Death of democracy

When a packed public meeting is told the express wishes of a community and its council can be overturned by a Government Minister, it is not surprising there are mutterings about the death of democracy.
Such debate dominated conversations following a 300-strong meeting in the Strathalbyn Town Hall last week.
Those at the meeting were told by Alexandrina Mayor Keith Parkes that Planning Minister John Rau could overrule his council’s 10-Year Plan – which aims to restrict retail development to the Strathalbyn CBD – and allow a 15,000sqm development including a supermarket and specialty shops at the entrance to the town more than a kilometre from the main shopping precinct.
The Mayor was clearly frustrated at the potential for his council’s plan for the town’s next decade – one made after significant research and extensive community consultation – to be sidelined by a Government Minister.
The overwhelming majority of those at the meeting also shared his frustration.
A number of business operators in the town spoke passionately against the proposal claiming it has the potential to damage their livelihoods.
Many asked what was the point of the community joining with the council to formulate a plan for the town’s future if it could be completely overridden by a higher planning authority at the request of a developer.
The meeting was told of damage to main street traders in Victor Harbor and Renmark following the building of shopping centres away from the traditional shopping precincts.
A similar problem has emerged in Murray Bridge and its newest shopping centre is only one block back from the main street.
The office of the Co-ordinator General, the body charged with examining developments considered to have “economic significance to the State”, is now looking at the proposal.
Strathalbyn is an unusual town in that it already has two distinct centres – the historic High Street dominated by antique  dealers and the other the main commercial hub.
The council is undertaking work to better link the two shopping precincts.
The addition of a third commercial hub could further confuse an already disjointed town to the detriment of many.
Mr Rau had better make the right call.

1 Comment on "Death of democracy"

  1. Steve Baker | July 14, 2015 at 9:02 am |

    Whilst a relative newcomer to Strathalbyn region in the past 2 years from interstate, it is plain to see that new development is only going to be good for the local town and its future. I can understand the sentiment of many that our “old town” needs careful planning, it is after all a remarkable example of time standing still in many respects. Unfortunately to stand still is to go backwards and future jobs for our young people, new housing and growth can all be beneficial if it is properly managed by all stakeholders. To say no, when it is clear to see the leaking of local money, local jobs and growth heading up the hill to Mount Barker, which is suffering great growing pains, is not beneficial to the local community. Its a fact that we have become pre-conditioned to the convenience of mall shopping for a variety of reasons for better or worse, so lets see this get built at a size we need now with opportunity for future expansion as required, with a sensible plan to link the old and the new, change is sometimes hard to accept but we need it so we see new business, new jobs, and a long future for this great place we have all made home. – Steve Baker

Comments are closed.