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August 28, 2014

Race for Town Hall

As we head toward elections at the City Council, Adelaide's future is less certain. Here, four Lord Mayoral candidates outline what an Adelaide under their leadership would look like.

  • Candidate portraits: Ben McGee
  • Toy Town Hall photo: Brendan Homan
  • Interviews: Farrin Foster

Incumbent Lord Mayor Stephen Yarwood
Elected as the youngest-ever Adelaide Lord Mayor in 2010, Stephen has pushed a progressive and green agenda and wants to continue that for a second term.


CityMag has repeatedly been told by leaders in different sectors that the city of Adelaide needs higher population density if it is to thrive. What will you do to encourage South Australians to live in the CBD or North Adelaide?

Proximity to shops, restaurants, transport, employment and entertainment are all key elements to making Adelaide an attractive residential destination, additionally Council should:

– Provide quality basic services such as clean and safe footpaths and reliable waste services.

– Ensure planning controls facilitate high quality urban development.

– Partner with developers, government and not-for-profit organisations to construct affordable housing (like Ergo in Sturt Street).

– Ensure the Government continues stamp duty concessions, new build and first home owner incentives.

– Communicate the lifestyle and financial benefits of city living via programs such as “Already Home”.

– Invest in high quality public realm to maximise urban amenity.

– Provide financial incentives for home improvements such as noise mitigation, water sensitive gardens, stormwater capture and solar panels.

– Ensure Council rates are reasonable.

– Invest in quality community services, such as community centres and libraries.

– Work with Main Street businesses to provide more events and activities.

– Facilitate community participation via engagement programs, improved consultation and events and activities that develops pro-active, resilient and connected communities.

– Improve access and movement via integrated transport choices that result in safer, more enjoyable and convenient pedestrian, cycling and public transport infrastructure.

What are three examples of initiatives you will pursue to support businesses big and small to prosper in Adelaide?

I want to further nurture small businesses and the emerging entrepreneurial ecosystem via a well-funded Enterprise Adelaide Unit.  It would:

– Support start-up programs for emerging businesses.

– Facilitate new business hubs.

– Develop an action plan to build on our world-class public Wi-Fi network.

– Provide free business advisors, training, events and networking opportunities.

I will ensure council rate increases are minimal.  Commercial property has seen a net reduction in rates over the last four years and Council rates, fees and charges must not be a burden moving forward.

I want pro-active staff to work with business to improve city precincts via place making activities focused on removing barriers, facilitating solutions and co-creation of a better Adelaide. 

What would you identify as your major cultural goals for Adelaide?

I want to support business and community groups to undertake activities that encourage more people to spend more time in the city.  Adelaide must be a unique, interesting, diverse and enjoyable destination that nurtures creative industries, promotes technology jobs and supports the food, retail and service industries.  Critical strategies include implementing recommendations from the Council’s Night Time Economy Plan, facilitating more city events throughout the year and strong support for multiculturalism and the arts.

One of your key policy platforms is creating an “international brand of excellence” for Adelaide, in which the city builds international trade and cultural connections. Given South Australia’s remoteness, what specific industries do you see as relevant for Adelaide and how will Council exert influence in the global economy?

Our horticultural, food and wine products are in great demand in the Middle East and China.  Additionally our architecture and design, medical and education industries continue to go from strength to strength and are the foundation of a smart city. Working with key stakeholders such as State Government and Business SA, as well as a strategic focus on relevant sister cities such as Qingdao, Council can facilitate a collaborative, targeted approach to international trade.

You identify several key achievements from your current term as Lord Mayor – including the Rundle Mall redevelopment and Ergo Apartments – which you say were made possible through teamwork at Council. With a new team of Councillors being elected and new agendas at the State Government level, how will you be able to bring cohesion to the city’s future direction?

Professional leadership with the ability to motivate and collaborate is essential. Communication skills, visionary strategic planning and an open mind to innovative ideas and creative solutions have resulted in a new sense of optimism and positive change in Adelaide.  I want to continue this agenda.

Martin Haese
Well-known retail entrepreneur and former Rundle Mall Management Authority GM Martin Haese takes his first shot at publicly-elected life with this candidacy, saying his desire to lead is borne from “two things I see for the city in equal spades – opportunity  and frustration”.


CityMag has repeatedly been told by leaders in different sectors that the City of Adelaide needs higher population density if it is to thrive. What will you do to encourage South Australians to live in the CBD or North Adelaide?

First by getting the basics of local government right – making sure our roads, kerbs, footpaths, and parklands are all prioritised. Safety is a priority – I will improve public lighting across city precincts and North Adelaide. 

The cost of living needs to be addressed. As Lord Mayor, I will place a cap on Council rates for a period of four years in order to attract more people to live in the city. 

The higher goal is to build a stronger sense of community and encouraging the retail, hospitality, business and
residential communities to get involved ensuring more people live, shop, dine, exercise and entertain in the City of

What are three examples of initiatives you will pursue to support businesses big and small to prosper in Adelaide?

1) I will use my local, national and international commerical experience to bring big business to the table to unlock greater investment in the City of Adelaide.

2) I will better resource Council’s support for small business in areas including digital and financial literacy; leadership and management; and location scouting and red tape reduction. 

3) I will also focus on the City of Adelaide’s main streets by implementing a citywide retail strategy, better resource the various precinct groups and attract more unique retailers to the City of

What would you identify as your major cultural goals for Adelaide?

The City of Adelaide’s cultural agenda must be of equal or greater priority to the commercial agenda. As Lord Mayor I will deliver:

– A lesser focus on politics and a greater focus on people.

– An outward looking approach toward securing Adelaide’s place in the world.

– Acknowledging and prioritising the role that Adelaide Central Market and Chinatown both play in influencing the vibrancy and culture of the city.

-Ensuring learning and innovation become part of our city’s culture and DNA.

Many of your policies – including those on public safety, development guidelines, the agenda for a “vibrant” city, parts of your Education, Arts, Sporting and Tourism (EAST) plan and your traffic policy – involve working with the State Government. The relationship between Council and the State Government has sometimes been problematic and has occasionally been a barrier to change. What will you do differently that will improve this relationship?

Through trust, mutual respect and leadership – which appear to be lacking. I will immediately start working collaboratively with the State Government as I strongly believe that the city and the Lord Mayor must play a great leadership role.  

The Adelaide City Council can play a greater role in promoting the city, attracting investment and building tourism. My EAST plan provides a more outward looking approach to solve the problems that we are currently experiencing. It also provides social, cultural and commercial benefits for the City of Adelaide.

One of your major policy initiatives is to bring a higher level of customer service into Council’s dealings with its ratepayers. Given Council is a large organisation with existing systems  and staff and a limited budget, how will you be able to bring about this significant cultural change in one election cycle? 

We need to address a cultural shift in Council to recognise the ratepayers are the reason for being. It is important to encourage and reward councillors, managers and team members who embrace and build a more customer-orientated organisation that is more responsive to the needs of the people. 

I disagree the Council has a limited budget, it is more a question of priority. Having founded and led a national company with over 200 team members, I  know that size and budgets is not a barrier to building service-orientated culture, leadership is.

Councillor Mark Hamilton
Commercial solicitor and law firm partner Mark Hamilton is also a long-serving Adelaide City Councillor who has spent time in the role of Deputy Lord Mayor. He is obviously invested in Adelaide’s future and has strong opinions about where things have been going awry.


CityMag has repeatedly been told by leaders in different sectors that the city of Adelaide needs higher population density if it is to thrive. What will you do to encourage South Australians to live in the CBD or North Adelaide?

The population of the City has been growing significantly since the introduction of the City of Adelaide Plan in 1976. It is presently the fastest growing area in SA. There is unlimited potential for residential growth under the current development plan, to meet any demand which can be predicted over the next 50-plus years. North Adelaide is largely covered by a heritage conservation zone and is not suitable for substantial residential development.

What are three examples of initiatives you will pursue to support businesses big and small to prosper in Adelaide?

– Open the precinct for business: Extend trading hours on Sunday and public holidays, on an optional basis, from 9am – 7pm. Plus seek the introduction by the Fair Work Commission, with the support of the Government, of a special City of Adelaide Sunday and public holiday rate of $25 per hour.

– Unclog CBD Streets: Remove bus lanes, review bike lanes into a tightly defined, safe network without traffic conflict. Stop “not in service” buses parking in city streets, stop channelling traffic, and reinstate banned right hand turns.

– Help Rundle Mall precinct business: stop removal of, and maximise, on-street car parks in the area. Seek to deregulate CBD shopping hours to boost economic activity. Fight State Government’s car park tax. Increase the support for city activation policies like Splash Adelaide, city laneway and small bar initiatives.

What would you identify as your major cultural goals for Adelaide?

– Creation of a City of Adelaide Museum to incorporate and display the magnificent City Archives.

– Creation of a 1000 patron City of Adelaide Concert Hall.

– The uncovering and upgrade of the magnificent heritage interior of Her Majesty’s Theatre.

Your transport policy for the council area prioritises cars. The State Government’s transport policies are informed by former Thinkers in Residence Fred Hansen and Fred Wegman, who both argued for improved public transport, cycling and pedestrian facilities. Given this, how will your transport policy direction work with the Government’s policies? And what evidence have you based your policy on?

The type of transport measures identified by Fred Hansen and Fred Wegman were no more than a list of generic transport initiatives, of the sort one could find under Google Scholar. The former Thinkers in Residence did not recommend that the steps be implemented immediately or all at once. They identified a list of possible steps to implement over a 30 to 50 year period. 

Adelaide was not a congested city before the Government and Council started implementing all of these transport measures simultaneously in an urgent rush. I have no doubt some of these initiatives will be necessary over the next 30-plus years.  Meanwhile, city traffic has been mindlessly brought to a crawl at peak hour because of right hand turn bans, the channelling of more traffic down fewer streets and bus lanes that have failed to increase bus patronage. 

Slow down the City and you slow down the City’s $16 billion economy. This topic calls for long-term considered planning rather than ideological social engineering. Tinker with the City economy at your peril. 

Your Rundle Mall precinct action plan includes measures to create longer trading hours. This is only viable for businesses if there is a demand for their services. What other things will you do to encourage people to use the city before and after work to create critical mass during these hours?

– The provision of a Car Friendly City which is easy to access with plentiful, reasonably priced, parking. For example, I would look to establish new council-operated U-Parks in O’Connell, Melbourne and Hutt Streets.

– The maximisation of on-street carparks near local businesses. As in London, where parking is a premium, Council should put as many on-street carparks as possible throughout the city, including in the Rundle Mall precinct and local business areas. The city competes with regional centres with ample free parking.

Councillor Michael Henningsen
Laid back Councillor Michael Henningsen is in his second term of elected life – something the orthopaedic surgeon was originally drawn to because he wished to protect Victoria Park Racecourse. He eyes the top job with a vision for sustainable population growth and mixing car and bike friendly initiatives.


CityMag has repeatedly been told by leaders in different sectors that the City of Adelaide needs higher population density if it is to thrive. What will you do to encourage South Australians to live in the CBD or North Adelaide?

The most important thing the Council can do to encourage people to live in the city is to ensure that development is enticing. We need attractive, high quality, appealing development to make people seriously look at city living as an option.

We will never appeal to a broad cross section of the population if we continue to build high-rise apartments with one or two bedrooms only. Families don’t consider that viable. Medium density development – that is, a place to live which has a human scale, and the option of three and even four bedrooms, is what appeals to families.

Garden East remains the benchmark for great City development in my opinion. Developments like that and Council’s recent ERGO development on Sturt Street should be emulated. Such developments maintain their appeal, style and value over the long term and people want to live there.

What are three examples of initiatives you will pursue to support businesses big and small to prosper in Adelaide?

Firstly, I would head a financially prudent and efficient Council. A Council with high productivity and efficiency that delivers great value for money to all ratepayers would lessen the burden of seemingly endless council rates increases which are becoming a problem for many business owners. 

Maintaining the accessibility of the City to all comers is also very important to support business. It is great to have the city accessible by public transport, walking and cycling but this should not be to the detriment of motor vehicles. I am concerned that the city is seen as car un-friendly and if this persists businesses within our CBD will suffer. Ensuring access by car is maintained will mean business is supported.

Finally, aligned to my concerns above, Council – as the owner of UPark – could ensure that car parking rates remained low and competitive so anyone can do business in the city. The city competes against suburban shopping centres with free car parking so we need to encourage visitation.

What would you identify as your major cultural goals for Adelaide?

One of my major cultural goals would be to continue to diversify the calendar of festivals and events throughout the year. Let’s face it, which one of us isn’t exhausted at the end of Mad March each year? After March then there is a drought (thank goodness for Tasting Australia, the Cabaret Festival, the Guitar Festival and Feast). Identifying and providing seed funding to new events between July and November would be great for city vibrancy.

You have said previously that you’re interested in creating a balance between cycling facilities and car-friendly cities in the council area. Are there cities internationally that you think have done this successfully that
Adelaide could learn from?

I’ve enjoyed traveling and have been lucky enough to do some in my life. During the last decade I have sought realistic comparisons between Adelaide and other world cities. I have yet to find one mirrors Adelaide’s low-density city with relatively poor public transport that stretches 70km along a narrow Coastal Plain.

However, I am confident that comparisons to medium-density, compact Scandinavian Cities with excellent public transport and high petrol costs are not valid in Australia. Fortunately, Adelaide is a well-planned city and with sensible design I am confident we can accommodate cars, bicycles, pedestrians and better public transport.

The campaign you are planning for your Lord Mayoral tilt is a little different to most, with less distribution of flyers and publication of policies online and more meeting people in person. Why have you made that choice?

I find people endlessly fascinating and the last two Council elections have tried to meet face to face with as many people as possible. It helps to keep me better informed and I really enjoy meeting the people I represent. That is what I will do again this election but it will be a real challenge as there will be many more people to visit and I work full time.

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