Monarto vision

More than  40 years ago Don Dunstan had a bold plan to raise a new city at Monarto. He saw it as the answer to rapid population growth that threatened to stretch Adelaide’s boundaries north and south and swamp prime farmland and vineyards.
The vision was killed off by a combination of politics, economic downturn and population decline.
But now, four decades on, Monarto looks set to rise in a new form – as a food bowl and economic hub nurtured by one of the most ambitious water reuse schemes this State has ever seen.
Ironically, this horticultural and food production powerhouse would replace industries killed off by the last 40 years of rampant urban expansion north, south and east of Adelaide that has swallowed up some of SA’s best farmland.
The vision is an impressive one.
The Mt Barker and Murray Bridge councils would combine and expand their wastewater treatment schemes and embrace stormwater capture and treatment.
The water they produce would raise flourishing new enterprises from the dry soils east of the Hills and across to the Murraylands. Intensive horticulture businesses could relocate to cheap land near Monarto, Callington and Palamana.
Other ventures such as food processing and value-adding could be drawn to the growing business hub in Monarto where land is much cheaper than the city.
It also has easy access to the freeway for transport and, potentially a major rail hub if a new rail freight bypass goes ahead. There are also long-term plans to locate an airfield – such as a relocated Parafield – close by, and to pipe gas from Murray Bridge.
An economic powerhouse at Monarto would provide much-needed jobs to both Mt Barker and Murray Bridge as the regional centres face growth forced on them by the State Government.
This is the level of planning and vision one would have hoped to have seen in the Government’s much-maligned 30-Year Plan for Greater Adelaide.
Instead it has taken two councils and two Federal Government sponsored Regional Development Australia bodies to come up with an economic solution to the problems of unplanned growth raised by the State Government’s rezoning.
There is still an opportunity for the State Government to help this vision become a reality. If it is serious about providing jobs to go with the thousands of new houses it will force on this region, then it must pledge its financial and political support for this project.
Without either it is doomed to fail, leaving the region with little chance of building its own economic independence.

3 Comments on "Monarto vision"

  1. Robert Slape | February 21, 2013 at 1:58 pm |

    It is an interesting proposal and if it happens it will further the reputation of the Vales and Hills as a major food bowl. Potentially it has enormous benefits as you’ve mentioned, jobs and sustainability, and most importantly how it can give a context to this region for a generation.

    The 30 year plan would benefit from long-term regional perspectives that project a positive future that fits its place and purpose. Residents of Mt Barker and surrounds voiced their opinion on the DPA – adamantly they said they do not want to become another dormitory suburb at the edge of city.

    It is ideas like these that can cannibalise previous mistakes.

  2. One of the many reasons for the failure of the satellite city of Monarto in the 1970s was the reluctance of industry and administration to move there. At the time there was a great deal of work put into the development of a holistic plan. Forty years on the plan is less concerned about peripheral issues such as environmental concerns and more ad hoc and piecemeal in nature.
    The people already living in Callington and Monarto have expressed their views quite clearly to the planners at so called consultation events and their wishes appear to have been largely ignored. Then there is the disparity between the lofty ambitions being expressed by RDA and the likely realities.
    So much seems to depend on other factors. The establishment of an air freight centre at Monarto South, the back of the Hills rail route, continued low fuel prices, willingness of industries to move to the area, provision of power, communications, and other infrastructure to a greenfield site, the success of the stalled racecourse housing precinct at Gifford Hill, willingness of financial institutions to lend and on and on.
    In justifying the existence of the RDA, CEO Brenton Lewis has generated so much spin he has fuddled the thinking of local government. Everyone could well do to sit down for a moment, let the giddiness pass, and do the sums again with a clear head.

  3. Five years ago a stage 1 industrial area was created at Monarto and has remained a negatively geared initiative to this day as there is yet to be a single occupier there, let alone a credible anchor tenant to encourage an in-migration of like-minded businesses on the site. The stage 2 industrial area already approved is yet to be formed.
    The proposal for 1.8km long trains at an intermodal hub there would extend across the only north-south road link in the area, binding up the road traffic.
    The B-double north-south route promoted since 2008 is one third built, the projected cost has gone (according to periodic reports to Murray Bridge Council) from $1.9m to $8.5m, with possibly the last 30% of that sum yet to be secured.
    While governments at all levels seem enamoured of large scale projects; experience favours the continuity of small scale evolving businesses, particularly family run firms, that can grow at the rate suited to customer demand at the time, rather than all-in success or failure at the whim of the marketplace of grandiose pronouncements.
    The largest obstacle to realising big intentions is the matching big money.
    No proponent – be that either of the Councils, the RDA, or their array of consultants, has yet successfully matched their promotion of money making schemes in the Callington valley or Monarto plateau with the real world aspirations of the people already living in these areas.
    The world wide known endangered species work at Monarto Zoo, the 2 Conservation Parks, the private sanctuary and land revegetation and biodiversity protection sites (with ‘heritage agreements’ established by Monarto Development Commission, earlier Soil Protection Boards and later NRM initiatives) in the Monarto area are cited in the Greater Adelaide 30 Year Plan as of ‘major environmental significance’.
    These sit at odds with the experience with traditional surplus producing enterprises that rely on inflowing materiel from elsewhere, value added goods being exported out, leaving behind the waste output of the processes imposed onto the local residents.

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