Tag listing: Mt Barker

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.

Securing local jobs

This week’s opening of Jurlique’s $30m expansion to its research and production facilities is good news for the local jobs market but it also underlines the potential for Hills companies to mix it with the world’s best.
This international company, which grows most of its raw product on its farm near Mylor, has resisted any temptation to undertake its production overseas and this latest investment plants its roots firmly in the fertile soil of the Hills.
It is a successful business model which can be replicated by other manufacturers who seize the opportunity to value add to the region’s primary production.
The clean, green and pristine scene of the Mylor valley is regarded by Jurlique as the best place on the planet to grow its base product.
And it tells the world exactly that!
That is the starting position for its entire back story and is a valuable marketing tool in creating a point of difference to separate it from the myriad of similar products on the international market.
The same technique is used by local wineries, cheese makers and meat producers who use the Hills’ image as a tool to sell the story behind their product.
The success of Jurlique and similar local companies should be used as a guide to develop many more value adding jobs for local world-class primary produce in the soon-to-be-established industrial zone in Totness.
It is hoped that expansion will create 1000 jobs – an economic windfall for a rapidly growing region.
The returns to a local economy from value adding to its primary production are many times greater than the returns from the original product.
The recent State Government’s Regional Development Grants – issued to investing companies wanting to grow their businesses and create jobs – are a useful tool in highlighting such opportunities and cementing this region’s economic future.
Such grants give small businesses the confidence to expand and allow them to grow to the next level.
That level not only creates more jobs and economic stability, but success breeds success and has the potential to attract like-minded and positive entrepreneurs culminating in Mt Barker establishing a high-end primary production manufacturing hub.
The clean, green paddocks are on our doorstep and the region’s reputation is already well established.
Appropriate planning, co-ordination and support is the next step.

Corella problem

Growing flocks of little corellas have been a nuisance in SA for years.
In Fleurieu centres like Strathalbyn and Willunga, the seasonal summer flocks are a regular annoyance for locals, bringing noise and destruction into the towns.
In Mt Barker the birds are a relatively new presence, only growing in number rapidly over the past five years or so.
With all the deterrents that have been trialled at problem sites around the State, one thing remains certain.
The birds never really go away.
When one council area has success at shifting the flocks made up of sometimes thousands of birds, they simply move the problem to the region next door.
Little corellas are a native species, but in their current numbers they have become a pest that needs controlling.
The most effective short-term solution to manage the species is arguably a State run cull.
The corella problem has parallels with the overpopulation of koalas on Kangaroo Island.
Rather than face the unpopular decision to cull the animals, which were destroying the island’s fragile ecosystem, untold millions were spent on sterilising 12,700 animals and relocating thousands more to the State’s South East.
Similarly, local governments across the State have spent their own resources trying to deter the birds from public places.
Schools, businesses and residents have also had to bear the cost of trying to move the birds on, or cover the damage they cause to infrastructure and the environment.
The Mt Barker Council’s plan for non-lethal scaring may well move the birds out of the town centre, but they will almost certainly become someone else’s problem.
Until the State’s environment authorities can develop a co-ordinated, Statewide plan for the birds, piecemeal management projects will achieve little other than to shift the problem.
While the University of SA’s Discovery Circle project has made many worthwhile long-term management options, these will take local governments years to implement successfully.
Culling, while an unpalatable option to some, must be considered as a short-term option because the growing overpopulation of the species cannot continue to go on unchecked.

Green light for pedestrian crossing

Pedestrians will no longer have to dodge traffic or make a last second dash in order to cross one of Mt Barker’s busiest roads near the town’s key shopping precinct.
The Mt Barker Council’s plan to install pedestrian activated traffic lights at the junction of Adelaide Road and Gawler Street will make the crossing point opposite the Auchendarroch House and Wallis Cinemas both safer and easier.
The current crossing, with a small pedestrian refuge in the centre of Adelaide Road, is inadequate for such a busy arterial road.
Pedestrians – often families with young children – can regularly be seen stranded on the refuge part way across the road, or dashing for safety ahead of oncoming traffic.
A pedestrian activated crossing will make it safer for people to move between one of the town’s big attractions in the movie cinemas and its main shopping and dining precinct.
A new trail link from the crossing point on the Auchendarroch side down into Keith Stephenson Park will also make it easier for people to access the town’s main park.
A redesigned left turn slip lane for vehicles turning left into Gawler Street from Adelaide Road should also avoid impeding traffic travelling straight through the town.
One test, however, will be what impact a fourth set of traffic lights has on traffic using Adelaide Road.
With traffic lights also a future certainty at the Adelaide Road/Hawthorn Road junction, motorists may be in for a lengthier commute on the road between the town centre and the freeway.
The intersection redesign also paves the way for a new entrance statement, likely a statue or sculpture, to be installed to draw visitors into Mt Barker’s main retail heart.
That, combined with the sale of most of the retail block bounded by Adelaide Road, Gawler, Morphett and Walker streets to the Peregrine Corporation, means the town centre is in store for some substantial changes.
If done well, they could breath new life into the CBD by making it a more accessible and vibrant place for shoppers.

Funding pledge

The State Government’s $2.5m funding pledge for the Mt Barker sports hub is welcome news for the Hills community.
Healthy communities are often characterised by vibrant and active sporting cultures and the Government’s latest contribution will help this to be maintained in the Hills.
The State Labor Government gave the green light for the expansion of Mt Barker in 2010, and it’s good to see that the Minister for Recreation and Sport recognises that his government has a responsibility to provide the facilities needed to support that growth.
This is not the first time the Government has contributed funding to the sports hub project, with just over $1m already contributed for the purchase of the land and a concept plan for the project.
However, the Labor Party must ensure it is not caught behind when it comes to helping develop and maintain a host of local needs under pressure from the growth.
Over the past few months the region has received funding pledges for both health and sports services, as the Weatherill Government responds to the pressure of regional leaders, politicians and members of the community, who are crying out for better infrastructure and community services.
But the region is still in desperate need of other facilities including a regional swimming centre, road upgrades, more health services and support for local business growth and job creation.
It is important our State Government anticipates these needs rather than responding to them only when the community desperately petitions for them.
With a State election set to go ahead early next year and a Federal election the year after, now is precisely the right time for community groups and councils to pressure all political parties to not only recognise the needs of Hills communities, but ensure they make firm, timely funding pledges to support our rapidly growing region.
With what the experts are calling a ‘challenging’ State election in Hills seats and the region showing all the hallmarks of more marginal electorates, the community is in a position to reap the rewards of the political process, which, whether we like it or not, almost always degenerates to buying votes with funding promises.
Bring it on! We’ve been forgotten for too long.

Healthy decision

The promise of expanded after-hours emergency services at the Mt Barker hospital is a great development for the Hills community.
With Mt Barker expected to become the State’s biggest city outside Adelaide within a decade, the region certainly is experiencing growing pains on a number of levels – including health services.
The recent overnight doctor trial, which saw about 450 patients present to the hospital after-hours in three months, is clear evidence that the State Government’s funding pledge announced on Tuesday is a worthy investment.
Since the trial was introduced in March, both of the major State political parties have taken a renewed interest in the Mt Barker hospital – and that has only benefited the growing community.
It could be argued that the increasing interest in the region from the State Government is a result of a changing political climate in the Hills, which has historically been home to several safe Liberal seats – at both Federal and State level.
It’s barely 12 months since the safe Liberal seat of Mayo was taken by the NXT Party, yet this week we have witnessed the electorate’s new representative achieve what the former member deemed impossible.
Hills voters proved that they were willing to shake up the status quo when they elected Rebekha Sharkie, and both Liberal and Labor are taking notice.
Ms Sharkie has played a leading role in bringing the hospital’s after-hours service to the region, which is testament to what having a more independent member – and a more marginal seat – can achieve on a local level.
But regardless of the possible politics at play, the increase in hospital funding is a win for local residents.
The hospital’s former system was no longer working, with most minor ailments being referred to city hospitals overnight.
With a catchment area of about 70,000 people, the hospital’s new after-hours service will be well used – saving thousands of people long trips to the city in the middle of the night.
The Mt Barker region is a dynamic and changing area and it’s positive to see a renewed interest in the area on both a State and Federal level. With a State election due early next year it will be interesting to see whether Mt Barker’s growing pains will attract further political promises.

Main street

The addition of the outdoor dining hub, known as a parklet, in Mt Barker’s Gawler Street is helping revive an underused strip.
The wooden, semi-enclosed structure is installed in place of two carparks and allows about 10 diners to enjoy caf meals outside without encroaching onto the footpath.
The parklet has increased vibrancy and created a glow of activity, particularly on days of good weather.
The success of the Mt Barker Council concept was realised when Sazon Espresso hosted the parklet for a year in 2016.
It was then moved to Brother Bear Wholefood Caf where it will remain for eight months before moving to another business.
The council has voted to bring a second parklet to the main street – outside Sazon – while it is also considering funding a third in 2017/18.
But the cost of each parklet is the loss of two carparks.
A lack of parking in Mt Barker’s CBD has been a sore spot for many years as it struggles to accommodate the growing number of shoppers.
The council is clearly of the view that the value of increased business outweighs the loss of carparks.
But the lost parks will not be lost forever, as the council has investigated the possibility of building a multi deck carpark near Gawler Street to free up congestion.
Overall Gawler Street traders appear to be in favor of parklets, with a council survey showing 80% of responding businesses giving them the thumbs up.
In time it might not only be Gawler Street which reaps the benefits of parklets, with Nairne’s main street also tipped as a host in the future.

Garden great

Every year, as the weather cools, the Mt Lofty Botanic Gardens puts on a dazzling display of color that could rival even some of the loveliest European landscapes.
For those lucky enough to live in the Hills, this jewel is right on our doorstep.
The gardens draw thousands of people from around SA to our corner of the world, but sometimes those closest to a thing of beauty enjoy it the least.
So why not take a walk through the gardens this year?
It may just remind you how lucky we are to live in one of the most picturesque parts of the world.

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.

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.

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.