Merger unlikely

The Adelaide Hills Council’s boundary review is likely to prove to be a valuable exercise.
More than 30 potential boundary changes were identified, many of which seek to move small sections of land between councils to keep entire townships or suburbs together.
But while every plausible option should be considered, it would seem the suggestion of a merger between the Adelaide Hills and Mt Barker councils is unlikely to eventuate.
Such dramatic change would be difficult to achieve without widespread support from the community and both affected councils.
While the Adelaide Hills Council is yet to consider its position, Mt Barker Mayor Ann Ferguson has made it clear a merger would not gain the support of her council.
Nor is it likely to gain the support of much of the community.
The Adelaide Hills Council was formed through the amalgamation of four smaller councils more than 20 years ago, and while there may have been some benefits over time, the huge savings promised in the lead up never fully eventuated.
It also left some smaller communities feeling under-represented.
That feeling would likely be amplified if their council was merged again with a council whose population is so concentrated within a single township.
While the report identifies the two councils as areas of common topography, character, land uses and community connections, it’s their stark differences which would make such a merger difficult and most likely unpopular.
The Mt Barker Council is tipped to reach a population of 56,000 by 2036, with almost half of its current population centralised within a single town.
It desperately needs large-scale development to keep up with that growth.
On the other hand, the Adelaide Hills Council region covers large parts of the Hills’ watershed area and agricultural areas, restricting development, while its population is spread across more than two dozen smaller villages and rural towns.
In the absence of a serious push from any corner of the community or from any affected council, the Adelaide Hills Council would do well not to invest a large amount of resources into exploring the amalgamation option.