David Penberthy, 0 February 2016

ASIDE from being my favourite place in South Australia, Aldinga is currently a potent symbol of the development battles gripping the metropolitan and semi-metropolitan area as our city continues to grow.

First there was the blue over the construction of the On The Run on the corner of Main South Road and Port Road.

I am not a heritage purist, and do not have a dog in this fight either way, but this might be the first On the Run you can see from outer space.

I popped in there last week to fill up the car and buy a Coke for the drive home. It is like a mini-mall in there, with a Subway, a Hungry Jacks, a Wendy’s, a Brumby’s bakery and a Smokemart.

It also has the now ubiquitous SA Lotteries outlet, which can mean you wait an eternity to pay for your petrol behind someone who’s addicted to scratchy tickets.

Queuing aside, the OTR is obviously very convenient for people of the south or those driving through. But this sprawling OTR looks about as appropriate in the old Aldinga township as a blacksmith would in the middle of Rundle Mall.

And I would still argue that all your culinary needs in the Aldinga region — if not in life itself — can be satisfied with a visit to the Home Grain Bakery on Old Coach Rd.

The next big stink in Aldinga is over the proposed construction of an Aldi supermarket.

Aldi rolled out a bunch of stores this week, with their gala opening in Parafield Gardens attended by the Premier. Unemployment being what it is, it is not remotely surprising that the Government is backing the Aldi expansion.

You wouldn’t begrudge any of the initial construction jobs or the enduring retail jobs that this investment will create. But again, you can see how communities that are used to living in a certain way can feel like the world they have chosen to inhabit is being altered without their blessing, as a result of the chase for the development dollar.

The adjunct to these commercial battles is the continuing argument over whether we create new suburbs to the north and south, or confine residential Adelaide to the existing area on the plains through a process of urban infill. That is, medium-density housing in established areas, rather than the endless rollout of new suburbs which require new infrastructure.

Planning Minister John Rau is squarely in the urban infill camp. He is fighting a rearguard action to save his legislation that decrees that Adelaide suburbia, broadly speaking, runs north-south from Roseworthy to Sellicks, with the Southern Vales and Barossa set aside as special wine district protection zones and the remainder of the state shielded from subdivisions.

Understandably the construction and real-estate industries dislike the plan, arguing that a cap on land release will eat into their viability in the long-term.

Rau argues that the long term is so long that they shouldn’t worry about it — and that there is so much land to be carved up within that designated metropolitan zone that they will be able to chug along happily well into the future.

More importantly for Rau, who is in the business of trying to run a barely solvent government, he doesn’t want to have to go cap-in-hand to the Treasurer to pay for brand new suburbs that stretch endlessly over the northern and southern horizon.

As Rau continues that fight on North Terrace, the fight in places such as Aldinga goes to whether they are now officially suburbia, and have to surrender all of their quaint and unique qualities in the face of an unstoppable human tide.

And for those of us closer to the CBD, it means coping with the re-imagination of older suburbs, where a three-bedroom 1950s house on a 900sq m corner block (and one or two cars) will now be met by a bulldozer and replaced with four townhouses (and five or six cars).

In theory, you can make the argument to almost anybody that it makes no sense to keep expanding indefinitely and that urban infill is the only way to run an economically sustainable city.

In practice, the argument falls apart when you explain to them that it’s actually happening in their street, be it within 5km of the CBD or at the very fringes in places such as Aldinga, which are not what they once were.

Extracted in full from The Advertiser.