Changes in the landscape

Big changes are occurring in an area in the western suburbs of Adelaide where several Veneto families once had their market gardens.

Aerial photo 1935 – site of development marked up. Used with permission from City of Charles Sturt.


At present, 12.6 hectares of land along Findon Road between Valetta Road and the River Torrens is being prepared for a large housing development. From the 1960s, this site accommodated the former warehouse for goods that were distributed to supermarkets across South Australia. In June 2021, the Metcash food distribution warehouse moved to another area in Adelaide.



Demolition of the site in process, 25 January 2023. Photo taken on Findon Road looking north by Alex Bennett.

If you drive past the site now, you’ll see a vast area of demolition.


The history of the area
There have been three major changes to the use of this particular land in Kidman Park since it was first inhabited by the First Nations population of the area. They had used the river (Karawirra Parri) and its banks as a source of water, food, shelter and cultural practices for thousands of years.  In the 1830s English settlers developed broad acre farms near the River Torrens in the Lockleys Fulham area. From at least the 1890s, the land has been continually subdivided. Land title records show that a property of 150 acres had been divided into smaller parcels in 1894 by a single landowner. Chinese men had leased small plots of land from around this time and grew a range of vegetables, mainly green-leafed vegetables for sale at market.

Demolition in process, looking south-west. 25 January 2023. Photo by Alex Bennett.

The area used as market gardens
By the 1930s when the veneti took up leases, the area was a mix of large landholdings of crops such as lucerne, dairy farms, small intensive vegetable farms and orchards. At that time, apart from the colonial families, smaller owners included returned soldiers who had been allocated land after the First World War. Italians from other regions including Campania and Calabria worked market gardens in the same area.

The Veneto families whose stories have been recorded in the Veneto market gardeners’ oral history project were able to buy the properties that they had leased and they cultivated a range of vegetables – celery, potatoes, cauliflowers, cabbages, lettuces, spinach and other greens, and in glasshouses, tomatoes and beans.

The market gardeners who worked that land were: the Ballantyne family, Daminato family, Narciso and Maria Ballestrin, Nico and Delia Zampin, the West family, Yick Kee, Gino and Jean Berno, the Santin families, Albert and Elvira Berno, Pietro and Antonietta Berno.

When the market gardener families sold their properties in the 1960s, the land was subdivided for housing and some commercial use like the food distribution warehouse. In the following photo, it is possible to see that market gardens still existed when the Kidman Park Girls Technical High School was built in 1964.

Celery farm, West family, Valetta Road and two-storey Kidman Park Girls Technical High School behind the Berno house, c 1965. Photo, Rae Ballantyne.

Changes to the area
People interviewed for the Veneto market gardeners’ oral history project have seen enormous changes in the Findon Road – Valetta Road site. It has moved from being a semi-rural area with large market garden properties with small number of houses on properties, to a neighbourhood subdivided and developed in 1960s – a suburb with single dwellings and gardens and new schools to the existence of the large food distribution warehouse. Within the next few years, the area will have changed again –  a development with medium to high density living and some commercial use on the land that had previously been cultivated by the market gardeners.

Plans for the future
In the initial draft Master Plan for 410-450 Findon Road, Kidman Park, created by Fairland, a residential developer in South Australia and Queensland, the rezoning plan would result in up to 400 residences on the site. The draft concept plans were for mixed use with higher density residential development with some homes and higher density dwellings in townhouses up to a maximum height of five storeys in one area. Some shops, commercial services and a child care centre were also part of the plan.

After a two-month period of consultation in 2022, it was proposed that building heights be limited to a maximum of four storeys and placement of two and three level buildings be modified.

Proposed development of the site on Findon Road – concept plan from Charles Sturt Community Engagement Plan August 2022, p 423. Key: blue- 2 levels, pink, 3 levels, grey, 4 levels. Commercial area -light pink – maximum of 3 levels.

Telling the stories
Photos and plans tell stories about a parcel of land and record changes that occur over many years and several generations. On this site which was influenced by the River Torrens, transformations have created layers of history. The oral histories of the generation who were raised in families on the land near Findon Road and Valetta Road offer vivid accounts of the market gardener community that cultivated vegetables for the South Australian and Victorian markets. Two Veneto families had had their market gardens on the corner of Findon Road and Valetta Road, Maria and Narciso Ballestrin, followed by Nico and Delia Zampin.

Jimmy Ballestrin remembers growing up on that land with his parents, Narciso and Maria, his siblings, Lina, Silvano and Norina and the hard work of the whole family in the market gardens:

Ballestrin family c late 1950s. Back: Narciso, Lina, Maria, Jimmy. Front: Silvano, Norina.
Photo, courtesy, the Ballestrin family.

My mother and father both worked the glasshouses, probably I’d like to say equal, but maybe not quite equal because my mother would have to then go and cook and do all the household duties. Yes, we were taught that we had to help, from a young age, and thinking back on it, we worked very hard as kids, but thought nothing of it because all my friends did exactly the same, and I didn’t hear any of them complain.

We didn’t seem to think it was a chore at all, it was just something that was done.

(Jimmy Ballestrin, OH 872/15, 6 June 2011)

Engagement Report by the City of Charles Sturt, City of Charles Sturt Kidman Park Residential and Mixed Use Code Amendment (Part-Privately Funded)
August 2022 (Please note this document is over 400 pages.)

Planning SA – Fairland Master Plan for 410-450 Findon Road, Kidman Park Master Plan (no date)


Madeleine Regan
29 January 2023

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