Road to nowhere

The ad-hoc construction of Mt Barker’s major bypass road – the Heysen Boulevard – has proven that piecemeal development is not the way to deliver vital infrastructure at a greenfield site.
After years of frustration, Mt Barker Council chief executive Andrew Stuart recently pitched an idea to fast-track the road’s creation to the State’s Infrastructure and Local Government Minister Stephan Knoll.
Rather than continue to rely on housing developers to construct the road within their estates piece by piece – resulting in the current unlinked sections of the road being described as “dysfunctional” and “disorganised” – the council wants the State Government to foot the $40m bill and lead the co-ordinated build of the project’s remaining 6.5km.
The council’s plan involves the Government recouping the costs of construction from developers, which it believes makes the decision to push ahead with the project a no-brainer.
Mr Stuart believes the road should have been built before – or at least coinciding with – the first residential developments following the former Labor Government’s controversial rezoning of 1300ha of rural land in 2010.
With the Mt Barker Council area expected to grow from 36,000 people to almost 57,000 in just over 15 years – alongside droves of people also flocking to nearby Strathalbyn and surrounding towns – the State Government cannot afford to stand by and be reactive when it comes to providing infrastructure.
The massive scale of the Mt Barker rezoning a decade ago was deemed too big by both the council and many members of the community, but their cries were completely ignored by the then Labor Government.
It is galling to realise that the wealth of assistance promised by that Government to assist with the sudden influx of new residents did not eventuate.
The reality is that the Labor Government saw the Hills as a low priority and it has been left to the new Liberal Government to clean up the mess.
The lesson to be learned to avoid future problems in other sites is to build essential infrastructure first and the people will follow.
It’s pretty obvious really.