Mount Barker Development Plan Amendment

09 Feb 2011 archivespeech

This speech is to move that this council condemns the Labor government's mismanagement of the Mount Barker development plan amendment.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (17:30): I move:

That this council condemns the Labor government's mismanagement of the Mount Barker development plan amendment.

I move this motion, which was proposed by the local member, the member for Kavel, Mr Mark Goldsworthy, and I do so having had the benefit of being a member of the Environment, Resources and Development Committee and having an interest, clearly, as the Liberal spokesperson on the environment.

As honourable members would be aware, we have had two hearings of the ERD Committee, one of which took place on 27 January, at which we heard witnesses, including the Mount Barker council, which I shall hereafter refer to as 'the council' or 'local council', and local community groups, and we had a further final meeting on 4 February at which Planning SA was invited to give evidence.

At the outset, I commend all of the witnesses who appeared on the matter before the committee for their very thorough and professional presentations to put us in the best position to make a decision. None of the non-government witnesses expressed the opinion that they opposed development per se. I think what has transpired with this DPA process is that there are some fundamental problems with the planning system when you have a government that has already made up its mind about a particular proposal.

I am sure that other members who will speak on this matter will address what they see as particular deficiencies in the planning system, and I will leave that for another day. It is my personal view that Planning SA was given the invidious role of negotiating through issues when the land had already been identified as a particular growth area and that therefore it did not have a choice about whether it undertook that. That particular site was chosen: the southern side of Mount Barker. The government was determined that that would be the area that it would use to provide for urban growth and therefore that issue was non-negotiable from the start.

This is also reflected, I think, in the anxieties of a number of people who have contacted my office and the office of the Hon. David Ridgway, and presumably other members as well, who have said, 'We have gone to countless public meetings, we have written letters'—and they have been individual letters that they have individually researched—'and we thought that our voices would be heard; we thought that something might change as a result of us participating in this particular process and, lo and behold it is a done deal.'

I think that that in itself highlights a huge concern that people in this state have: that it doesn't really matter whether you go through all of that effort. I have a document which was provided to us at the ERD which was developed by the District Council of Mount Barker. It is a very well researched document. I think it is close to 100 pages, and it details all the particular matters that the council has concerns with. I am not going to go through that in detail; I am sure that it is available in the public domain, but I will touch on the major issues that it has raised.

The issues of immediate concern for the council include a ring road which would collect up all of those residential allotments and feed that onto the main road, which is the South Eastern Freeway. There is also the issue of the sewerage system, which at present is a community effluent disposal system in which the council has invested significant amounts of money in upgrading and which has a capacity that will not cater for the new allotments through this DPA.

There are stormwater issues. The Mount Barker Creek flows through the town and is a tributary into Lake Alexandrina via the Bremer River. There are public transport issues. Mount Barker is currently serviced by a bus system, and the only way that public transport can be expanded is through additional buses rather than having access to a train or a tram system, as other developments in this state do have. There is the issue of the South-Eastern freeway, which is already a hazard and which will become increasingly congested as traffic increases, with individuals driving their own cars, as well as being on public buses.

There are employment issues, in that the council is concerned that a number of people will be travelling by car. The council would like to see further employment in the town so that people are not so car dependent, and there is the matter of bushfire, being that Mount Barker, as part of the Adelaide Hills, is at higher risk than other parts of the state, and so on.

There is also the issue of food security and rezoning of prime agricultural land, which my colleague on the committee, Mr Ivan Venning, has raised, and a number of liberal members have also raised this issue. There are concerns that agricultural land is being rezoned, essentially for houses, and what that means for food security for Australia and the rest of the globe into the future.

I think it is fair to say that there were different perspectives between Planning SA and the council. The question arose whether a master plan or structure plan should have been done. That is a question for planners, but I do understand where the council is coming from, in that it is in the invidious position of having to make an assessment about applications. The council told us that two applications were currently before it and that, if the council were to approve them, it would squash out the ring-road that needs to go through to connect all those different areas to take them on to the freeway.

The problem with that (and this is being seen in other decisions by other local councils around the state) is that, if the council approves those applications, then the infrastructure as has been placed in that particular application is there for ever and may well lead to further development not being done in a particularly cohesive manner; therefore, those infrastructure issues will not be able to be addressed in the most efficient manner. However, if the council refuses the application, it can be taken to court, and that is very costly for taxpayers. I think that is a very, very keen issue in all of this debate and something for which I have complete sympathy.

I would like to refer to a couple of matters that were provided in evidence to our committee. Mr Andrew Stuart, who is the CEO of the council, in providing evidence on 27 January, said in relation to the freeway issue:

People underestimate the necessity of the South-Eastern Freeway to function properly to service Mount Barker, and that is why another exit and entrance to Mount Barker is essential. That needs to be delivered now; in fact, DTEI has indicated that those needs are there now. But the South-Eastern Freeway, if we get another access onto it, only fixes one part of the problem; the next part of the problem is the tunnels. Safety and behaviour are current issues that you are probably all well aware of, for which many strategies need to be developed at the moment...

Those problems could be minimised to some extent if all these people—some 20,000 perhaps over the next 20 years, maybe sooner we would submit—could find employment within Mount Barker. There is no employment plan. So, people are going to commute to Adelaide. There should be an employment plan.

I think those comments back some of the issues that were raised. I do wonder whether this particular proposal was pushed forward too quickly. In the evidence provided by Mr Hanlon of Planning SA, in relation to whether there should have been a master plan or a structure plan, he said:
The fact is, you would have liked to have done all of this from day one and that this is now the future. We said right from the start that, unfortunately we do have to do some of these things in retrospect in Mount Barker.

So, those are some preliminary remarks. I will make some more at the end of this debate in coming weeks and months, but I just outline that those are some of the significant concerns that were raised, and I think it is very disappointing that we had a government that was hell-bent on pushing this development through and was not prepared to accept that there should be amendments to this particular development plan, that it really should be rubbed out and started again, with proper consultation with all the parties who will be affected.

I think, for the people of Mount Barker, it is going to be an ongoing issue of anxiety to make sure that the character of that town is maintained into the future. I would again commend the Mount Barker council and the community groups for not merely rolling over. I think it is disappointing that the then minister described them as having their head in the sand. I do not think that is an appropriate way to refer to a community, and I just wish that they had listened to what they had to say.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. Carmel Zollo.