The gloves are off

Mt Barker Mayor Ann Ferguson and council chief executive Andrew Stuart fear that Mt Barker will become a “dysfunctional city” if the State Government doesn’t invest significantly in the region to cater for its rapid growth.

The changed political landscape in the Mt Barker region has given the local council an opportunity to put extreme pressure on the State Government to deliver vital infrastructure.
The frustrations of Mt Barker Council chief executive Andrew Stuart – who has been fighting for years to get more investment in the rapidly growing region – are evident in his strident comments about the Government’s inaction.
The rezoning of Mt Barker more than a decade ago – which opened the floodgates to the massive expansion we’re witnessing today – was a decision of a previous Labor State Government.
Everyone acknowledges that successive Labor Governments have also failed to plan for the growth they allowed.
However, the Liberal Government took responsibility for the State’s development when it won the election and it is Liberal MPs who have historically been the voice of Hills electorates.
Liberal-turned-independent Dan Cregan’s defection to the crossbench has – for the first time since the creation of Kavel – brought real competition to the blue-ribbon Liberal seat.
The ball is now very much in Steven Marshall’s court and continued inaction could cause his Government significant political pain – pain that could stretch into Heysen and Hammond and may further shore up the Federal electorate of Mayo for independent Rebekha Sharkie.
The Hills has historically ushered in Liberal after Liberal representative, but the demographic is changing – particularly in Mt Barker – and a failure to act on this pressure point could hasten a major political turn-around in what was once a Liberal stronghold.
The fact remains that Hills residents have endured poor public policy over successive governments and are looking for change.
But the change they hoped for when they helped bring in a Liberal Government almost four years ago has not eventuated, nor have they been given a concrete long-term plan that proves their needs are front and centre of the Government’s mind.
In less than six months Hills residents will again have the opportunity to go to the polls.
Both sides of politics will have the chance to pitch their plans to the Hills community and if the Liberals want to have any chance in retaining Kavel, they’d better take the region very seriously indeed.