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Rex Patrick confirms Lord Mayor tilt, calls for new 20-year city plan

EXCLUSIVE | Rex Patrick will run for Adelaide Lord Mayor this year, with the former senator unveiling a campaign platform of council transparency, better governance and a new long-term plan for the city.

Aug 08, 2022, updated Sep 07, 2022
Rex Patrick campaign to for Adelaide Lord Mayor will begin today. Photo: supplied

Rex Patrick campaign to for Adelaide Lord Mayor will begin today. Photo: supplied

Patrick will launch his campaign today as an independent candidate for Lord Mayor ahead of formally putting his name forward when nominations open on August 23.

The former submariner and senator for South Australia has been widely expected to run in the October-November Adelaide City Council election since he first flagged on June 30 that he was weighing up the opportunity.

The decision will pit him against incumbent first-term Lord Mayor Sandy Verschoor for the top job at Town Hall.

Revealing his platform to InDaily, Patrick said he would campaign on improving the council’s transparency, governance and planning for the city.

One of centrepieces of his platform will be drafting new “fully integrated” 10- and 20-year “City Plans”, encompassing strategies for population and transport, greening and sustainability, streets, squares and the Adelaide park lands.

He also said the Adelaide Design Manual – a document guiding the design and management of the CBD’s public spaces – needed an update.

“Nowhere can you find something that says ‘this is what Adelaide will look like in 10 years’, and to me that’s hugely problematic,” he said.

“It just seems to me like … a block of land becomes available and then the council thinks about what might go on that block of land, or even a developer might think about what goes on the block of land.

“And it ends up with the tail wagging the dog.”

Patrick, an East End resident, said the council was “still catching up” with the city’s rapid population growth over the last 20 years.

“In every council meeting, there’s a statement that’s made about Colonel Light recognising the manner in which he laid out the city with the park lands and the six squares,” he said.

“It seems to me like that’s a platitude … the council doesn’t have the same sort of plan that Colonel Light had all those years ago.”

Patrick said he would aim to have his new city plans “close to settlement” within two and a half years of being elected.

He also said the council would need to look at reducing Adelaide’s reliance on cars – possibly by extending the city’s tram network.

“You can see from the census data that the number of cars that are just owned by residents have gone up dramatically over the last two census periods,” he said.

“That does create a whole range of problems. If we had better mass transit then I think we could do something to abate that.

“I think we need to encourage people to look to adopt other means and they’ll only do that if you’ve got clean, affordable and comfortable transport alternatives.

“That might involve extending the tram network, it might involve other approaches – the point is you make a call for designers to make proposals, it has to be done in conjunction with the state government, and then you lay that out on the table.”

Since flagging his potential run for Mayor in June, Patrick has been in a public fight with the council administration over their decision to refuse a freedom of information request for the land contract for the lucrative Eighty Eight O’Connell St development in North Adelaide.

He has previously indicated he will introduce sweeping changes to the application of confidentiality to council documents and business submissions, in a bid to create a “positive disclosure regime” and “encourage greater public involvement in Council business”.

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Patrick will enjoy the support of at least two councillors, veteran North Ward councillors Phil Martin and Anne Moran.

Martin put his name forward as a candidate for mayor last year but has dropped out to support Patrick’s campaign.

Patrick has repeatedly vowed to run as a factionally-unaligned candidate. He said he would reject “majority politics where the winner takes all” if he were elected.

“You need to be able to encapsulate the views [of councillors],” he said.

“It doesn’t mean that everyone gets what they want, but everyone respectfully puts their position, they do so with equal weighting and hopefully we find a pathway through things.”

Asked whether he was concerned his agenda could get stymied by an unsupportive Town Hall, Patrick said: “I don’t think anyone would be offended by the agenda I’m putting forward at the very top level.”

“It’s hard to argue against transparency, it’s hard to argue against being collegial, it’s also hard to argue against having a plan,” he said.

“Every person that I’ve spoken to has indicated to me, and I’m talking about right across the current council and others that have aspiration to run for council, have accepted my proposition that things happen by way of happenstance.

“So I don’t think it will be hard to get people behind the idea of having a vision for the city by way of the city plan laid out in front of people.”

A former Centre Alliance member, Patrick garnered around two per cent of the vote running as an independent in a crowded South Australian senate race this year.

Voting packs for the Adelaide City Council election will be mailed out between October 14 and October 20.

Voting will close on November 10 and the count will begin on Saturday, November 12.

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