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City council flags citywide oversight role for Rundle Mall management

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The Rundle Mall Management Authority could be transformed into a new agency tasked with overseeing marketing, investment and business growth across the CBD and North Adelaide under an Adelaide City Council plan.

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Business groups have long-called for a unified agency to market the city as South Australia’s premier retail destination, amid increasing competition from suburban shopping precincts and a growth in online sales.

InDaily reported last year that the proposed council-funded, independent board would oversee the eight not-for-profit precinct groups and traders associations that are currently tasked with representing the interests of residents and businesses in their respective areas.

During last night’s council committee meeting, councillors discussed how the agency would be formed, including a proposal to amend the Rundle Mall Management Authority (RMMA) charter.

According to a council report, the role of the new agency would likely overlap with the RMMA’s current role to promote, market and encourage visitation to the popular retail strip.

“There is a benefit in considering whether the RMMA’s charter can be amended to incorporate the whole city, with an expanded area of responsibility including economic development, investment attraction, business and visitor growth and city-wide marketing,” the report states.  

“Given the proposed subsidiary’s strategic importance in delivering economic growth and marketing of the city and its broader purpose and function than that of the RMMA, it is likely that the existing board membership of the RMMA would need to change if it became the proposed subsidiary.

“It is anticipated that board members of the proposed subsidiary would be appointed by Council following an expression of interest process.”  

Economic development associate director Michelle English said the council was not proposing to put the RMMA “on steroids”; rather, to use its charter as a legal vessel to establish the new agency.

“Obviously this body would have a much broader remit for the whole of the city,” she told last night’s meeting.

“It’s really looking at is there an existing vehicle that could simplify the process for a new subsidiary.”

English said the council could alternatively create a new charter for the agency, but that process would be more laborious and time-consuming. 

“Talking to business groups there’s a lot of interest in really putting the foot to the pedal and getting action really quickly done, so this (amending the RMMA charter) is a way of really fast-tracking that,” she said.

In a statement, RMMA General Manager Johanna Williams said she was working with the council on the proposal.

“In the meantime, Rundle Mall Management is focussed on fulfilling its remit by supporting the recovery of traders, businesses and property owners as COVID-19 restrictions ease,” she said.

InDaily also contacted RMMA chair Peter Joy for comment.

Area councillor and RMMA board member Franz Knoll said it was “critical” that the agency operate at “arm’s length” from the council.

“It is an overarching model that is about commercial interests and also city interests overall,” he said.  

“I’m quite excited by what we’re doing.”

The council anticipates the new agency could start operating by January next year pending what option it chooses to form the group.  

Deputy Lord Mayor Alexander Hyde said more consultation was needed with business and precinct groups to reduce “anxiety and angst” that the current RMMA board would increase its oversight over the city.  

“A lot of people feel the RMMA doesn’t consult with them enough, and doesn’t engage with them enough,” he said.

“I think it’s really important for us to get this right.”

The council said it would discuss with the RMMA how to ensure the Rundle Mall levy would only be expended for the benefit of the retail strip.

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