Missing in action

A claim by the State Opposition that taxpayers could be forced to foot a compensation bill of more than $500m to developers if the expansion of Mt Barker and Nairne is reversed is extremely alarming.
There is no doubt developers invested heavily in buying up farmland in the area both before and after the State Government agreed to rezone 1300ha for housing.
Clearly some could lose if the community and Greens MLC Mark Parnell succeed in a bid to have the 2010 Ministerial Development Plan Amendment shelved and a new growth plan drawn up.
But to what extent they should be compensated for a loss on a business gamble is up for debate.
The $500m compensation scare is the latest excuse peddled by the Liberals as reasoning for it not to lobby the Government to overturn the Mt Barker rezoning.
In speaking against Mr Parnell’s motion in Parliament last week calling for a new DPA for the region, Shadow Urban Development and Planning spokesman David Ridgway outlined a host of problems that the Party believes winding back the expansion would create.
They range from scaring off potential investors to causing “major financial issues” for developers and making banks shy away from backing SA greenfield developments.
And then he launched an attack on Mr Parnell, painting him as some kind of false Messiah preying on the hopes of a “very aggrieved community”.
Putting politics aside, Mr Parnell has been a vocal champion for the Mt Barker community in its fight against the Government’s growth plan.
Despite not being the local member he rigorously pursued a Freedom of Information application that led to the release of documents – after a court battle – that now make it possible for the Opposition to push for an Ombudsman’s inquiry into part of the Government’s rezoning process.
The Liberals, by comparison, have been on the fringe in their opposition to the expansion, despite holding the local seat and having their leader representing the neighboring electorate.
They say Planning Minister John Rau is “steadfast in his decision” not to overturn the rezoning.
That may be the case but surely there can be no harm in the Opposition backing the Greens’ call for a Parliamentary inquiry into the matter, which would have a greater scope and powers than an Ombudsman’s inquiry.
It might not change things for Mt Barker, but it could put added pressure on the Government to deliver better infrastructure and services for the district and help future communities across SA by cleaning up a decidedly murky planning system.