Photograph: Supplied by City of Okaparinga

press to zoom

Photograph: Supplied by City of Okaparinga

press to zoom

Photograph: Supplied by City of Okaparinga

press to zoom

Photograph: Supplied by City of Okaparinga

press to zoom





South Australia’s largest metropolitan council, the City of Onkaparinga, is taking a new approach, with a focus on people first, supported by a strategy to integrate place principles throughout the organisation’s operations. Central to this approach is recognition of the importance of working with our communities to unlock the inherent potential in our places, and the potential of our communities to thrive as a result. In addition, this approach is based on the notion that the delivery, activation, and management of great places, can only be achieved by integrating place principles throughout the organisation. 

"delivery, activation, and management of great places, can only be achieved by integrating place principles throughout the organisation."


Just 30 minutes from Adelaide, Onkaparinga boasts the McLaren Vale wine region and some 31 kilometres of pristine coastline, supporting both urban and rural communities. Extensive community engagement around five years ago prompted the council to prepare a vision for its community that recognised the need for more meaningful local experiences and places that underpin an enviable lifestyle and identity. However, the council and its communities wanted to deliver more – to deliver ‘active, diverse destinations’ where townships and centres are active hubs for gathering, shopping, and entertainment. It is this ambition that has led to the preparation of the Onkaparinga Placemaking Strategy. The City of Onkaparinga has a vision for the future of its 172,000 residents – with ‘place’ being front and centre.


In the early stages of developing the Onkaparinga Placemaking Strategy, it became clear that the council would need to improve its holistic approach for its places to be successful. This extends from physical characteristics (such as urban design and construction); to the people within the space (attracted through programs, events, and interesting things to see and do); to the process for managing the place now and in future (whether by the council or the community). Great places ‘hang together’ as a whole, not by chance, but by an understanding and recognition of the relationship between design and activity. Great places also often have great communities that proactively encourage, direct and manage what happens in their spaces.

 "Great places ‘hang together’ as a whole, not by chance, but by an understanding and recognition of the relationship between design and activity"


The strategy recognises that we, as a community and organisation, are already active ‘place-makers’ -  but that a fresh community-led approach is needed to realise the full potential of our people’s connection to place. This realisation led to our three ‘Key Shifts’:

(1) People: committing to assisting communities to take the lead in planning, managing and activating as the Council transitions to an enabling and assisting role;

(2) Place:  Recognising the intersection of shaping, activating, and managing;

(3) Potential: looking at ways in which council can step back to allow for spontaneity, change, fun, and having a go. Activities and systems that support these ideas need to be correspondingly fleet-footed, adventurous, and responsive.



The next step was to introduce five actions to change the way council conducted its business:

  1. A review of service standards to ensure alignment to the strategy, such as considering the level of bin collection or street sweeping, and reviewing footpath widths and materials;

  2. A three-year, city-wide Place Activation Program focused on supporting businesses (recognising that without thriving businesses, our places struggle to sustainably maintain vibrancy and activation);

  3. A review of permits, bylaws, leases and licenses relating to the use of public spaces to ensure support for community ambition and encourage community ownership and activation;

  4. Development of place management guidelines to support internally led community programs and empower community groups to take greater ownership of their places;

  5. Implementation of a change management and capacity building program ensuring all staff understand and embrace the concepts of place from top to bottom.



The success of the place-making strategy and action plan is dependent upon the process being guided by place principles and the three key shifts, of People, Place and Potential. As such, a comprehensive communication plan was delivered (inclusive of customised team information sessions, staff presentations, use of online platforms), and the establishment of a Placemaking Officer Group.  These tools have enabled the council to inform and educate staff leading to new connections, ideas, and outcomes and we are excited about the future changes of a place-led approach.



As part of the City of Onkaparinga’s Place-making and economic growth and investment strategies, the council opened a pop-up space in a vacant shop on Beach Road, Christies Beach to gather the communities’ ideas for the precinct’s future. The Pop-Up helped council connect with residents, visitors, groups, and local businesses to build a bank of ideas, and opportunities to activate and enhance the area.

Council’s aim was to generate ideas for Beach Road and demonstrate the great potential this area has. While Beach Road is already a vibrant and busy precinct with a diverse mix of businesses, there remains huge potential for the strip to become an iconic destination. To activate the space, and to draw people into the pop-up, the council presented a range of free events, art exhibitions, networking sessions, and music performances. Council also introduced a parklet outside the shop as an additional temporary dining space for nearby businesses, and as a mechanism to activate pop-up bars and similar business ventures.

In addition, the Christies Beach Business and Tourism Association (CBBTA) also supported the Pop-Up shop initiative, arranging network evenings, social events, and a range of street activities. Subsequently, 16 start-up businesses trialled operating in a retail environment in our pop-up shop; more than 40 businesses enquired directly with us about setting up operations on Beach Road, and; approximately 6,500 people visited the space and provided their thoughts and ideas on the future of Beach Road.

Council has also provided assistance to both existing and potential new businesses in terms of managing Council approvals, and negotiating and understanding various issues they might be facing. An example of this is the establishment of Blue Pepper Wine Bar which was developed in a vacant bank building on Beach Road. Council’s artist impressions, which were based on the ideas we received from the community through the Pop-Up shop, we posted online via the CBBTA’s ‘onbeachroad’ Facebook site. The site had over 40,000 views of the illustrations and a significant number of inquiries - from as far as China - about setting up on Beach Road.  As a result, a young lady named Kirra will soon take over the pop-up shop to establish a new café business. Kirra has also expressed a keen desire to have a ‘Parklet’ out front of Kibbi’s. Council has guided her through the process of setting up the business.