Ratepayers may soon be forced to carry the burden of the State Government’s decision to double the size of Mt Barker.
While the Mt Barker Council has managed to keep rate increases relatively low in recent years and has shouldered the planning costs for infrastructure needed to support the growth it didn’t want, a new set of expenses is looming on the budget horizon.
The list of sport and recreation projects that will be needed to meet the demands of an extra 26,000 people is rapidly growing.
Added to that are the upgrades and replacements of existing facilities that are either already too small or too old to keep pace with the current population.
As sporting clubs jostle for their place in the queue, the council has issued a sound warning – it does not have the money to pay for everything that everyone wants.
Even with grants from State and Federal Governments, it would be next to impossible for this council to fund all the projects on its books, which collectively must amount to tens of millions of dollars.
Instead, if this community expects to have new and upgraded facilities, it must help pay for them.
A separate rate is just one way it could contribute, but even if it is chosen it is unlikely to be the silver bullet.
As the council has flagged, it would need other cash generating options such as partnering with schools or commercial interests and adopting a user-pays approach.
However, there is one unexplored option close to home that could ease the financial burden.
The Adelaide Hills Council has a much higher ratio of sporting facilities per head of population and that population is unlikely to experience significant future growth.
Perhaps it is time the two councils pulled together to develop a Hills sporting strategy that allows them to pool their resources and develop regional hubs for individual sports.
Several codes already play at regional centres, such as netball and soccer which are largely based at Woodside.
It would also allow lesser-used ovals in outlying towns to be capitalised, perhaps by the plethora of junior teams springing up as young families move to the district.
A regional approach would likely mean more travel for families, but arguably this would be little different to the distances covered by those living and playing sport in Adelaide. Clubs may also have to change their thinking and become more proactive if they hope to secure project funding.
With fierce competition for contributions, they may need to show they are also willing to kick in with cash and comprehensive plans, rather than simply expecting a ratepayer funded handout.