Flaxley proposal

The entrance to what was until last year a PIRSA research centre.

The State Government’s decision to close the Flaxley Research centre in 2009 marked the end of an era.
The centre was well-known in the agricultural industry as a leader in research and development, particularly in the dairy sector.
When the gates closed at the facility it left a hole in the local community and a question mark hanging over the future of the site.
Now it appears a new era is set to dawn at Flaxley, with the opportunity to create business and jobs in one of the nation’s most rapidly growing areas.
The concept being drawn up by the Mt Barker Council and Regional Development Australia Hills and Coasts is still in its infancy.
But the idea to use the site as an agribusiness incubator has merit.
The former centre is much more than a farm.
It has offices, sheds, laboratory space and a dairy, as well as good water and high quality soils ideally suited to horticulture.
There is plenty of space that would allow several small operations to be based at the site simultaneously.
Already several businesses have expressed an interest in using the site in a range of industries, from food to biotechology to horticultural training.
If experience with such incubators in the Hills is anything to go by, it could be an economic boon for the region.
Similar facilities in Lobethal, at the old woollen mill, and at Woodside in the old cheese factory, have fostered the growth of local businesses that started small and are now major employers.
The council is keen to foster the growth of local jobs to encourage residents to stay in the district for their employment.
But as it has identified, there was not enough land set aside for the creation of jobs in the State Government’s rezoning plan for Mt Barker and no strategy to deliver these local employment options.
The Flaxley site presents a key opportunity to address this – if the Government is willing to take up the option.
Primary Industries and Regions SA owns the land and has been told to start the process to sell it off.
With a cash-strapped Government already recently forced to tighten its budget and cut spending, the thought of a cash windfall from the centre’s sale must be tempting indeed.
But as Cabinet considers the sale, it should also reflect on the community outcry over the decision to expand Mt Barker.
One of their concerns was job opportunities – something the Government has yet done little to address.
Here is an opportunity for the new Weatherill Government to show it is serious about fixing the mistakes of the past.