Politicians and bureaucrats are often criticised for their expensive jaunts across the globe under the guise of professional development.
These trips are often viewed by the public as a waste of money – and sometimes they are little more than taxpayer funded holidays.
However, Mt Barker Council chief executive Andrew Stuart’s recent study tour of North America and Canada appears to have been a worthwhile endeavor.
While it would have been expensive, the trip appears to have already resulted in tangible outcomes and given the participants a fresh perspective on the future of urban development in SA.
Having 20 council, government and development industry professionals seated on a bus for two weeks is one way to fast track friendships and produce interesting conversations.
Combine that with a tour of a broad range of developments to see what works, what doesn’t, and what role different bodies should play in the process, and meaningful engagement is assured.
The people on this trip were not politicians but ground level professionals with their hands on the levers and the ability to make things happen.
Mr Stuart, by his own admission, has returned with great resolve to build on what has already been achieved by the council and it appears the trip has already produced tangible outcomes.
It seems the State Government has listened to what Mr Stuart and the council have been claiming for years – that the Ministerial Development Plan Amendment laid down for Mt Barker in 2010 is flawed.
For the first time the council has been given the opportunity to begin the process of changing the development plan.
This is a huge step forward and a breakthrough that was a direct result of the relationships developed on the study tour.
It is well known that the situation in Mt Barker is far from ideal and there’s nothing the council can do to change past decisions that were out of its control.
It now needs to work with the hand it has been dealt and do everything possible to make the development of Mt Barker the sort of place other planning professionals will want to visit in the future.
The social and economic problems that can result from a poorly planned development can remain for generations … so the council and developers need to get this right.
If this trip has been a success we as a community will reap the rewards for years to come.