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The District Council of Mount Barker is located between 25 and 40 kilometres south-east of Adelaide, and is separated from the state capital by the Mount Lofty Ranges. The area is semi-rural in nature, and its settlement pattern consists of a cluster of towns – focussed on Mount Barker but also including the nearby settlements of Littlehampton and Nairne – as well as the smaller townships of Meadows and Macclesfield in the south, and Hahndorf in the north. The remainder of the District Council consists of rural areas and smaller localities. Proximity to Adelaide means that the rural areas are under increasing pressure for lifestyle properties, though there are still farming and grazing activities undertaken.
European settlement dates from 1839, with land used mainly for grazing and crop farming. Growth took place in the 1850s and 1860s, spurred by gold mining. Expansion continued during the late 1800s, aided by the construction of the railway line. The most significant development occurred from the 1950s. The population of the Council area increased substantially from the early 1990s, rising from 18,300 in 1991 to about 30,300 in 2011. The semi-rural environment, good transport links to Adelaide and relatively affordable housing have acted as significant drivers for growth in recent years. Since 2001 population growth rates have been well above the average for South Australia – sometimes recording rates three times the amount for the entire state.
Mount Barker gains population through migration from Adelaide’s southern suburbs in particular. Much of this consists of young and established families seeking relatively affordable housing in a semi-rural environmental that has good transport links into central Adelaide. There are also a signficant gains from the neighbouring LGA of Adelaide Hills, though a proportion of these will be local moves that involve a move over the council boundary. Similarly, Mount Barker loses population southwards to Alexandrina Council. Again, some of these will be local moves but that council also attracts retirement migrants in the coastal towns. Like most regional areas in Australia, Mount Barker loses young adults who move primarily to Adelaide and elsewhere for employment and education purposes.
Note: The migration flows depicted above are historical and do not represent future or forecast migration flows or subsequent council boundary changes. The arrows represent migration flows to the area as a whole and do not indicate an origin or destination for any specific localities within the area. Overseas flow shows overseas arrivals based on answers to the census question "where did the person usually live 5-years ago" and .id estimates of international out-migration.
The primary housing market in Mount Barker is to provide relatively affordable housing opportunities for young families (including first home buyers) in a semi-rural environment. This is particularly true of Mount Barker township and the nearby localities of Littlehampton and Nairne. Significant greenfield development sites have seen these towns almost become contiguous in terms of their urban development, but they have also expanded outwards into the surrounding rural areas.
Another type of housing market operates in more rural areas, particularly around Meadows, Macclesfield and Echunga, largely consisting of second and third home buyers, many of whom are older families and couples moving into the area for lifestyle reasons – primarily rural residential but also within the smaller towns. This demand is assumed to continue into the future due to the amenity of the region, and access to both Adelaide and the Fleurieu coast to the south.
Significant residential opportunities have been identified in the District Council and continued demand for housing in a semi-rural environment with easy access to Adelaide, will facilitate strong growth into the future. The Mount Barker Growth Area, located to the south of the existing township, will be the primary focus for population and dwelling growth, as it is has the potential to provide over 11,000 dwellings. Note that not all of this is assumed to be realised in the forecast period (around 6,300 dwellings), as there is still significant short to medium supply in the established part of Mount Barker, Nairne and Meadows. Demand for housing in the District Council is also influenced by the amount of residential land supply (and demand for) in southern Adelaide (Onkaparinga in particular), and to a lesser extent, Murray Bridge to the east. Overall, the population of the District Council is forecast to reach 55,416 at 2036.
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