One of the common costs associated with building in the Mount Barker area is the cost of Retaining. It is also a part of building that is generally underestimated in both its cost and importance. The lack of clear and easily enforceable regulations in this area increases the cost of building for many people and leaves many properties at risk of structural damage.

The use of Planning Controls to set Datum Points for retaining walls between adjoining blocks of land would resolve many issues as would intervention by Developers through their encumbrances & Design Guidelines.

The Legal Services Commission of South Australia is a great resource and offers a good insight into dealing with retaining walls. It brings clarity to some of the common questions raised: What happens when both are levelling their allotment at the same time? What happens when the low side needs to go first? What happens when the high side needs to go first?

A good approach is used in some areas of Western Australia where datum points for retaining walls are compulsory & set automatically as part of the approvals process. Adjoining allotments are responsible for their portion of  retaining walls & if built in stages  any partly constructed wall must be built to a specification & standard that allows the final stage of a wall to be added & reach the height of the datum point without a new or a second retaining wall having to be built.

In the Mount Barker area a quick fix would be for individual developments to incorporate datum points for retaining walls into their Encumbrances & Design Guidelines.

  • A longer term and fairer solution would be for more specific controls to be enforced through State and Local planning laws.
  • State Government > Fences Act 1975 – to include retaining walls in addition to fences. Creates the mechanism to share and recover costs equitably.
  • Local Government > Council Development Plans – where strict requirements for datum points & retaining walls are set as part of the Development Assessment  & Approval process. Creates an enforceable standard.
  • Individual developers > Encumbrances & Design Guidelines to alert purchasers and builders of the requirement & the need to budget for any retaining wall requirements