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Monarto, South Australia facts for kids

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South Australia
Monarto is located in South Australia
Location in South Australia
Population 209 (2016 census)
Established 1908
16 March 2003 (locality)
Postcode(s) 5254
Time zone ACST (UTC+9:30)
 • Summer (DST) ACDT (UTC+10:30)
Location 63 km (39 mi) from Adelaide
LGA(s) Rural City of Murray Bridge
Region Murray and Mallee
County Sturt
State electorate(s) Kavel
Federal Division(s) Barker
Localities around Monarto:
Rockleigh Rockleigh Pallamana
Callington Monarto Pallamana
Rocky Gully
Callington Monarto South Monarto South
Footnotes Adjoining localities

Monarto is a locality in South Australia 16 km (9.9 mi) west of the Murray River. It is north of the South Eastern Freeway between the Callington and Murray Bridge exits 63 km from Adelaide.

Most of the residents of Monarto run small hobby-like farms, raising cows, sheep and horses. Crops in the area include wheat, oats and barley.

In the 1970s Monarto was proposed to be the site of a new satellite city of Adelaide originally known as "New Murray Town". By the turn of the century the proposal had been completely abandoned.


The locality of Monarto was originally a private subdivision of section 210 of the Hundred of Monarto, from which it took its name, the hundred having been gazetted in 1847. The township was laid out in 1908. The name of the hundred was after an aboriginal woman, "Queen Monarto", who lived in the area at the time of its proclamation.

Monarto project

In 1970 the Labor-led South Australian government headed by Don Dunstan was concerned that Adelaide would become overpopulated, after a rapid increase in population growth caused by high rates of birth and immigration that occurred in 1960s.

In total the population growth rate had excess of 3% per annum and the government estimated the city would reach 1.5 million by the end of the century. Further, the authorities believed that the growing population would sooner or later become a threat to the quality of urban life (social and environmental) which at the time was relatively high.

An expansion of the city would also threaten the attractive wine producing areas that could be found in the south and north of the city. To solve the problem of increasing population, the government proposed that another city should be built, about 80 km east of Adelaide. They named it Monarto and held the view that it would work as a kind of supporting city, where Adelaide residents could move.

The government had estimated that 1.3 million was the optimal size for Adelaide which meant that Monarto would have about 200,000 by the end of the century. Monarto was to become a new city that would work as a satellite city to Adelaide and since it was far enough away it was important that Monarto would have its own identity and economy. This made it difficult to define what kind of city Monarto was supposed to be.

However, some people where suspicious about the project and the reasons behind it. For instance, some thought that the project was motivated by political interest and that the state government only wanted to improve its electoral prospects in nearby Murray Bridge. Others believed that the state government only wanted to have a development project that was close to Adelaide and its economy, but still far enough from it so it could be included to the "new cities programme". Additionally, a geographer called Professor Peter Scott was sceptic about the idea of a new city and pointing out that the growing rates of population was lesser than had been projected.

Structure of Monarto Project

The main purpose with the programme was to facilitate a decentralized policy in regional and urban planning and by that alleviating some of the problems that were coming with the rapidly growing cities.

In the beginning there was some opposition about including the project in the programme. Nevertheless, there was also a strong consensus that in order to succeed with establishing a city, it is crucial to have a strong public sector employment base in the early phases of development. According to the Monarto development commission, Monarto was going to develop into a small city after years of working as a large country town. This attitude would come to affect planning over the area, as the commission wanted to find a balance between the natural features of the site and built-form and infrastructure.

Small scale scenarios, such as the city centre would have public spaces as a key feature, with adjacent buildings as complement. On broad citywide scales, key landscape features would form the basis of park lands articulating built-up areas.

Dunstan on the other hand had his own vision of the project, according to him Monarto was going to become "a new vision of Australian city", it was going to hold the best part from social planning and family convenience. The town would not contain any dilapidated housing estates or standard housing. Instead it would hold palatial town-houses and other houses that were made for civil servants. The inner-center would only hold leisurely cycle paths since the town should be small but beautiful, a "virgin city". To secure the economy, three industrial areas with focusing on light industry were going to be established. The goal was to spread South Australia’s industrial base around the state but it didn’t meet any success.

After year of planning and conflicts about compensation of farmland that have been compulsorily acquired, the project reached a turning point when new studies showed that the population growth was excessive. Also, in 1975 the federal Whitlam government was controversially dismissed which resulted in the "new cities programme" where shut- down. This was a hard about-face and after some years in 1980 the project of Monarto faced the same outcome.

Collapse of Monarto Project

There are several reasons why the development of Monarto did not take place, despite the fact that it was an ambitious project. The main factor that stopped the project was the evidence of a much smaller population growth than was projected. Because of that, the government lost its main argument for building a new town, which resulted in less support from the already doubtful federal government, which become even more unwilling to give any further aid to Dunstan’s project.

Another factor was the economic failure, a combination of lack of success in attracting private enterprises and the economic recession that occurred during the 1970s which made it very difficult to transfer any job from Adelaide. A third aspect which played a more unofficial part in the downfall of the Monarto project was the constant resistance and suspicious from various interest groups.

Many never really believed in the project and this may have affected the project in terms of support and financial aid. For instance, many thought the geographical location was vulnerable from an economic perspective since it was too close to Adelaide to develop an independent economy. On the political level, as already mentioned, many were doubting the wisdom of the project which made it harder to get everyone to work at it in the same direction. Also, the entering of the new federal government was a direct contribution to the shutdown of the project, due to their loss of will in contributing any more money.

The project of Monarto was ambitious, but the shortfall in urban planning and the different obstacles made it remain an unrealized proposal and the plan never came to fruition. A large portion of the land targeted by the project has now been taken up by the Monarto Zoo, established in 1983.

Leisure and sport facilities

  • The 1,500-hectare (3,700-acre) Monarto Safari Park, the world's largest open range zoo.
  • Monarto Shooting Club
  • Murray Bridge Motocross Club, with a track that permits both two-wheel motorcycles and quad bikes.


Monarto is adjacent to the main Adelaide to Wolseley line, with Monarto South station formerly a junction for the Sedan branch line running north on the plain between the Murray River and the Mount Lofty Ranges.

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