Bridge Watersport Park plan rejected by council assessment panel

Adam Bruce and Paul Daniel have been left scratching their heads after their plan for a Murray Bridge tourist attraction was knocked back.

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Outdated planning laws may prevent a water sport park from being built in Murray Bridge.

The local council’s assessment panel voted not to approve the project on Friday, despite positive recommendations from government departments and the council’s own planning staff.

Proponents Adam Bruce and Peter Daniel had planned to establish a cable water sports park – South Australia’s first – on the river flats on Murray Bridge’s east side.

The pair said they were now considering their options.

“It was a bit of a shock,” Mr Bruce said of the setback.

“We’re disappointed.

“We spent a lot of time, money and effort to get to this point.”

The decision came down to the wire at Friday’s meeting.

Two members of the five-person panel were in favour of the development and two were set against it.

Councillor Karen Eckerman covered her face with her hands, wavered for a few moments, but finally raised her hand to vote against the project.

Rules laid down after 1956 flood led to proposal's rejection

Two of the panellists, Gavin Lloyd-Jones and Marc Voortman, said they would be willing to approve the park under certain conditions.

“There's not a lot of policy that speaks directly against it,” Mr Voortman said.

Myles Somers and Tony Huppatz voted against because the development was located in the River Murray flood zone.

Permanent developments are discouraged below the high water mark of 1956, with exceptions such as Murray Bridge’s new regional rowing centre.

However, Mr Somers conceded that planning laws in the flood zone were outdated.

“The policy probably doesn’t give us enough guidance to make very clear decisions,” he said.

“It’s largely based on the 1956 flood event, (but) the river’s changed dramatically since then, the climate’s changed dramatically since then.

“We need to base our policy on the modern day river, how floods are managed and science.

“Unfortunately that doesn’t help us today.”

Cr Eckermann said she had struggled with her decision.

“The Rural City of Murray Bridge wants to encourage tourism and developments of this nature,” she said.

“The broader community, I’m very confident, would like this development to proceed.

“However, I’ve heard and read some things today (at the meeting) and in the report that cause me some form of doubt about the location.

“We want you to come to Murray Bridge, we really want this development to proceed, but I can’t approve it in that particular location.”

Eight residents objected to water sport park proposal

The panel spent almost two hours debating the proposal in Murray Bridge’s council chamber, and heard objections from several nearby residents.

Rhona Parker-Benton said noise from the water sport park would be a problem.

“We run a successful bed and breakfast and peace and quiet are the main selling points,” she said.

Sonya Fraser suggested there would be trouble at the intersection of Siesta Drive and Lookout Drive, in front of the RSL, if hundreds more people had to drive through each day.

And what would happen if the attraction went bust – would it become an eyesore like the former Puzzle Park?

Joanne Pfeiffer warned that stormwater runoff from the park could have a severe effect on surrounding farmland, including hers.

“You may water an area, put the water on the surface, and all of a sudden it will pop up four or five paddocks further down or even upstream,” she said.

“We cannot afford for our successful agricultural business to be affected.”

Bill Antel argued that the whole proposal was “manifestly inappropriate”.

He suggested a wetland be built on the site instead – maybe the proponents could charge admission.

Consultant Ken Body, acting for Mr Bruce and Mr Daniel, responded to each resident and argued that the proposal should be approved.

“The applicant is local and has the best interests of the community and Murray Bridge at heart,” he said.

“The proposal is thoroughly designed, will be responsibly and sustainably managed, and will enhance the locality by providing an attraction that will be provided by locals and tourists alike.”

Mr Bruce said the main building at the park would be built 1.3 metres above ground level and would be capable of being opened up to endure a flood, a requirement of the zoning rules.

The panel did not accept the idea.

So what happens now?

According to the council, applicants who are unhappy with a decision by the assessment panel have up to two months to decide whether to appeal to the Environment, Resources and Development Court.

The alternative would be abandoning a plan that has been in the works for more than five years.