Stop thinking Adelaide — and start acting, says the state’s former Commissioner for Integrated Design

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A view of Adelaide from the new Torrens foot bridge. Picture: Calum Robertson

ADELAIDE “thinks but never grows” because city leaders give people false hope that change is on the way, the state’s former Commissioner for Integrated Design has warned.

In a highly outspoken attack, Timothy Horton said a generation of “old thinkers and old men” had overseen years of inferior debate about how to improve the state.

His criticism was directed at Adelaide City Council after it conducted an event linked to developing a city vision two weeks ago while in caretaker period.

The think tank related to Picture Adelaide 2040, a project that sought community feedback about how to improve the city.

The council conducted a similar community event the previous week.

Under local government laws, councils in caretaker mode must not use public resources to make decisions which may “unreasonably, inappropriately, or unnecessarily bind” an incoming administration.

The council insisted the events did not breach caretaker policy as councillors had ratified them earlier this year.

Timothy Horton is critical of Adelaide City Council’s approach to expansion.

But Mr Horton, who has just stepped down as the Committee for Adelaide chief executive, said conducting the events during caretaker was “foolish and damaging to authentic engagement”.

“This (the event) is the right thing to do but the wrong time to do it,” Mr Horton told The City.

“My concern is Adelaide thinks but never grows and it does so by locking people into the perception that change is on its way.

“We need a creative bureaucracy. We don’t need half-baked cowboys engaging people in juvenile ways. There is a perception the city can think but never act.”

Mr Horton said he had received numerous messages from public sector bureaucrats who were highly critical of the event and the “ironic” ban on posting comments to social media.

He said there were three steps in organising public engagement — “you ask what you want, what you propose, then you action”.

“I have no axe to grind, in fact I have the opposite,” he said. “This is about public administration ineptitude.”

In a statement, council boss Peter Smith said the events had been “very well received”.

He said the current council approved a nine-month community engagement plan in July, which was specifically designed to ensure it did not breach the council’s caretaker policy.

“The engagement plan approved by council was always to gather information and views in this term so the new council can form and endorse a vision for Adelaide 2040, which will be one of their first tasks,” he said.

“I am always happy to explain our engagement process to those who care to ask and welcome constructive feedback on ways to improve the process.”

The administration is now assessing the survey’s information and analysing it before reporting back to the new council.

Lord Mayoral candidate Kelly Henderson also attacked the council over its special meeting during caretaker period a fortnight ago, in which it decided to change its dry zone proposal.

She said that the meeting, which proposed changing a 24-hour dry zone in the south parklands to an alcohol ban for the entire parklands area from 8pm to 1pm, was “wowserism gone mad”.

A council spokeswoman said legal advice found the meeting could proceed because it was not a major policy change but was instead a revision of an existing plan.