Tag listing: Mt Barker

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.

Sink or swim

The future of the Mt Barker Mountain Pool is an important conversation the Hills community must have for the improvement of this region’s general sporting needs.
The ageing pool leaks, is too small to host significant swimming events and is set to cost ratepayers another $300,000 this financial year, adding to an $850,000 loss over the past three years.
The pool has become so dilapidated the town’s council has decided no more money will be spent on major upgrades or even fixing a significant leak.
Throwing good money after bad is not in anyone’s interest.
The question the council must answer is how long can the community support a piece of infrastructure which has no long-term future to the tune of $300,00 per year?
The only solution to the district’s aquatic needs is to build a new pool elsewhere in the town – and the council has already moved down this path.
Over recent months council staff and elected members have spent many hours behind closed doors, discussing where a new pool could go, who would pay for it and how much it would cost.
Further details of these confidential discussions are likely to surface before the end of the year and it will be interesting to see what ripples they create.
The fact is swimming pools are expensive to build and maintain and the council is unlikely to be able to fund a new aquatic facility alone.
It must enter into a partnership and seek significant contributions from State and Federal governments.
This could be a good test for our new Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie to lobby the Federal Government for funds.
State MP Mark Goldsworthy also needs to be publicly proactive as governments question the level of priority a new swimming pool commands compared to other needs such as hospitals, transport and education.
The Hills is renowned for its high number of football ovals, tennis courts, soccer pitches and netball courts but it is clear more sporting facilities will be needed as Mt Barker expands.
As Mt Barker Councillor Carol Bailey put it, the Mountain Pool’s inadequate size is “embarrassing” for a town on track to becoming the second largest city in SA.

Traffic gridlock

The need for the opening of the new Bald Hills Road freeway interchange at the earliest opportunity becomes glaringly obvious when one is stuck in traffic on Adelaide Road in Mt Barker, usually on a Friday afternoon.
Motorists at that time are often brought to a standstill in both directions as hundreds of drivers try to navigate their way in and out of the town’s limited exits and entrances.
The Courier is aware of numerous anecdotes from the regular traffic snarls which include one driver who spent 25 minutes trying to make the 1.7km journey from Cornerstone College, via Cameron Road, Druids Avenue and Adelaide Road, to the city-bound freeway on-ramp.
In the end it took them less time to reach the city than it did to navigate the traffic in Mt Barker.
Other drivers have told of a complete gridlock on the bridge over the freeway.
Last Friday, on the eve of the long weekend, the traffic congestion again returned as cars crawled bumper-to-bumper along Adelaide Road from about 3.30pm.
Calls by Mt Barker Councillors Lindsay Campbell and Carol Bailey for a redesign of the freeway intersection on Adelaide Road are valid – but only if the new interchange offers no substantial relief when it opens in September.
If the new junction makes little difference, the Mt Barker Council and transport authorities must quickly develop a strategy to free up this precinct – perhaps by creating slip lanes for right-turning drivers.
Until significant improvements are made drivers must keep enduring the traffic frustrations and hope no catastrophic incident – such as a bushfire – unfolds in Mt Barker.
The Adelaide bound on-ramp is the only fast way out of the town and as Cr Campbell put it, “trying to squeeze everything through the one bottle top” is already proving difficult.
The traffic snarls are a result of Mt Barker’s growing pains, which have also put a strain on parking facilities in the town’s CBD.
If Mt Barker’s traffic and parking is bad now, wait until the district hits its predicted population of 52,000.

Vision for the future

The $113m crowdfunding campaign to secure the last vacant block of land in Mt Barker’s CBD and develop it into a town square is an exciting venture but with many significant hurdles to overcome.
The Mt Barker and District Residents’ Association hopes it can drive enough interest from both local and overseas investors to secure the millions to create what Mt Barker so clearly needs.
But the land’s owner – retail giant Woolworths – has indicated it is yet to determine whether the parcel, bordered by Hutchinson Street and Druids Avenue, will even hit the market, and if it does, what price it will ask.
It’s also possible Woolworths could accept a higher offer from another party with a vision for the square that is different to that of architect Geof Nairn, who hopes to see a boutique hotel, and apartments built on the site.
But the fact that the residents’ association has turned the seed of an idea into action is a strong start.
The company managing the investment scheme – DomaCom – is a reputable investment firm which has already drawn $80m from investors towards the purchase of the Kidman cattle stations in outback Australia.
Hopefully DomaCom’s success will carry on in the heart of Mt Barker.
The Federal, State or local governments are unlikely to solely fund this town square project, leaving crowdfunding as the most promising way of achieving this vision.
But even if the investment scheme fails, Mr Nairn’s town square design has largely done its job … it has generated interest and enthusiasm.
The residents’ association has proven it cares for its town’s ambience and the livelihood and wellbeing of its people.
There is no ulterior motive at play.
And if the doubts come creeping in, one only has to look at Carey Gully’s high profile squatter Iain Herridge who received two last-minute donations to clear nearly $40,000 in outstanding council rates, stalling his possible eviction from an old cottage on Rangeview Road.
While drawing $113m in today’s economic climate is a much tougher assignment, it only takes one willing investor to turn the plans into reality.

Court short

Back in late 2014 the State’s Chief Justice, Chris Kourakis, claimed up to $7.5m had been cut from the SA courts budget.
The result was a justice system operating with a $90m budget that was no longer “sustainable”, he said.
Besides curtailing the replacement of retiring judicial staff, the Courts Administration Authority (CAA) started dealing with the problem by announcing the closure of the Port Adelaide, Mt Barker, Holden Hill and Tanunda Magistrates Courts.
After a public consultation period Port Adelaide stayed open, Holden Hill was closed and Mt Barker and Tanunda were downgraded to part-time circuit courts using visiting staff.
As a compromise it was better than nothing but with rumors still persisting that the Mt Barker court would eventually close, the district’s legal community began questioning whether the belt tightening was worth it.
CAA documents obtained by local lawyers under freedom of information applications suggests the answer is no.
It seems closing the courthouse entirely would only have realised annual savings of $49,000.
In comparison, closing Port Adelaide would have netted annual savings of $420,000. Changing Mt Barker to a circuit court has only produced annual savings of $5000.
That might only be related to infrastructure costs – which makes sense since you still need staff to do the same workload, just somewhere else – but it is a pittance to be pocketing.
Von Doussas lawyers think so and they have been joined by community leaders in calling on the State Government and the CAA to reverse the circuit court decision.
There’s plenty of arguments in their favor.
Mt Barker is tipped to become the second biggest regional city outside Adelaide.
Already the court has experienced a rise in criminal cases over the last three years, which is no doubt due to a growing population.
At the very least rapidly growing communities need existing social infrastructure to remain, not to be taken away. Making the court a part-time operation has only resulted in insignificant short-term savings at the risk of long-term, significant costs to the community.