Tag listing: Development

War on drugs

The arrest of a local man over serious firearm offences and the likely link to a large national drug syndicate is concerning on many levels.
It’s alarming that such military-style weapons have been in the community, but the believed links to the production of millions of dollars in methamphetamine bound for SA is also worrying.
A separate story in this week’s Courier reveals the human impact of methamphetamine – the ongoing and devastating effect the drug can often have on its users … like Josh Windram.
But unlike so many stories, Mr Windram’s doesn’t end with damage and destruction.
While police sometimes spend years tracking down the criminals behind major drug operations like the one linked to the Piccadilly gun arrest, they will never eliminate the problem.
The war on drugs will never be won.
But Mr Windram’s story – a journey from utter addiction and hopelessness into full recovery – is one of redemption … and one that should inspire others that no-one is ever beyond hope.

Development fears

Sandow Road residents appear to have legitimate concerns about a heath and wellness retreat proposed for construction in their area.
Locals fear a large-scale development on the single-lane dirt track in Verdun could compromise the amenity of their quiet country setting.
Although the retreat is not a high-impact development, such as a petrol station, it is reasonable to assume it would attract significantly more vehicle traffic to the area.
That – coupled with the construction a 70-car grassed car park and a range of accommodation and recreation facilities – certainly could impact the tranquility of their patch of paradise.
However, pressure on Hills communities to adapt is increasing as the region’s population grows.
The difficult decision about whether or not to approve the project now lies with the Mt Barker Council.
On one hand it must attract business and tourism to the region.
On the other the council must work to ensure its residents remain satisfied – an unenviable position.

Regional needs

Infrastructure SA’s inclusion of the Hills’ public transport woes among the State’s priority projects is a positive signal that the matter is likely to gain traction.
With a ballooning population that’s showing no signs of slowing, ensuring that infrastructure keeps up is essential.
Public transport has been flagged as a key concern by the Mt Barker Council, whose chief executive fears the region could become a less attractive place to live if solutions are not found and traffic pressure increases along the freeway as the population grows.
But transport is not the only gaping infrastructure need flagged for the region in recent times.
The Adelaide Hills Council has repeatedly highlighted the failure of mobile phone infrastructure during December’s horror bushfire. During the disaster internet and mobile connection were vital tools used by on-the-ground emergency services and by members of the public who were trying to stay safe.
But in many cases they failed.
That issue has been raised as part of the Federal Government’s Royal Commission and it’s vital that both levels of government take note of the cries of disaster prone communities and those feeling the growing pains of mass development.
Infrastructure SA’s 20-year strategy is a valuable planning tool for the State Government and it is important that its recommendations, such as the transport study, are made priorities so that vital projects reach shovel-ready stage as soon as possible.
Likewise, addressing other infrastructure needs, such as telecommunication infrastructure in the high fire danger region of the Hills, needs to be a priority for the Federal Government.
Like the outcome of the Infrastructure SA strategy, it’s pleasing to see that the Federal Government is looking at ways to make remaining mobile black spots, especially those in disaster prone areas, more attractive to telecommunication companies.
It’s good to see that the Federal Government has recognised the issues with the latest round of the Mobile Black Spot program and taken action to rectify them.
But in both circumstances and at both levels of Government the real proof will be in the results – if and how soon we see vital infrastructure needs met.

Tree removal

The public reaction to the removal of four centuries-old gum trees at the site of the future sports hub seems to highlight a disconnect between Mt Barker’s residents and its council.
The trees were felled last week to make way for sporting infrastructure while three other trees on the site were spared.
The axed trees were relocated and will die but remain as wildlife habitat.
Their removal was approved in September last year following months of consultation about the sports hub with the community and a range of sport and community organisations.
But despite the fact nearly 35,000 people live in the council area and the sports hub is set to be the largest single infrastructure spend in the council’s history, just one submission outlining any concerns with the development was made.
Yet despite the consultation efforts – and the community effectively giving the tick of approval to all aspects of the project, including the tree removal, by not voicing their concerns – the council has been hounded for the move.
This incident has brought two things to light – perhaps the community should become more engaged in its council’s operations and the council may need to review the way it communicates with its community.
None of the decisions made by the council were done in secret, yet the public reaction makes it seem as if they were.
For whatever reason, the council’s messages were lost.
Mayor Ann Ferguson has said the council had a community crying out for this infrastructure, but which also adored trees and their environmental and aesthetic benefits.
To create large–scale infrastructure – such as a regional sports hub – there must be sacrifices and these trees were sacrificed for ‘the greater good’.
There are no immediate winners when ugly decisions are made, but in the long term the community will benefit immensely from the construction of the sports hub.
Perhaps this issue will galvanise the community and make it more vigilant in advocating to save trees marked for destruction on land set to be built on purely for developer profit, not community benefit.

Road to nowhere

The ad-hoc construction of Mt Barker’s major bypass road – the Heysen Boulevard – has proven that piecemeal development is not the way to deliver vital infrastructure at a greenfield site.
After years of frustration, Mt Barker Council chief executive Andrew Stuart recently pitched an idea to fast-track the road’s creation to the State’s Infrastructure and Local Government Minister Stephan Knoll.
Rather than continue to rely on housing developers to construct the road within their estates piece by piece – resulting in the current unlinked sections of the road being described as “dysfunctional” and “disorganised” – the council wants the State Government to foot the $40m bill and lead the co-ordinated build of the project’s remaining 6.5km.
The council’s plan involves the Government recouping the costs of construction from developers, which it believes makes the decision to push ahead with the project a no-brainer.
Mr Stuart believes the road should have been built before – or at least coinciding with – the first residential developments following the former Labor Government’s controversial rezoning of 1300ha of rural land in 2010.
With the Mt Barker Council area expected to grow from 36,000 people to almost 57,000 in just over 15 years – alongside droves of people also flocking to nearby Strathalbyn and surrounding towns – the State Government cannot afford to stand by and be reactive when it comes to providing infrastructure.
The massive scale of the Mt Barker rezoning a decade ago was deemed too big by both the council and many members of the community, but their cries were completely ignored by the then Labor Government.
It is galling to realise that the wealth of assistance promised by that Government to assist with the sudden influx of new residents did not eventuate.
The reality is that the Labor Government saw the Hills as a low priority and it has been left to the new Liberal Government to clean up the mess.
The lesson to be learned to avoid future problems in other sites is to build essential infrastructure first and the people will follow.
It’s pretty obvious really.

Aldi in Stirling

Over the more than 150 years since it was founded, Stirling has grown to become one of the most picturesque towns in the Hills – a peaceful village to those who live there and a quaint destination for the thousands of visitors who flock there each year.
Part of Stirling’s appeal certainly comes from its shady streets lined with exotic trees and its manicured gardens that add a splash of color during spring.
But a large contributor to the town’s quaint village atmosphere has also been the preservation of Stirling’s heart – a main street lined with boutique-style stores, cafes and restaurants, free from the commercial pollution of expansive grey parking lots with garish Neon signs and big brand names.
It is to be expected therefore that many residents and visitors would oppose big, new developments in the town – such as the proposed Aldi store – which could threaten the character and aesthetic appeal that make Stirling what it is.
Of course, like most small towns around Australia, Stirling has not been immune to mainstream developments and some of the nation’s – and the world’s – largest chains have already found their way into the heart of the village.
Some of these developments, like the proposed Aldi, were met with strong opposition from the Stirling District Residents Association.
Many of them still went ahead.
But without the fierce advocacy of groups like the association, Stirling could have a very different feel.
Stirling is already home to two major supermarket chains but such is their design and setback from the main street, they offer shoppers the convenience of choice, without detracting from Stirling’s village appeal.
If the proposed Aldi development goes ahead, the challenge for the German supermarket giant will be to hear the concerns of the residents and the residents association and ensure that the development is pursued in a way that is sympathetic to its surrounds and addresses the very real environmental concerns.
Stirling is not just another metropolitan concrete-jungle suburb.
So any new development should not be another city-style painted concrete box with a sea of car parking out the front.

Positive step

The State Government’s commitment to exploring the viability of the GlobeLink freight bypass is a positive step that could have long-term benefits for SA’s economic future.
The master plan is expected to take several months, if not years, and GlobeLink itself – if it does eventuate – is likely to take more than a decade.
But significant progress often requires long term planning and sometimes an element of risk.
The study itself is likely to cost around $20m and could find the concept unviable.
But at least through thorough research an informed decision can be made, based on the actual benefits it will bring and the costs to the taxpayer.
And if those benefits are found to be worth the investment, the impact will reach far wider than the State’s primary producers.
While the concept is likely to make SA more competitive in both national and global markets, it will also benefit thousands of Hills and Adelaide commuters by diverting freight trucks away from the freeway and Portrush Road.
But perhaps the greatest benefit to commuters would be the potential opening of the current rail corridor to provide a fast public transport corridor linking the Hills with the city.

Election signs

If there’s one issue that could unite voters on all sides of politics at election time it’s a mutual disdain for election posters.
They spring up overnight as soon as the writs are issued and launch an assault of the aesthetic kind along just about every main road.
You can’t drop the kids at school, commute to work or head to a sports match without being followed by the beady eyes of smiling candidates all clamoring for your vote.
They’re expensive for the candidates and they are ugly for the residents … particularly in our beautiful Hills environment.
The recent thefts of hundreds of posters belonging to both the Liberal Party and Centre Alliance points to organised removals and appears to go well beyond the usual election-time shenanigans where the odd sign is taken down through random acts of skylarking.
It should be remembered the removal of signs is illegal and should not be condoned.
The removal of so many signs points to either a massive rejection of this form of advertising by members of the public who have chosen to cleanse entire towns of their stain or campaigns by over-enthusiastic political junkies determined to damage the chances of the ‘enemy’.
Either way, many would argue they’re doing the region a favor.

Town centre win

After more than a decade of failed plans and speculation, there is now real hope the last undeveloped city block in Mt Barker’s town centre will be developed.
The land has been an eyesore and a frustration for locals, who have for years been hoping it would be transformed into something with a public benefit.
Now those hopes look set to become a reality.
The partnership between the Mt Barker Council and developer Burke Urban delivers a balance between the community’s desire for a town square and the private sector’s desire to create a commercial outcome.
Without each other, neither side would have had the money to buy the site, which was estimated to be worth $10m.
With both the council and Burke Urban committed to working together, the community looks set to gain from an integrated development across the entire site.
What that will look like is yet to be decided.
Burke Urban has already flagged the possibility of a mix of retail, offices and medium density housing.
But it is open to ideas.
So too is the council, which has proposed a town square on at least part of the land it has bought fronting Morphett Street.
Both parties have told The Courier they are keen to work with the community, prospective tenants and developers to create a masterplan for the entire site.
That is likely to deliver a far better outcome than if the land had been sold off for piecemeal development.
However, it also means the community will need to be open-minded about the future of the site.
It is unrealistic to expect that the majority of the block will be given over to community uses.
As a developer, Burke Urban will expect a return on its investment.
However, Burke Urban is also a company with strong and long ties to Mt Barker.
Its managing director, Kym Burke, told The Courier yesterday he views the development of the site as a “legacy project”.
After years of developers trying and failing to make their own stamp on the block – from a shopping centre to a childcare centre and a hardware store – it is a win for the community that its voice may now help shape the future of such a prominent site.

Let’s get to work

With Mt Barker’s population booming, the Mt Barker Council’s proposal for a new employment park at Totness is timely.
It is vital that as the town grows, so too do local industries to provide employment options in the region.
Too much of the district’s workforce is already required to commute to Adelaide and beyond for work because of limited opportunities locally.
There is a genuine need to encourage new and expanding businesses to set up in Mt Barker to ensure the region can become self-sustaining as it grows.
One of the constraints placed on the region’s economic growth has been the lack of available land, with limited sites on offer in Mt Barker’s existing industrial and commercial zones.
Opening up 34ha at Totness, with close access to a growing workforce and the South Eastern Freeway, is an attractive proposition.
The new employment lands zoning will provide greater flexibility for businesses looking to establish or expand in the town, with a range of uses from primary production value adding to manufacturing and commercial permitted in the zone.
That’s good news particularly for the food and beverage industries because it opens up more space for processing businesses.
Totness is already home to success stories including the Prancing Pony Brewery, Skara Smallgoods and Buzz Honey.
The addition of new wineries, cellar doors and food processors would only add to the region’s growing reputation as a fine wine and food producer.
While the Totness location seems ideal, it also comes with its own set of challenges.
One of those is the need to cater for a sharp increase in heavy vehicles accessing and leaving the site via the busy Mt Barker Road.
These trucks will need to negotiate an often congested road to access the freeway via Mt Barker’s busiest intersection.
Plans must be made to upgrade the interchange to accommodate the trucks that will need to turn right onto the freeway towards Adelaide before the development grows to such a point that the heavy vehicles become a safety risk.
The nearby Totness Recreation Park – a precious area of scarce remnant native bush – must also be protected.

Power shock

It’s a sign of our troubled energy climate that a new Hills housing estate will target power bills and security of electricity supply as its key selling point.

Glenlea Mt Barker’s solar promise highlights all that is broken with our State’s power network in its developers’ promise to deliver homeowners dramatically reduced electricity bills and continuation of supply.

It is a point of difference that may actually change the way we design suburbs and think about electricity generation and use into the future.

In a country such as Australia where sunshine is usually abundant, it makes sense to use this kind of technology.

Previously, solar systems provided a limited power solution, because they produced energy during the day when many users weren’t home to take advantage of it.

Now, coupled with rapidly improving battery technology, solar presents more of a base-load power alternative.

The Glenlea estate will take advantage of the leaps in solar technology, by coupling solar panels on roofs of its 600 homes with battery storage and back-up technology.

Its developers, Axiom Properties and the Gilbert family, point to expected power bill savings of about 80% for future residents.

The batteries will provide baseload power around the clock, while also presenting the opportunity to sell what is an increasingly valuable commodity back to the grid at a higher price in times of peak demand.

It’s a clever concept that taps into our mounting fears about the affordability of an everyday utility.

More importantly, however, it could become a blueprint for how suburbs are designed into the future.

Technology is advancing at such a rapid rate that it won’t be long until combined solar-battery systems are affordable for the average household.

And that will open up options for household-to-household electricity trading, bringing a new form of competition into the market, which can only be good news for consumers struggling with rising bills.

Certainly in years to come there can be no doubt that a well-designed, energy efficient house is going to be worth a lot more than a house without efficiency features.

The electricity landscape of this nation, if not the world, is set to undergo a significant restructure and it is pleasing to see housing developers taking a proactive rather than a reactive role.

Inverbrackie reborn

In just a few years the Hills hamlet of Inverbrackie would be unrecognisable from its former role as a detention centre for refugees if a development company’s plans get the green light.
The site is set to become a new satellite suburb of Woodside and is expected to draw almost 400 new residents to the area.
With some of the 80 homes already being given substantial makeovers under a $6m project before hitting the market as rentals, the rest of the township is set to follow suit.
If it can get the necessary rezoning, subdivision and development approvals, its owner Mill Hill Capital has big plans for Inverbrackie, which is being rebadged as Crest @ Woodside.
Up to $14m would be spent on building new homes on vacant lots within the site and upgrading public infrastructure such as wetlands, parks and walking trails.
And a further $7m has been earmarked to establish a much-needed tourist park that the owners hope will entice more visitors to stay and explore the region longer.
When Inverbrackie closed, there were real concerns within the community about its future.
Now that future looks bright, with the potential to deliver a real economic boost to the local area.

Keep left

If there is a drawback to living in this beautiful region, it probably is having to use the freeway at peak times.
Driver behavior on the region’s busiest route is a constant bugbear, so it was encouraging to see SA Police targeting one of those common frustrations last week – the failure by some motorists to keep left unless overtaking.
On such a busy road it’s all too common to get stuck behind a slower travelling vehicle in the right-hand lane.
That inconsiderate driving often frustrates other motorists who make rash and dangerous manoeuvres such as tail-gating and overtaking on the inside lane.
After delivering both cautions and fines last Thursday, police are warning that the keep left rule is one they will be watching for some time to come.
It would seem that drivers could benefit from being reminded about basic road rules and courtesy on this route and perhaps new electronic signs could be used to send some timely educational messages.