News and Events

The Association will inform the community about local news and events via this web site. Your input is appreciated. Please contact us with any news about a local event, news item or activity.

A Rail Connection to Mount Barker - some details to keep you on track - by Douglas McCarty
The rail connection to Mt Barker has three problems, apart from patronage - gauge, administrative and operational jurisdiction and journey time.  
All the suburban passenger rail services in SA are on the old Broad Gauge (1600mm or  
5'3'') and this stops at Belair, while the interstate rail line beyond Belair is in Standard  
Gauge (1435mm or 4'8½'').  The connection from Mt Barker Junction (between  
Balhannah and Littlehampton) to Mt Barker Station is still in Broad Gauge.  

At the Adelaide end, the two gauges separate at Wayville after descending the Hills together as  
Mixed Gauge - the Standard Gauge goes into the Great Southern (formerly Australian National) terminal at Keswick, while the suburban BG lines continue into the main Adelaide station on North Terrace.    
So a connection to Mt Barker would require either an extension of Mixed Gauge from Belair to Mt Barker Junction so that trains could enter Adelaide station, which would probably be necessary for a suburban-type service, or Standard Gauge connections from Mt Barker Junction to Mt Barker station with the SG trains terminating at Keswick but passengers transferring at Goodwood to the BG Adelaide Metro suburban trains to Adelaide Central, or the Noarlunga/Seaford and Tonsley/Flinders Uni (heavy rail) or Glenelg tram (light rail) lines. From Adelaide Central connections to Salisbury/Gawler or Port Adelaide/Grange are available.   
Cost would, I believe, rule out extending Mixed Gauge from Belair to Mt Barker Junction or taking Standard Gauge through the complexity of the Adelaide yards unless Great Southern wanted to pay for it.  A stand-alone Standard Gauge link, therefore, from Mt Barker Station to Goodwood Station interchange would seem a possible solution, providing linkages to intermediate stations and onward to all the Adelaide Metro suburban rail and tram network and destinations.  
As I understand it, administration and operations involve these entities: The Australian Rail Track Corporation are responsible for the SG line into Adelaide and Adelaide Metro are responsible for the BG suburban rail and tram track and infrastructure.  While Adelaide Metro operate the suburban trains, Pacific National, the  Australian Railroad Group and Genesee and Wyoming Australia (at least) operate freight trains through the Hills, and Great Southern Rail (a Serco subsidiary) run ‘The Overland’ to and from Melbourne several times a week.

Although access to the rail network appears to be guaranteed by the Competition Commission, any new operator of the service described above would have to negotiate with all these organisations, and more.  
Operationally, any new service will need to fit in with other traffic – both Adelaide Metro suburban schedules and with freight trains.  In times past there has been difficulty and conflict over the relative priority between passenger and freight trains.  This may well have improved with the enhanced passing loops in the Hills, but tricky negotiations may lie ahead even if the problem is one of attitude rather than reality.  New signalling will be required for the Balhannah Junction to Mt Barker section, as well as three automated boom gated level crossings and two more with at least flashing lights. 
Lastly, the rail line through the Hills is necessarily very winding and tightly curved, which means the trip distance is longer than the freeway to the city (no-one usually drives to the city via Balhannah and Blackwood) and with lower permissible speeds as well.  So the rail trip cannot compete with the freeway for either cars or commuter buses.  
However the travelling experience on rail is much superior to bus and does permit other activities more difficult or impossible in bus or car – reading, moving about, eating and drinking.  So if time is not of the essence, rail can be a positive alternative experience.  This could be the case for non-peak hour commuting, day-tripping tourist travel, perhaps connecting to “Steam Ranger” excursions, or just for other (comfortable) social and recreational travel.  Special provision could also be made for cyclists to travel with their bikes.  And all this while consuming coffee and apple strudel, or whatever!  
With the growth of Mt Barker, the service frequency may later be increased to a full outer suburban service, like Gawler, and could even be extended to the South towards Wistow into the new residential areas.  A Murray Bridge service on similar lines would also be a possibility.

If a regular commuter service was the aim, it would be possible to consider a trial and then perhaps a service using XPT type train sets from N.S.W., diesel powered and with some “tilt train” capacity for higher speeds, The commuter service to Adelaide in the morning could be the tourist service to The Hills on the immediate return journey and vice versa in the afternoon/evening.  Alternatively, there could be a ‘SteamRanger’ or the like service only, with a purely tourist, day-tripper orientation.  
Douglas McCarty, a Mount Barker and District Residents' Association Member - worked as a civil engineer in rail in SA for ten years, chaired the joint rail unions consultative committee and was at the protest at Bridgewater when they closed the passenger service. 

Please note: These are preliminary opinions, subject to further investigation and confirmation. 

175th History Walk

The 175th History Walk held in Mount Barker was very successful. 60 people learnt more about the town's history.

News Release | Petition to the Premier
The Mt Barker and District Residents’ Association sincerely hopes that the recent statements proclaimed by the Minister of Urban Development and Planning, Minister Rau in his press release of 17 August 2011 will eventuate. That is, that ‘rezoning will not be allowed to run off without infrastructure planning being bedded down.’ Minister Rau noted also ‘I will not allow developers to push me into rezoning when infrastructure needs are not known, not planned for and not funded.’

The Minister’s words reinforce the well presented views of the 520 written and 120 verbal DPAC submissions presented late last year as part of the Ministerial DPA (MDPA) process. Identifying the lack of infrastructure planning as a fundamental barrier to an effective MDPA implementation process was one of the key elements of many of the submissions.

Coupled with the loss of prime agricultural lands for future food security, the community recommended a review of the MDPA and a more transparent and community oriented approach to urban development and planning.

Minister Rau has indeed confirmed the community’s worst fears – that the Mt Barker MDPA was ‘dishevelled, disjointed and inconsistent’. The process did not adhere to those guidelines stipulated in the Government’s own planning bible, the 30 Year Plan for Greater Adelaide. It appeared that it was a developer driven process where both the local Council and the community’s views were largely ignored.

‘It appears to us that there are some members of Council and Council staff who believe that this rezoning is a ‘done deal’ and that neither Council nor the community can influence any further changes to our situation’ stated Chairperson Dianne van Eck. ‘We emphatically deny this!

We believe a new DPA will be the opportunity for Minister Rau to put right those elements that were deeply flawed in the previous one. We will be lobbying strongly, both to the Minister and the Premier, that a new DPA is required to put right those elementary flaws which should not be included in best practice urban planning and design’.

As part of an ongoing strategy to have the MDPA decision reviewed, the Association presented a petition with over 2,000 signatures to the Premier in December 2011. This petition asked that:

To Hon Premier of South Australia

We, the undersigned, being residents of the State of South Australia, noting that the Minister for Urban Development and Planning has admitted publicly that the Government erred in implementing the Ministerial Mount Barker Urban Growth Development Plan Amendment (MDPA, 2010), now do earnestly request you to replace it with a DPA for Mount Barker that respects the wishes of the people of the District (as expressed in their submissions to the said MDPA) and the District Council of Mt Barker, and accords with the planning provisions announced by the Minister on 17 August 2011.

‘No More Mt Barkers on my watch’ may well be his catch cry, but will Minister Rau put right these most serious of wrongs – a development which had no plans for supporting infrastructure, which destroyed agricultural lands and which ignored the wishes of the people?

Strategic Planning and Development Policy Committee (SPDPC) meetings 
This is an open public meeting and all members of the community are welcome to attend. Meeting dates and times can be found on the Council's web site. These meetings are critical as it is here that Councillors discuss urban planning issues related to our community.

Ministerial DPA approved
On Thursday 16 December 2010 the Ministerial DPA was approved and gazetted with very little change. Responses to community concerns have not been made public as part of the Minister's promise to release the DPAC report. 

Council received a full report of the DPAC findings which was presented to the Minister. The Council has released the report to the community. It is available on their web site.

Council Meetings

Council meetings are held on the 1st and 3rd Monday of each month at the Mt Barker Council Chambers. Agendas and minutes are available on the Council web site.

Agendas papers are available on the Council's web site by the Thursday before each meeting.

Local events

Farmer's Market
The Farmer's Market is now operating from Mann Street adjacent to the old Council Chambers. Come along and purchase fresh, locally grown produce from the many stall holders. The Market operates each Saturday morning until 12pm.