people.
Residents from housing areas at the western side of town have no need to visit the main street as it has no supermarket and few shops to match the offerings in nearby Littlehampton or Mt Barker.
Consequently, Nairne traders have struggled to attract shoppers and further investment. The problem compounded in on itself and Nairne became a classic example of a dying town.
The trees, benches and footpaths proposed in the main street plan may be small in the overall scheme of things but what they can bring is a new sense of worth for the town.
A new street with more energy, attracting new traffic and new businesses may well be the catalyst to allow Nairne to shine on its own and step out of the shadow of Mt Barker.
With that comes the potential for Nairne to trade on its own identity, tell its own story, make itself a destination rather than a speed hump to somewhere else and take control of its future.
A key to the whole main street investment will be the building of a new Klose’s supermarket on the disused Chapman’s factory site. This plan still has a few hurdles to overcome before it becomes a reality but its development is vital to the future prosperity of the town.
Having a supermarket in the main street will inject both significant funds and a plethora of possibilities into the town.
It is comforting to know that Nairne already has a dynamic and passionate community base from which to launch its journey into the rest of this century.

Ward wars

Mayor Bill Spragg’s statement that the weight of community opposition does not influence decisions made by the council is likely to be a blow for a community that potentially already feels it has little voice.
Whether or not the Mayor and some councillors believed they were acting for the greater good when they decided to abolish the ward-based representation system, their decision to go against the wishes of 94% of community responders is likely to disenfranchise not only those involved but others drawn to the resulting kerfuffle.
Mr Spragg is convinced the region will be better served without wards and said the arguments presented by almost 400 residents did not have enough merit to persuade him otherwise.
But for only 6% of responders to support the change shows the Mayor and the six councillors in the anti-ward camp themselves failed to establish a reasonable argument for the abolition of the system.
It should have been a priority for the Mayor and his supporters to develop a fact-based campaign – using Adelaide Hills Council data – on which to pin their argument.
There is little doubt the ward system does have flaws but they must be clearly highlighted if a decision is to be based on intelligent argument – as the Mayor states – rather than simple ideology.
It is acknowledged there are times when governments must make unpopular decisions for the greater good.
But the council’s decision to go against the overwhelming majority of feedback is likely to leave electors questioning the value of future community consultation.
As MP Isobel Redmond observed, the failure of governments to accurately represent their constituents’ wishes is resulting in the disengagement and disenfranchisement of electors across all levels of government.
In the scheme of government decisions the abolition of wards may be relatively insignificant.
However, a feeling of disconnection at a council level – the level of government that is supposed to be most closely connected to its electors – can only contribute to the dissatisfaction that has resulted in the kinds of unexpected outcomes seen during Brexit and the US election.
While the ratepayers of the Adelaide Hills Council may not be heard during periods of community consultation … they will have the whip hand on election day.

Health funding

The Liberals’ election pledge for emergency healthcare in Mt Barker shows the region’s urgent need for appropriate infrastructure is being taken seriously by both sides of politics.
For years residents have lobbied for better health services to meet the growing demands of a rapidly expanding population.
Now, following the State Government’s commitment to a three-month trial of an overnight doctor at the hospital, the Opposition has upped the ante.
It guarantees that service would continue under a Liberal government and has also committed to reinstating a local health board to decide how healthcare is run in the region.
The policy also includes a 10-year health plan for the Hills and investigations into increasing paediatric healthcare services and stepping up emergency care, possibly to a full-scale emergency department.
The pressure is now on the State Government to match those commitments.
But both sides must also recognise that improved healthcare is just one item on an extensive community wishlist for improved infrastructure and services to cater for the region’s growth.

Ward decision

Many people in the community will feel let down and angry at the decision by the Adelaide Hills Council to abolish its ward-based representation system.
The council not only failed to put up a credible argument that the previous system was broken and desperately needed changing, but it also delivered the community a slap in the face by ignoring the overwhelming rejection of the proposal.
Of the more than 400 residents who responded to the council, more than 90% were against the change.
And to add salt to the wound, the council insisted the decision be made on a date when it knew two of the pro-ward councillors would be away on leave.
The divide within the council on the matter meant the casting vote of the Mayor was required at every stage except for the final decision when the absent councillors meant the argument for keeping wards failed.
Leadership can mean not being swayed by the loudest voices, but when a government ignores so many of its constituents while offering only a meek argument for change, it weakens its value in the community.

Hospital win

Mayo MP Rebekha Sharkie’s ability to bring much needed after hours medical services to Mt Barker is a clear win for the new Federal MP.
Ms Sharkie has done what previous State and Federal MPs either could not – or would not – do and her success will no doubt make a positive difference to the growing Mt Barker community.
The experience of Mt Barker mother Amy Dudfield is just one of dozens of stories that have emerged from the district over the past couple of months, proving that the Mt Barker hospital after hours health system was failing its community.
The idea of having an after-hours doctor on call may have been sound in theory but too many patients were simply being transferred immediately to Adelaide after arriving at their local hospital.
Residents have been calling for consistent access to hospital care during the night for several years.
Ms Sharkie recognised this need, actively sought the voice of her constituents and stepped outside her Federal political sphere and began negotiating to bring change at a State level.
The reward for her actions highlights the positive impact an astute and proactive local member can have in their electorate.
Credit must also go to the State Government which listened to the growing community and acted accordingly.
The bigger issue is that Ms Sharkie’s success has the potential to further promote a shift away from major political parties in the Hills.
The region has historically had strong Liberal leanings, but voters in last year’s Federal election showed they were willing to step away from their traditional thinking – a shift that could have ramifications at next year’s State election.
If the Liberals don’t want to risk losing their safe seats, they will need to work towards actively maintaining the community’s confidence.
In this day and age a community taken for granted or left feeling ignored is a dangerous and unpredictable beast.
And with the population of Mt Barker expected to climb to 50,000 within 20 years, there are many growth pressures which will antagonise an already politically empowered community.
The next generation of politicians had better beware.

Ice addiction

It’s every parent’s nightmare: discovering your child is addicted to a deadly drug.
But what makes this situation even worse in SA is that successfully securing support to help a young person to get clean appears to be dependent on where they live, how long they can wait or how much money their family has.
Ice is a growing problem in this State.
Its use has tripled in the past five years alone.
It’s extremely addictive, it’s relatively cheap and it’s readily available – all of which make it more attractive to young people, with men aged 18 to 24 the most likely to take the drug.
It is an insidious drug that can make addicts extremely aggressive and violent.
Parents do feel powerless to help their ice affected children.
There are limited public treatment options, especially in regional areas, and there are usually lengthy waiting lists for rehabilitation programs, while privately-run services can cost tens of thousands of dollars.
Few, if any, residential detox centres will take on children.
Having a court order a young addict into a new residential facility for minors then sounds like an attractive idea.
But it is a big step to lock someone away for compulsory treatment – especially when the effectiveness and success rate of current treatment methods is unclear.
The concept may have merit in severe cases where young addicts present a serious risk of harm to themselves and those around them, particularly other children in the family home.
Perhaps it could be just one tool in a suite of options for treatment as part of an overhauled approach to tackling the issue of drug addiction across SA.
However, in order for this proposal to be progressed, a lot more work needs to be done to determine the most effective way to get people off this drug and keep them clean for good.
Who would pay for the treatment, who would run it and where would treatment centres be developed?
Any mandatory treatment program must also be supported with long-term assistance to help the affected young person settle back into society.

Inverbrackie sale

The sale and future development of the former Inverbrackie Detention Centre will undoubtedly bring many benefits to Woodside.
Attracting residents to the 81 vacant houses will certainly boost local businesses and potentially draw more people to the Hills.
It will be a welcome injection of funds into the local economy.
There’s no doubt that the developers, Mill Hill Capital, have an aesthetic, country-style estate in mind for the site, with plans to update the homes, build affordable tourist accommodation, attract value-adding primary production businesses and co-ordinate landscaping in communal areas.
But only time will tell whether the site becomes that thriving hub for families, tourists and local industry or whether it becomes a transient and somewhat disconnected community.
The directors of Mill Hill Capital have described the target market of the housing in the estate as families and young people moving into the area who may want to rent in the district before making a more permanent move.
But while the plan may fill a need for short-term accommodation in the Hills, the sale of individual housing lots is likely to be the best long-term solution for both the site and the wider community.
The land’s current rural zoning hinders the site from being subdivided, but that is a concept that the developers have not ruled out.
The Adelaide Hills Council is understandably reluctant to support the idea of Torrens Title allotments at the site, as this would transfer responsibility of the roads and other infrastructure to the council.
However, the sale of the land as community titled allotments could be just the thing the 22ha site needs to bring life to the vision cast by its new owners.
With the newly landscaped communal areas maintained by a body corporate, such a scheme may attract more permanent residents, who are eager to invest in their homes and thereby create a more thriving community.
The site with ready-made infrastructure certainly oozes opportunity, but if the new owners want to breathe life back into the ghost town, they’ll need to attract the right kind of people to form a healthy community.

From bad to worse

Just when everyone thought it couldn’t get any worse … it has.
Just when the level of people’s trust in politicians had hit the floor following the latest unseemly resignation of a Federal Minister for rorting the generous entitlements system, it dropped again.
Yesterday’s defection of SA Senator Cory Bernardi from the Liberal Party to become an independent was the latest in a conga line of politicians completely disregarding the will of the people.
We poor old voters have become used to this sort of thing recently with the Palmer United Party or One Nation, but for the Liberals to lose their number two SA Senator just months after an election smacks of a calculated manipulation of the political system.
Mr Bernardi was only too happy to take the votes and cruise back into the political class last July under the Liberal team led by Malcolm Turnbull.
His relationship with the Liberal leader has been fractured for years but he had neither the courage nor the conviction to stand as an independent at election time.
He wouldn’t have got within a bull’s roar of re-election … and he knew it!
Most Senators are not chosen as individuals but as representatives of their Party.  The two virtually unknown Senators elected under the Nick Xenophon Team banner at the last Federal election are a perfect example.
The vast majority of votes used to elect Mr Bernardi were directed towards the Liberal Party, not him.
Voters wanted a Liberal voice in the Senate, not Mr Bernardi’s necessarily.
When announcing his resignation from the Party yesterday – but not his highly paid job – Mr Bernardi said politics was failing the Australian people and the political class was out of touch.
How out of touch can you be when you’re prepared to take the votes at election time but disregard the will of those same voters a few months later? That’s the political class being out of touch all right!
Mr Bernardi yesterday also issued a warning about the consequences of ignoring voters – yet conveniently overlooked his disregard of their wish made only in July.
Perhaps his first act as an independent Senator might be to introduce a law to prevent politicians changing horses mid-race so the public can expect a reasonable run for their money … or their vote.

Monarto growth

The idea of a northern rail bypass from Monarto to Adelaide’s port isn’t new.
Over the past decade it has been considered by local councils right up to the Federal Government – and now it’s the SA Liberals’ turn.
While the Opposition’s announcement has an aura of deja vu, it is a positive step forward for a Party which, for too long, has limited itself to reactive politics.
Here, at last, is a concrete point of difference between the State’s two major Parties in the lead-up to the March State election in 2018.
The recently announced proposal highlights some forward thinking that may shift debate beyond the vision-limiting four-year term of politics that has so often hamstrung effective politics in recent years.
In the scheme of what is likely to be a multi-billion dollar development, the Liberals’ $20m commitment to investigate a potentially State-transforming project is a drop in the ocean.
The biggest question mark hangs over the viability of the freight-only airport and, particularly, whether there would ever be enough demand for exports to be air-freighted from SA to make it worthwhile.
But it is clear that others also believe in the potential for both the road and rail bypass and a freight hub at Monarto, with local councils and both the Murraylands and Hills and Fleurieu Regional Development Australia branches having recently committed to an investigation into the economic and social benefits of such a project.
They can see a wealth of possibilities, from jobs creation to business growth.
Monarto is ideally suited to such a development – it’s right alongside key road and rail routes, has abundant flat and relatively cheap land, is already home to expanding food production, manufacturing and freight businesses and has a ready workforce to draw on from the Hills, Fleurieu and Murraylands.
There is also access to recycled water from Mt Barker, opening up the opportunity to create a new food bowl nearby.
The key point for Steven Marshall and the Opposition will be ensuring that there is a robust plan in place to attract businesses to Monarto, should its investigation prove that the project is viable.
If that happens, GlobeLink could be the economic answer to this region’s growing pains.

Tough decision

The redevelopment of the historic Callington Hotel will be positive for the old mining town but it has come at the cost of some irreplaceable heritage.
The inside of the 160-year-old pub, which is listed as a local heritage place, has been gutted by its owner who needed council approval before beginning any work – particularly tearing down the original internal walls of the building.
The Mt Barker Council’s Development Assessment Panel will today decide whether to let the owner continue with the refurbishment while also grappling with the issue of imposing some sort of penalty.
Applying a financial penalty to landowners who deliberately undertake unauthorised works can have a limited effect and perhaps some responsibility should also rest with the builders who do the work on unapproved developments.
Surely it is not too onerous to require builders – particularly those undertaking work on heritage buildings – to be provided with copies of the approval documents by the owner before work can begin.
A well established ‘loophole’ used by some developers is to seek forgiveness from authorities rather than permission and simply factor in any subsequent fine as a development cost.
That loophole could be closed by making the builder also liable.
Whether the owner in this instance has ignorantly or purposely gutted the inside of the hotel – including its bar, kitchen, store and cool rooms – without council approval is unknown.
But Australian hotels are often culturally significant places and it seems bizarre that either owners, developers or builders would be unaware of the historic value of such buildings and the development constraints which generally apply.
Another reality being faced by the panel is that the work has been done.
The walls have come down and the egg cannot be unscrambled.
It is faced with the difficult proposition to allow the work to proceed to the point where Callington’s only hotel can re-open and  become a valuable focal point for the community.
Perhaps the best outcome for everyone – the townsfolk included – is to ensure the development proceeds but measures are put in place to prevent a repeat performance.

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.