Mount Barker, South Australia

Mount Barker is a city in South Australia. Located approximately 33 kilometres (21 miles) from the Adelaide city centre, it is home to 16,629 residents.[1] It is the seat of the District Council of Mount Barker, the largest town in the Adelaide Hills, and one of the fastest growing areas in the state.

Mount Barker
South Australia
Gawler St, Mt Barker.
Mount Barker
Coordinates35°04′S 138°51′E
Population16,629 (2016)[1]
Elevation360 m (1,181 ft)
Location33 km (21 mi) from Adelaide
LGA(s)Mount Barker
State electorate(s)Kavel
Federal Division(s)Mayo
Mean max temp Mean min temp Annual rainfall
20.0 °C
68 °F
8.0 °C
46 °F
766.8 mm
30.2 in
Localities around Mount Barker:
Hahndorf Littlehampton Nairne
Echunga Mount Barker Callington
Macclesfield Strathalbyn Langhorne Creek

Mount Barker lies at the base of a local eponymous peak called the Mount Barker summit. It is 50 kilometres from the Murray River. Mount Barker was traditionally a farming area, and many of the lots just outside the town area are farming lots, although some of them have been replaced with new subdivisions in recent times.


Mount Barker, the mountain, was first sighted by Captain Charles Sturt in 1830, although he thought he was looking at the previously discovered Mount Lofty. Captain Collet Barker corrected this error when he surveyed the area in 1831. Sturt named the mountain in honour of Captain Barker after he was killed later that year by Aborigines, at the Murray Mouth.[2][3] The mountain was officially recognised by King William IV in 1834, two years before the colonisation of South Australia in 1836.[4]

The first Europeans to ascend the mountain, on 27 November 1837, were a six-man party comprising John Barton Hack, John Morphett, Samuel Stephens, Charles Stuart (South Australian Company's stock overseer), Thomas Davis (Hack's stockman), and John Wade (a "gentleman from Hobart Town").[5] Four weeks later, on 25 December 1837, four colonists, Robert Cock, William Finlayson, A. Wyatt, and G. Barton, left Adelaide to examine the country south east of Adelaide toward Lake Alexandrina.[6][7][8] Along the route, they also ascended the mount.

Mount Barker was originally home to the Peramangk Aboriginal people. The Ngarrindjeri people from the east also used the Summit for ceremonial and burial sites. The Mount Barker Summit is a significant Aboriginal area, and may be one of the most sacred sites near Adelaide.[9] In 1984 the Ngarrindjeri people tried to prevent the building of a police communications tower, and in 1987 they also tried to stop the Telecom tower, although both attempts were not successful.

Founding and growth

Mount Barker township was surveyed in 1839 by Duncan McFarlane, who was hoping the area could be used for wheat and grain farming. The land was divided into lots of 80 acres (320,000 m2), although farmers didn't settle until 1844, when John Dunn built the first steam flour mill outside of Adelaide. The flour mill ran for 50 years and is now a tourist attraction. All of the towns major buildings were built soon afterwards, with a post office (now replaced) in 1860 and a police station (also replaced) that was built in 1878. In 1883, the railway line from Adelaide to Strathalbyn was laid,[4] but that line is now discontinued, with the line terminating short of Balhannah, and is used by the SteamRanger Heritage Railway.

Mount Barker has since developed into a large urban centre, which is developing very rapidly. The Mount Barker district council is the area that experienced the fourth largest growth between 1996 and 2006 in South Australia, with an increase of 3,800 new residents (3% growth per year). Mount Barker is ranked fifth for fastest growth in South Australia.[10] During the last 10 years, many new subdivisions have been developed, such as Martin-Dale and Waterford. During this period, there has also been an economic boom in Mount Barker and a number of additional malls and shopping centres, such as the Adelaide Hills Home-maker Centre, with a Radio Rentals, a Harvey Norman and the new offices for the District Council of Mount Barker. There have also recently been lodged plans for a new shopping centre, which will feature a major department store larger than 4,000 m 2.[11]

The discovery of clover

Mount Barker is also famous as the place where the value of subterranean clover, Trifolium subterraneum as a fodder crop was discovered, proved and first promoted by A. W. Howard. His property stood at the south-east corner of Princes Highway and Bald Hills Road. Subterranean clover had been known for a very long time in Central and Southern Europe, but was looked upon as a roadside weed. Howard proved the clover to be a valuable fodder plant in some soil types in temperate climates. Subterranean clover revolutionised farming practice, converting many struggling farms into successful livestock holdings.

The discovery spread across Australia and to many other countries, due largely to Howard's generosity in publishing articles about clover, supplying seed free of charge around the world, and advising on handling. By the time of his death (2 March 1930), thousands of hectares in South Australia were carrying subterranean clover, it was growing in all Australian States, and requests for seed and information were being received in great numbers from almost all countries in the world having a temperate climate.

Howard's work is commemorated by a roadside plaque, by the incorporation of a clover leaf into the arms of the District Council of Mount Barker, and by the Howard's End vineyard and winery on the same site.

Rezoning controversy

In 2003, largely due to concerns that Adelaide's urban sprawl was encroaching onto surrounding farmlands, the then State Planning Minister Jay Weatherill made a commitment to contain the expansion of Mount Barker.[12]

In 2008 a consortium of five developers sought the rezoning of 1,300 hectares (3,200 acres) of prime agricultural land in order to build an additional 7,700 new homes which would increase the population of Mount Barker from 10,258 to around 35,000. The land included 40 hectares (99 acres) rezoned to light industry in order to provide jobs for the new population.[13] The plan was rejected by the Mount Barker Council as it had just completed a 15-year development plan for the area that would retain the town's "rural character" and it could not afford the required infrastructure, a decision supported by a survey indicating that the rezoning was opposed by 98% of residents. In April 2009, the developers approached Paul Holloway, the State Planning Minister, to override the council decision, arguing that the land had "no outstanding attributes except for its suitability for urban development." In May 2009 the Minister announced that his office would go ahead and bypass the council. The following month Mark Parnell, the SA Greens representative in the South Australian Legislative Council made a request under the Freedom of Information Act 1991 for copies of documents passed between the developers and State Government. The State Government in December 2010 approved the rezoning and development and construction began without the usual council infrastructure however, the state Government agreed to a $550 million infrastructure support package. The rezoning also included amending the area's bushfire risk level from high risk to only a general risk. The council expressed concern that the reduction of the threat level would lead to a reduction of building standards compared to those standards required for homes in high risk areas and pointed out that the previous year, Victoria's Black Saturday bushfires Royal Commission had recommended that there should be less building in bushfire-prone areas.[14][15][16][17][18][19][20]

The FOI documents, released in February 2012, indicated conflict of interest and poor planning practices. One document revealed that the Minister had ignored Planning SA's request not to make any commitments to the developers before the state's own 30-year plan was completed. South Australia's Planning Minister John Rau (2010–present) said that the Government should not have approved the rezoning of land without the government and council being able to support that community with infrastructure. The Government has since announced it will reform the state's planning process, calling it "dishevelled, disjointed and inconsistent".[21][22] A new interchange on the South Eastern Freeway at Bald Hills Road has been built to improve travel times and road safety for commuters travelling to the east side of Mount Barker and reduce traffic congestion in Mount Barker.[23]

In March 2013, the State Ombudsman, Richard Bingham, handed down a report into a possible conflict of interest. The report found that the property consulting firm Connor Holmes "had a clear conflict of interest" that was known to Planning SA who took no action. Bingham suggested that the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) should investigate the Mount Barker development.[12]

Connor Holmes was employed by the State Government to produce a Growth Investigations Report (GIA) as part of the state's 30-year plan. The GIA was to identify areas suitable for housing developments. At the time Connor Holmes was bidding for the GIA contract it was also acting as a consultant for the five developers and was actively lobbying the State Planning Minister Paul Holloway to support the Mount Barker development on their clients behalf. The Government has declined to release the GIA report but the Ombudsman's report noted that the urban boundaries proposed in the GIA were the same as those proposed by the five developers. On 6 March 2013, SA Greens MP Mark Parnell gave notice he would introduce a motion to the Legislative Council to refer the matter to ICAC.[12]

The matter was investigated by the Independent Commission Against Corruption in 2013 with its findings published in June 2015. ICAC found no evidence of corruption.[24]

Law and Government

Mount Barker is in the federal division of Mayo, and the state electoral districts of Kavel and Heysen, with most of the town in Kavel, and only the south-eastern portion of the town in Heysen. The Local Federal Member of Parliament is Rebekha Sharkie.

The municipality operates under the council with 11 council members.[25]


Mount Barker is located on the plains surrounding the Mount Barker Summit, about 2 km west of the mountain itself, at 35°04′S 138°51′E. Mount Barker is south east of Mount Lofty and Adelaide. It is to the north of The Coorong, and the west of Murray Bridge. Mount Barker is at an elevation of 360 m.

The city is just south of the freeway from Adelaide to Murray Bridge (and Melbourne). Its four major roads form a star that reaches out of the town. To the east of the town there is the industrial area and the Laratinga Wetlands. North of the wetlands there are the subdivisions Martindale, Waterford and Dalmeny Park. The wetland is fed by the Mount Barker Creek that goes from Keith Stephenson Park to the wetlands, right next to the linear trail.

Mount Barker in South Australia is often confused with Mount Barker in Western Australia, especially when dealing with national telephone centres.


Mount Barker has a warm-summer Mediterranean climate (Köppen Csb) and is generally cooler than Adelaide (although the difference is marginal), with a mean maximum temperature of 20.0 °C (68.0 °F) degrees and a mean minimum temperature of 8.1 °C (46.6 °F) degrees. Winters are damp and chilly with low daily sunshine hours, although when clear weather does occasionally occur in winter, night time temperatures can drop below 0 °C (32 °F). Summers are warm with temperatures in January regularly nudging 30 °C (86 °F) and one or two days each year over 40 °C (104 °F), although summer nights can still be cool. The average rainfall for the year is 765.1 mm.[26] Mount Barker is typically the driest during February, with an average of only 25.7 mm (1.08 in) of rain, with July usually producing the most rain, with an average rainfall of 107.5 mm (4.23 in).

Mount Barker is typically between 2 and 3 degrees cooler than Adelaide, which has an average temperature of 22.2 °C (72.0 °F) degrees, and it gets more than 200 mm more rain (on average) than Adelaide.

Climate data for Mount Barker (1870-2017)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 44.5
Average high °C (°F) 27.2
Average low °C (°F) 11.9
Record low °C (°F) 2.6
Average rainfall mm (inches) 26.1
Average rainy days (≥ 1.0mm) 3.2 3.0 4.1 6.8 9.4 11.0 11.7 12.0 9.8 7.9 5.3 4.5 88.7
Source: Bureau of Meteorology[27]


Mount Barker has an above average number of females, with 52.7% of the population female, and only 47.3% male, compared with the national averages of 50.6% female and 49.4% male.[28] Mount Barker has a below average population age of 34 compared to the national average of 37. Mount Barker has slightly more married people than the national average with 50% of people married compared to the national average of 49.6%.

Most people that live in the city were born in Australia, with 8,274 people who live in Mount Barker born in Australia. Other common places of birth include England (682), Germany (87), Netherlands (79), New Zealand (78) and Scotland (75).[28] Of the people living in Mount Barker, 9,426 of them speak only English at home (91.9%), 84 speak German, 67 Italian, 24 Dutch, 13 Afrikaans and 12 Indonesian.

Overall, Mount Barker is generally less multicultural than other areas of the country, with 80.7% of people from the city being Australian, compared to the national average of 70.9%. 91.9% of people from Mount Barker only speak English at home compared to the national average of 78.5%.[28]

Mount Barker has a growing economy with new shopping centres and other businesses, as well as a growing population.[10] There are plans for another shopping centre and for Mount Barker Central to be expanded. There are several new housing developments in the city that are in the planning stage at the moment. The largest plan that is still awaiting a decision from the council is a new 1000 home subdivision in the town's south.[14][15][16][17]

Tasmanian fishing and aquaculture company, Huon Aquaculture, operates its fish smoking factory in Mount Barker, which provides some employment to the town.

The average income for residents of Mount Barker is $460 per week per person, $6 per week below the national average.


Mount Barker is the largest town in the Adelaide Hills, registering more than 10,000 people. It is the home of a number of different businesses including five shopping centres, four supermarkets and many restaurants, cafés and fast food outlets. Mount Barker also has many recreational activities available such as walking trails and a cinema. Mount Barker has five shopping centres, Mount Barker Central, also known as The Bilo Mall (The original Bilo Mall was formerly the Mount Barker Tannery which closed down in the early eighties[29]) is the largest and oldest, containing a Coles (Previously BI-LO), a Kmart and more than 50 speciality shops.[30] Mount Barker Village is a smaller shopping centre based around the Foodland supermarket. It has fewer speciality shops although it does have a playground. Mount Barker Plaza which used to house another Coles supermarket (that was around before the one in Mount Barker Central was converted from a BI-LO) has recently been redeveloped, adding new stores such as Dick Smith, Gloria Jeans and The Reject Shop, which is located where Coles used to be in the mall. The developers have also increased car parking on property adjacent to satisfy the requirements of the new retail additions to the site. The Woolworths Complex is not really a shopping centre as such, but is just a Woolworths and a few small shops nearby.

The most recent shopping centre is the Adelaide Hills Homemaker Centre. It replaces some old industrial buildings (which was Jacobs Smallgoods and Abattoir) near the St Francis de Sales college that were bulldozed in 2003. This industrial site also was used as the meatworks in the movie The Honorable Wally Norman. This shopping centre has a Harvey Norman, a Radio Rentals, about ten specialty shops, and a multi-storey office block housing the District Council of Mount Barker.


Mount Barker has numerous activities that are available. The Keith Stephenson Park has the Linear Trail, a lake a playground and a skate park. The Mount Barker lawn bowls club is just across the road from Keith Stephenson Park. The linear trail goes to the Laratinga Wetlands, and is a total length of about 3 km. There are also many walking trails and a few barbecues at the Laratinga Wetlands.

Just up the hill from Keith Stephenson Park is the Mount Barker Wallis Cinema. The cinema has seven screens, all with full Dolby Digital surround. The cinema is partially underground, with only about three rows of seats raised above ground level, and the rest is below. The cinema is right next to the Auchendarroch House restaurant.[31]

Mount Barker has two ovals, the Mount Barker oval, right next to The Recreation Centre, where the Mount Barker Show is held, as well as local HFL footy matches. The other oval is Dunn Park, which is located near Cornerstone College and the caravan park, although it is not used much any more. The various schools in the area also have their own ovals. Mount Barker also has a single public swimming pool, located near the caravan park, that is open from September to May.

Mount Barker has a single 18-hole, 5,614m golf course that is near the residential area on Bald Hills Road. The golf course is a par 70.[32] Mount Barker is also home to the SteamRanger Heritage Railway which operates The Southern Encounter steam trains through Strathalbyn and Goolwa to Victor Harbor.

Mount Barker has a single local newspaper, The Courier that is published weekly on Wednesdays. It won SA's Best Regional Newspaper in 2006, and is "The newspaper of the Adelaide Hills since 1880".[33] There is also the Adelaide Hills transmission of the local radio station, Power FM, which transmits on 100.3 FM. A community radio station, Hills Radio 88.9 FM[34] commenced broadcasting on 22 August 2014, and has a broadcast radius of approximately 20 km from Mount Barker.[35]


The main route to Adelaide is via the South Eastern Freeway, which is used as a commuter road. The interchange at the western side of the town was built when the freeway was built in the 1970s. An additional interchange was opened in 2016 at the eastern side of the town[36] after several years of negotiation between levels of government.[37]


Mount Barker has many services. The Mount Barker Police station was recently upgraded and is now open 24 hours a day, as was the Country Fire Service station, which is one of the busiest in the state. Mount Barker has a library adjacent to the Mount Barker TAFE campus. There is also a post office that shared the same building as the doctors' centre, adjacent to the Mount Barker Central mall, but as of the last week in June 2017 has moved to the building directly behind McDonald's.

Mount Barker has an Ambulance Station and a hospital on Wellington Road, as well as the Mount Barker State Emergency Service unit which is one of the busiest in the state.[38]


Adelaide Metro provides daily bus services from Mount Barker to Adelaide and back via the surrounding hills districts such as Hahndorf and Stirling or an express route via the South Eastern Freeway. There are also buses to surrounding hills districts such as Lobethal, Nairne and Strathalbyn,[39] as well as two loop buses. The local council also provides a to-your-door service for the elderly.

All Mount Barker buses (and the Strathalbyn buses) connect at the Mount Barker Park 'n' Ride. The facility was opened on 6 July 2008. It features 183 spaces, security lighting, bike storage and a large sheltered waiting area.[40]


Mount Barker has three primary schools: the Mount Barker South Primary School, Mount Barker Primary School, and St Marks Primary School, which is a Lutheran school. Both St Francis and Waldorf have a primary school as well as a high school, which share the same campus.

Mount Barker has a single public high school, Mount Barker High School, as well as three private high schools: Cornerstone College, which is run by the Lutheran Church of Australia, St Francis de Sales College, which is Catholic, and Mount Barker Waldorf School which employs Waldorf Education. All of these schools are co-educational. Overall about 1500 - 2000 school students, from Mount Barker, as well as many of the surrounding towns, such as Nairne, Littlehampton and Strathalbyn, are serviced by these high schools.


  1. 2016 Census QuickStats: Mount Barker (Urban Centre) Accessed 21 November 2017.
  2. District Council of Mount Barker Archived 22 August 2006 at the Wayback Machine "History"
  3. Bach, J. (1966). "Barker, Collet (1784–1831)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, University of Melbourne. 1.
  4. "History of Mt Barker, Adelaide Hills On-Line". Adelaide Hills On-Line. Retrieved 1 November 2007.
  5. The Colonist, 28 December 1837, p. 2.
  6. South Australian Gazette and Colonial Register. Adelaide, Saturday 20 January 1838
  7. Recollections of Old Colonists" (RGSA vol 6), "Reminiscences by Pastor Finlayson" pp 48-49
  8. A Chequered Career - Reminiscences of a Pioneer III South Australian Register 28 April 1884 p.7 accessed 7 September 2011
  9. District Council of Mount Barker Archived 22 August 2006 at the Wayback Machine "Aboriginal History of the area"
  10. ABS. "POPULATION CHANGE - STATES AND TERRITORIES". Regional Population Growth, Australia, 1996 to 2006 (South Australia). Archived from the original on 1 October 2007. Retrieved 21 August 2007.
  11. Lisa Symonds (21 November 2007). "New Shopping Centre". The Courier.
  12. McGuire, Michael Premier's Promise Back to Haunt Him The Advertiser March 9, 2013. p. 31
  13. Mount Barker urban growth amendment S.A. Government
  14. Planning SA - Development 580/D027/07
  15. Planning SA - Development 580/D059/07
  16. Planning SA - Development 580/D088/06
  17. Planning SA - Development 580/C089/06
  18. Mt Barker rezoning a bushfire threat The Advertiser 20 August 2010
  19. How developers gagged a frustrated Mt BarkerThe Advertiser 28 February 2012
  20. Mt Barker redevelopment approved by Rann Government The Advertiser 16 December 2010
  21. No more Mt Barkers: RauThe Advertiser 18 August 2011
  22. South Australia Planning Minister John Rau promises to overhaul planning The Advertiser 17 August 2011
  23. "Bald Hills Road Interchange". Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure. Retrieved 27 October 2015.
  24. Washington, David. "Media Week: ICAC's Mt Barker verdict". INDaily. Retrieved 26 October 2015.
  25. "Mount Barker Council". Retrieved 4 March 2016.
  26. "Climate Averages for Mount Barker". Australian Bureau of Meteorology. Retrieved 9 March 2017.
  27. "Mount Barker". Climate statistics for Australian locations. Bureau of Meteorology. March 2017. Retrieved 9 March 2017.
  28. Australian Bureau of Statistics (25 October 2007). "Mount Barker (State Suburb) - SA". 2006 Census QuickStats. Retrieved 28 February 2008.
  29. "Early Businesses in Mt Barker SA". The town of Mount Barker in South Australia. 6 May 2008. Retrieved 6 June 2009.
  30. Business Mount Barker Archived 29 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine "Mount Barker Central Shopping Centre"
  31. "Wallis :: Mt Barker". Wallis Cinemas. Retrieved 25 August 2008.
  32. Mount Barker District Golf Club Online
  33. "The Courier".
  34. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  35. "Hills Radio About".
  36. "Bald Hills Road Interchange". Infrastructure SA. Retrieved 23 March 2017.
  37. "Second exit". The Courier. 31 January 2008. Retrieved 25 August 2008.
  38. SES Rescue Archived 7 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine "Annual Reports", page 68 (part 4 page 7)
  39. "Adelaide Metro". 13 December 2011.
  40. "Adelaide Metro".
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