Hills dominate tour stages

Thousands of cyclists and spectators will descend on the Hills next week as the region hosts stages of Australia’s most prestigious bike race. - Read more.

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.

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.