Shack owners launch new bid for Wildens Way land – with big-name backing

Prominent businessman Darren Thomas is among 157 people to have signed a petition which continues a dispute on Murray Bridge's riverfront.

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A controversial property dispute on Murray Bridge’s riverfront will go another round thanks in part to an intervention by businessman Darren Thomas.

The Thomas Foods International executive is one of 157 people to have signed a petition in support of Wildens Way leaseholders who want to buy their shacks from the Murray Bridge council.

The $4.7 million they were offering could be used to fast-track projects that would benefit all Murray Bridge residents, including the 2000 who would someday work at TFI’s new meat works north of the city, Mr Thomas suggested, according to the petition’s organisers.

Leaseholders Cliff Garrels and Tristan Just collected 157 signatures, mostly from locals, in support of their bid to buy the land.

The council has so far resisted any such offer.

It wants to demolish the shacks when their leases expire in 2061, turning the area into an extension of the public park next door: Long Island Reserve.

On Monday night, councillors agreed they would meet with the petitioners to discuss the new offer.

But more than one councillor expressed hostility.

“This is a bunch of people finally throwing the toys out of the cot, really having a sook and trying to embarrass council,” Cr Tyson Matthews said.

He said the petitioners had given him the impression they thought Murray Bridge’s councillors were “a bunch of backwater hicks”.

Cr Fred Toogood wondered why the council continued to give the shack lessees any airplay.

“This is a very busy council, we’ve got lots of business to attend to, we know that it’s community land and that’s the end of the (matter),” he said.

Cr Airlie Keen suggested the offer be discussed at a public meeting, instead of behind closed doors, but was overruled.

The council had a policy for dealing with unsolicited bids, chief executive officer Michael Sedgman said, and it called for confidentiality.

Mayor Brenton Lewis agreed that the council had a duty to give the leaseholders a hearing.