Planning platitudes

The Mt Barker Council’s latest push for some solid financial commitments from the State Government to help fund the massive expansion coming to the town have, once again, fallen well short of community expectations.
The meeting between the council’s chief executive and Deputy Mayor with Planning Minister John Rau on Tuesday appears to have delivered little more than platitudes.
Mr Rau’s promises that money could be forthcoming and his preparedness to set up meetings with other relevant Ministers are worth little when any element of trust between the community and the Government has been severely eroded.
The community doesn’t trust the Labor Party over this issue.
And it is wary with good reason.
Former Premier Mike Rann and then Planning Minister Paul Holloway said they would listen to the local people during the planning process … but they didn’t.
Since the strangely timed resignation of Mr Holloway the day after he announced the largely unwanted, unfunded and ill-planned growth for Mt Barker in 2010, the job of picking up the pieces has been left to Mr Rau.
What a poisoned chalice.
Soon afterwards Mr Rau said he didn’t want a similar path taken in future developments and put a ban on urban sprawl encroaching on the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale.
But he has remained opposed to any freeze on the Mt Barker growth, even in the wake of the Ombudsman’s recent findings that there was a conflict of interest with the same consultancy working for the developers who wanted the expansion and the Government agency looking to grow the region.
The Government’s performance is likely to be closely examined by the yet-to-be-formed Independent Commission Against Corruption but it seems the plan will not be halted while the investigation takes place.
That in itself is strange.
But given that Mr Rau intends to plough ahead with the unpopular plan, the local ratepayers and their council are faced with an uncertain future.
What essential services (sewage treatment, sporting facilities, jobs, public transport links, the ring route around the town) are to be provided, when are they to be built and who is going to pay for them?
Too little planning and only vague financial commitments were provided at the start of the process and, as houses continue to be built across the fertile landscape, no one is much the wiser – least of all the council.
Mt Barker is a wonderful example of how not to plan for growth.
Mr Rau, in his heart of hearts, knows that perfectly well.