Wellington East residents worried about Something Wild, Richard Gunner's native food business, setting up

Concerned: Michelle Henderson-Brown opposes the idea of a bush foods harvesting operation opposite her property. Photo: Peri Strathearn.
Concerned: Michelle Henderson-Brown opposes the idea of a bush foods harvesting operation opposite her property. Photo: Peri Strathearn.

The opening of a business which promises to reduce Indigenous unemployment has been delayed by a dispute about whether it should be based in a residential area.

Richard Gunner plans to open a packing facility on Kelsey Road at Wellington East, two sheds where bush foods picked nearby by a predominantly Aboriginal workforce could be prepared for transport.

The produce would be sold through Something Wild at the Adelaide Central Market.

Neighbours concerned

Michelle Henderson-Brown worries the facility, and the noise and traffic associated with it, will hurt her chances of establishing holiday rental properties on three blocks of land across the road.

She believed there would be more than two dozen truck movements in and out of the site each day.

"The mayor's been on radio saying we need to build more accommodation for the motor sport park," she said.

"We're willing to invest more than $1 million.

"I can't understand why they'd want to ruin it."

She said she had no issue with the business itself, just its location.

"When we bought our blocks, that was advertised as residential land," she said.

"The business is a good idea, and good on Richard for the funding going, but it's just the wrong place."

Another nearby resident, Doug Winfield, voiced concern about the value of his property.

"I would never have bought if I knew that was going along in the pipeline," he said.

High-value business

Proponent Richard Gunner said the rumours going around about the impact his business would have were "completely overblown", as pickers were already working nearby and second-stage packing would be done in Mount Barker.

He said Kelsey Street was the best site for a packing shed because it was close to the plants being harvested.

"In terms of any perishable or horticultural produce, you want to be able to pick and store as quickly as possible," he said.

"That's the first stage of processing to maximise shelf life.

"We've got customers like Crown in Sydney, we send stuff to Darwin, so we need to maximise shelf life to access many markets so there's more jobs for the region."

To begin with, he said, nothing bigger than a large van or small truck would be coming in and out.

"If we were to try to do a normal horticultural activity on that site, that could be something that could maybe be of concern, but ... there'll be substantially less traffic movements than a lettuce or broccoli farm," he said.

"This is a massive natural resource in our region, a fantastic story in terms of the connection to the Ngarrindjeri people, there are huge export opportunities.

"I struggle to see the down side."

Ngarrindjeri jobs

There is only one from the perspective of Mark Koolmatrie, who has worked with Mr Gunner on the project: up to 20 jobs have been put on hold while the facility goes through the approval process.

"I've been trying to get things happening for our people in the Murraylands," he said.

"We're patient people, but this has been really frustrating.

"We've got people willing to work, but it has been about six months waiting to get on board."

He even hoped any extra workers who might move to the Murraylands could help a cause close to his heart: the Meningie Football Club.

An application to build a second shed on the Wellington East site is currently open to public comment through the Coorong District Council, though submissions will close tomorrow.


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