Locals rally to oppose Wildens Way sale

Almost 200 people have signed a petition urging the Murray Bridge council not to sell a valuable stretch of riverfront land.

This story was originally published behind Murray Bridge News’ paywall. Paywalled stories are unlocked four weeks after publication. Can’t wait that long? Subscribe here.

Steve and Janet Ticehurst and Steve Gates are among 175 people to have petitioned against the sale of the Wildens Way land. Photo: Peri Strathearn.

Almost 200 community members have a message for the Murray Bridge council as it considers whether to sell a stretch of prime riverfront land.

Don’t do it.

Within days of last week’s petition by shack owners, who offered $4.7 million for the 17 blocks they lease on Wildens Way, a rival petition popped up online, begging the council to reject the offer.

The land would be much more valuable to ratepayers after the shacks’ leases expired in 2061, when it could be turned into a public park, the petitioner said.

“Imagine a riverfront in Murray Bridge that connects Hume Reserve to Tumbella (Drive Reserve), or maybe even all the way to Swanport Reserve one day,” the petition said.

“Now is the time to back our councillors and council to secure the future of Murray Bridge’s riverfront, as a destination and as a place to enjoy living.”

The council did not need to sit on its hands for the next 40 years, either, the petitioner said – six blocks were already vacant and could be made more accessible to the public right away.

More space would ease riverfront congestion, neighbours say

Nearby resident Steve Ticehurst said he had signed the petition for the sake of his kids and their kids.

Long Island Reserve, next door to the Wildens Way shacks, was already full to overflowing on weekends and in public holidays, he said; extending it would allow more families to access the River Murray.

His message to the shack lessees: “go back to Adelaide and have all your grandiose ideas up there”.

Graham Hallandal, another local who has long campaigned for the Wildens Way land to be kept in public hands, said he was sick and tired of the issue being brought up.

He emailed his concerns to councillors, and Murray Bridge News, on Friday.

“It is our land, not the land of a select few with a lot of money,” he said.

“The matter has been settled.

“Those who wish to continually want to buy this land should be told they are wasting their time.”

The land’s true value was much higher than $4.5 million anyway, he said.

Vacant blocks at Long Flat, set back from the riverfront, were selling for $200,000 or more, he pointed out – so how could the 17 Wildens Way blocks, in the middle of town and on the waterfront, be worth less than $270,000 each?

Could councillors change their minds and approve a sale?

As registered community land, the council would not be able to sell the Wildens Way shacks without first consulting the community.

But in any case, most councillors have been steadfastly opposed to any sale since they decided to reject a previous offer last February, even in the face of legal threats.

The shack lessees will get an opportunity to speak privately to councillors about their offer in the coming weeks, in accordance with the council’s policy on unsolicited bids.

The residents opposed to the sale plan to present their petition at the council’s May meeting.