“Sod the wine, I want to suck on the writing. This man White is an instinctive writer, bloody rare to find one who actually pulls it off, as in still gets a meaning across with concision. Sharp arbitrage of speed and risk, closest thing I can think of to Cicero’s ‘motus continuum animi.’

Probably takes a drink or two to connect like that: he literally paints his senses on the page.”

DBC Pierre (Vernon God Little, Ludmila’s Broken English, Lights Out In Wonderland)

Winner: Booker prize; Whitbread prize; Bollinger Wodehouse Everyman prize; James Joyce Award from the Literary & Historical Society of University College Dublin

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28 July 2009

HALLIDAY FEELS THE CHILL NEW HEAT

JAMES HALLIDAY THINKS FUTURE OF MURRAY IS IMPOSSIBLE TO PREDICT

Why Didn't He See This First? (No Second Chance Up Shit Creek!) Fourth Estate Pundit Finally Predicts Third World Down Under Fifth Columnist There All Along
 
James Halliday, if the pre-publicity for his new book is any indicator, seems to be discovering that the Australian wine business is in deep shit.

In his annual compendium of five star wineries to be published tomorrow, Halliday threatens that Australia is about to become a "Third World wine producer ... with the prospect of losing all the huge gains made in the industry since the 1980s”.

But the famous winemaker, author, critic and wine show judge still doesn’t seem to get it. His reluctance to grasp reality has become, in fact, a first-class symptom of the whole dread disease. Any business whose success depends upon a weak currency, the butchering of arid land, and a supply of endless water that doesn’t exist, is surely decrepit from the start.

In tomorrow’s book, Halliday maintains the "future of the Murray Darling [is] almost impossible to predict''.

"Out of these and other issues, the view has emerged that the annual crush should be permanently reduced by up to 400,000 tonnes ... so 46,500ha have to be removed,'' he has written.

I would have thought the future of the Murray Darling Basin is very easy to predict. What was is over. The Basin’s cactus. Any river with a dead estuary is a dead river. And the Murray is well and truly dead down my end. Where the estuary used to be.

Which leads to the responsibilities of the respected critic. While wine writers have done little more than promote themselves along with an impossible-to-grasp scrillion product recommendations, I began writing about the wine industry’s environmental record in the early ’eighties, and so drew constant fire from a string of editors, most of whom eventually fired me.

I know this was published somewhere away back in DRINKSTER, but I should again draw your attention to a speech I made ten years ago. It’s long, but it makes very clear the fact that the collapse of the Australian wine industry could be very easily forecast with a fair deal of precision many, many years ago.

Those who constantly did little else but talk it up should surely share the wine industry’s blame for the destruction of waters, communities, land and public health it has wrought since the boom began.

Here follows a lesson about hubris.

THE MOUTH OF THE RIVER MURRAY FILLS WITH SEA SAND AND CLOSES IF IT'S NOT DREDGED - THERE IS INSUFFICIENT FLOW TO KEEP IT OPEN
The wine industry and urban and rural South Australia


Speech to the AGM of the Australian Institute of Urban Studies, 26 March 1999, and delivered later to planning students at the University of Adelaide, Wednesday 13th October, 1999.

by PHILIP WHITE

You may be surprised to hear that I'm deeply interested in water.

I pay particular attention to the Murray Valley. During the last vintage, I flew its length, boated upon it, and traversed and criss-crossed its valley by car. Beginning at its mouth - which discharges nothing more than idiots on jet skis who swarm through to infuriate surf fishermen enjoying the isolation outside - I have travelled upstream, if stream is what you would call it. Cancerous bowel is more like it.

The first point of interest, beyond Tom and Wendy's boat thing, is the vineyard district called Langhorne Creek, whose size was always limited by the reach of the flooding of the Bremer. There was a good fresh aquifer there, but greed and ignorance saw it sucked until it turned too saline for use.

So the local politician, the then Premier, Dean Brown, arranged new irrigation permits with the Murray Darling Commission, permitting new pipelines to irrigate the higher ground with water from Lake Alexandrina. That saw the Creek explode in a rush of prospective viticulture that seems to dwarf the gold rush which helped set the whole neighbourhood on its feet last century.

In 1991, there were 471 hectares of immaculately tended vineyard at Langhorne Creek. This area had been restricted and limited by the amount of available water. But by mid 1997, with the Premier’s extra squirt, there were about 2,500 hectares, and the locals thought that might double, by 2002, to about 5,000 hectares. But at the closing of vintage 1999, vignerons counted 4317 hectares, most of which has yet to bear a commercial crop. That's tenfold in eight years, with no mention of stopping. Nobody in the Creek knows how much has been planted this year, but it’s huge.

In one $30 million hit, Peter Pargeter, of Vinescape Management Services, planted 320 hectares for the Guild Pharmacists’ superannuation fund, on completely unproven land. Orlando's new vineyard alone involves 200,000 trellis posts, 1,000 kilometres of drip line, and 50,000 kilometres of wire.

Among the new speculators are some of the country's biggest wine names and some notorious abusers of water. Some vineyards are already weedy and unkempt, but because most of them are yet to produce a berry, nobody really knows whether the flavours of the bold new irrigated world will match the classic trophy-winning mudflat characteristics that led them to this district in the first place.

There is one advantage these new, slightly higher vineyards have over those on the traditional floodplain. Until the stagnant Lake itself is poisoned, they will escape, for a short time, the pollution that will come down the Brukunga Creek and the Bremer from the two leaking mine tailings dams there. The Kanmantoo dam holds millions of tonnes of arsenic, copper, detergent, reagents, lead and lord knows what. Under light rain, it leaked 300 gallons per minute when I worked there in 1972. Nobody works there now, so nobody sees.

Leave the cowboys of Langhorne and fly north to Wellington. The Lake's surprisingly healthy green may be broken here or there by some algal bloom, until the Murray oozes in like a twist of pus. Last summer, its water was yellow. Follow it to Morgan, where Southcorp recently sold 1,200 hectares of vineyard. This was mainly used for cheap bladder pack wines, but Southcorp finds it better business now to source that fruit in third world countries, where there are few restrictions on irrigation and few environmental controls. And the peasants are not so greedy about wages.

Across the river, BRL-Hardy plans to stick around. When it bought the over-grazed Banrock Station and took the sheep off to make way for irrigated vineyards, it discovered the reeds and native vegetation along its significant river frontage regrew. This is now being championed internationally as an environmental triumph. Early Banrock bladder packs were made with wild seeds impregnated in the cardboard, so they'd grow if you soaked them in water. Advertisements for the clean green Banrock hit even the pages of The National Geographic.

And yet Banrock is still a high-yielding, scorched earth policy vineyard, with nothing organic about it. It's sobering if not outright depressing in its dull monoculture, and it's irrigated with water from a river that carries over two and a half tonnes of salt - per minute - past you as you stand there at the huge pumps.

Cross the vast reaches of dead salinated riverflats toward Renmark and the east, and outside the river channel, you'll see new vineyards crawling towards all horizons, across marginal, or seriously arid land. Mr. Goyder has long been forgotten. This growth mirrors the rest of Australia's viticulture.



In 1995, prominent wine industrialists devised a thirty year plan for the growth of the wine industry. They called it Strategy 2025, and preached that gospel so loudly to politicians, speculators and tax dodgers that we now have thirty years worth of vineyard expansion suddenly undertaken and complete, with no planning nor overview, in just four years. Nobody really knows how much has been planted, but estimates of an increase of between 25% and 30% are not considered wild. I could think of more edifying ways of spending a billion dollars.

At Mildura, plantings are so profuse that there’s one unexpected result which reminds the community of its excess every day when the soil dries out enough for the automatic irrigation switching to turn all the new pumps on. In the old days, human nature saw pumps turned on and off all day, depending on what time the farmer crawled from bed. Now that it’s automatic and preset, and all happens at once, and you get an electricity discount if you install a bigger pump, Mildura’s lights go out when the pumps turn on. There’s not enough power in the grid to drive the pumps.

Twenty or thirty per cent of Australia's total vineyard has yet to produce a berry. South Australia leads the way, with 47.1% of the nation's new plantings for 97-98. More of this has occurred in the Upper Murray than in any other district.

It's interesting that the most popular varieties planted, cabernet sauvignon in the reds and that weed, chardonnay, in the whites, both require good French oak for proper maturation.















Just as an indicator of how utterly stupid this development has been, consider the oak forests of France. In 1991, for example - the most recent figure I can procure - France harvested enough oak to make about 250,000 barrels. If the 20,000 hectares of Australian plantings yet to produce a berry eventually produce 12.5 tonnes per hectare, which is modest, and all this was the great quality stuff they're promising, and it all got the "new French oak" treatment which the back labels promise, and Australia by miracle took possession of ALL of France's annual barrel make, then we'd be about 300,000 barrels short. And we're talking only of the 20,000 hectares which have not yet produced a berry.

No effort was put into exploring premium grape varieties which provide flavours that don't require French oak. No effort was put into selecting varieties or clones which do better in marginal land, or which require less water to thrive.

This sort of blindness is best reflected in a recent remark of Dr. Richard Smart, Australia's pre-eminent viniculturer. Dick pointed out that the trendy world of microbiology, cloning and DNA manipulation now uses most of Australia's grape research dollar, while there are at least 10,000 grape varieties known on earth which have never been trialled in Australia.

But back to wood. Wine and wood have an even more perverse relationship. A year ago, Tim Frazer, the Murraylands Regional Investigator for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, grew sick and tired of Riverlanders whingeing about how slow he was to process their applications for new native vegetation clearances for viniculture. So he went public in what he thought was the least sensational manner, and told his local Riverland ABC radio that his apparent sluggishness occurred because he was too busy pursuing illegal clearances, which it was his duty to prosecute.

By the time I'd reported this in The Australian, just a few days later, Tim had been silenced. "He's not allowed to talk to the media", a telephonist politely explained. Word was he'd been despatched to the Gammon Ranges, handed a Winchester, and told to shoot goats.



When a reader of my columns wrote to Premier Olsen and Minister Kotz for an opinion on such deviant mutterings of mine, relating to illegal clearances and published in The Advertiser, they said I used too much journalistic flair. The Premier announced that I was simply incorrect.

But back to the water. Cross the border to Wentworth, and you'll see where the pus has been coming from. To the east, the Murray's a murky brown. But at Wentworth, the jaundiced clay-filled Darling comes in from the cotton fields of Queensland. Some bright spark recently decided to give the Darling such a flush that thousands of red gums along its banks have collapsed into its stream. But this doesn't stop the viniculturers, who are spreading in desert land between Wilcannia and Bourke, all sucking the last few drops of that yellow muck through their huge pumps.


And on it goes. The Barossa's Viniculturer of the Year 1998, Prue Henschke, called for a national ban on native vegetation clearance for new vineyard development. You can hear the moans: she's fortunate that the Henschke families did their clearing long before her marriage to Stephen, so she now has the run of such enviable heritage vineyards as the Hill of Grace.

The Barossa vignerons are peeved because the McLaren Vale district this year surpassed them for total plantings. Once again, this is determined by available water resources. So the Barossa has set up a private company of interested vignerons who are planning a new pipeline to suck in more of that salty water from the Murray, just to set the numbers right again.

Old Barossa Lutherans cleared vineyard blocks as deftly as they cleared church and school land, because everything was done to the glory of God. It seems that the Australian wine industry has changed dieties since.

Henschke's comment followed that of Michael Himsworth, Chairman of the Riverland Wine Grape Council, and Deputy of the Wine Grape Section of the S.A. Farmers Federation. He made a bitter complaint about short-sightedness plaguing the biggest Murray Valley wineries, souring vintage 1998.

"We've seen vineyard area nearly double in response to industry calls", he said, "yet the wineries certainly haven't doubled in processing capacity, so they're telling growers they should leave their grapes on the vines and wait." He went on to say, and I quote: "The winemakers have become incredibly arrogant. They order more fruit than they can process properly, especially reds. They can't cope when vintage happens all at once, like it's happening all around Australia now."

The growers' critical moment is that short climax of ripening, when the grapes' sugar and acid levels, and their pH, are at the optimum. It's vital that they should be picked and processed at that point. Beyond it, acids fall, sugars rise, berries raisin, weight drops, and skins may split and moulds occur if it rains. The wines are jammy and dim, and require a great deal more chemical manipulation. A day or two of typical summer can make the difference between glittering trophies and pitiful bladder packs; between Jimmy Watson’s and Victoria Square.

"And these buggers are expecting some growers to wait not just a day or two, but two or three weeks after ripening", Himsworth said. "By that stage you can kiss it goodbye."

And that was 1998. 1999 was much, much worse. Next year makes people quiver. These matters deserve immediate attention. The wine industry councils have no chance of addressing them while they refuse to admit that these dire problems are the direct result of their gung-ho management regime. Not to mention the little matter of over-production leading to certain grape price slumps, especially in a place like the Mallee, which the industry approaches like a mine for cheap legal sugar. You can hear the lips smacking.

These problems are occurring at different intensities right across eastern Australia. I think I have made my point.

But governments regard the wine industry as vital and wise advisors in other industries, too. The same people responsible for this economic and environmental time bomb are now being regarded as tourism and cultural experts.

Let's talk for a moment about culture and tourism and the wine industry.

Tourism, I presume, is travelling for pleasure. If that be so, the success of all tourism depends upon food and wine. As a person whose profession requires the constant pruning back of stories, I should stop there. My theorising is complete.

But what leads me to continue is the sad fact that food and wine operatives are rarely expert at tourism. In fact, most of them are not even expert at food or wine.

I first visited the Barossa in 1959 and lived there for the latter half of the eighties. I soon discovered that a newcomer was anybody who did not arrive on the first ship, or their descendants. A stranger was somebody who’d lived there for twenty years or less. Everyone else is a tourist.

Except for black pudding, schwarzrtbrot and metwurst, the Barossa ate bland white food:

cauliflower, white sauce, cabbage (fermented to sauerkraut in wooden troughs by apronned ladies in the local factory), pickles, pork, fritz, chicken, potato, grain - and its white products - onion and a little garlic.

Since the advent of wine tourism, the sauerkraut factory shut down, along with most of the wurst houses. The health authorities advised Fechner’s Apex bakery, which still uses a woodfire oven, that its wholemeal bread didn’t meet the government fibre regulations, and suggested the addition of some chicken feathers if the local stoneground flour couldn’t come up to the grade.

I knew it was over when I received a complaint about my review recommending that a certain local spatlese riesling - the traditional German style - would go very well with saeurkraut and smoked wursts. A local said I was being patronising.

Many Barossans cried foul when I argued for the retention of their ancient settler’s cottages against the wave of triple-fronted cream brick veneers in which they all quite sensibly sought to live. So up went all those perfectly clean and tidy new houses, leaving the perves called Cultural tourists with no old walls to peer over.

The Barossa now has the worst Chinese restaurant in the world, and the second worst pizza restaurant. It has no licensed premises specialising in Barossadeutscher cuisine.

Its best indicator of some level of handling of the tourist boom is the fact that Penfold’s, the biggest winery in Australia, has done away with the four bays in its cellar sales area. These were designed to hold one busload of sweet sherry drinkers each. I think that was called experiential tourism.


Across the Valley, the tiny cutesy pie, custom-built heritage cellar of Rockford erected a sign to announce that buses and limousines were not at all welcome.

The Barossa has become famous for shiraz, grenache and semillon; three varieties it swore would never sell again, a dogma that led to government paying growers to uproot these, farm by farm, with the encouragement of the wine industry, just a dozen years ago.

This was an attempt to reduce the number of peasant-scale growers each company dealt with, and contain the threat of increasing prices.

In those days, Penfold’s paid about $186 per tonne (minimal grape pricing) for Grange hermitage quality grapes; the same price it was paying for sultana in the Murray Valley.

The 83 Grange was soon selling at $180 per bottle.

That Vine Pull was a very immediate threat to the very lure of the Valley.

The crisis of confidence which that uprooting installed has ensured that, a few acres of viognier aside no other grape varieties have been tried in the valley ever since.

And the Barossa Resident’s association which was formed to fight the vine uprooting scheme on planning grounds, and land useage, and amenity, now fights to limit vineyard expansion by opposing the removal of any trees.

So we have the ugly situation now where vineyard expansion is being limited by the residents, led by a few self-interested prominent vignerons who seem to believe they don’t need the new competition. These folks hold demonstrations with their kiddies to stop the bad man chopping a tree down, while the local golf course, at which many successful winemakers play, hired a kick-boxing champion to remove mature trees at the rate of one per day for a month, and nobody complained.

Not one squeak.

Except for the day when the heavy rang me at 8am on a Saturday and demanded to know whether it was correct that I was planning to write a story about what was going on.

So what would the experiential tourist do here? Demonstrate, chop, or wallop?

Jump to the Hunter in 1982 - when I arrived for the first of many intensive inspections, the tourism boom was beginning, and the better cellars were already complaining that the tourists were driving serious wine buyers away.

I use the Hungerford Hill winery complex as my example - it was winner of many tourism awards, but the reality was:

1 Cheap wines at the front. These entertained the flood of tourists which washed in from the seashore whenever the weather there turned bad. They were not Hunter Valley wines, and they were usually sweet.

2 Commercial wines in the inner sanctum. To get in here, you had to be a member who’d learned a few skerricks of knowledge about the stuff out the front and passed some sort of test or spent a certain amount of money.

3 Good wines out the back. In this very special sanctum you could get to taste the local wines this company sold in its normal marketplaces, with a fussy interferist coach.

Anybody who was used to drinking these wines quickly learned that if they visited the winery, they’d be trapped in this room with a mob of pretenders and a coach that would put them off drinking that brand ever again.

They felt that if the people in that room were indicative of the types who regularly drank that brand, then it was an urgent matter of INCLUDE ME OUT.

This sort of behaviour pattern soon led to Murray Robson erecting a sign at his winery gate which said:

No sweet wines
No drink-now wines
No fortified wines
No cheap wines
No single-bottle sales
No buses
Visitors welcome

I think government planning and tax regimes should be restructured very quickly, dividing wineries into two categories. Historical, boutique, and tourist wineries should be one thing.

Enormous wine refineries, like the 75,000 tonnes per annum monster which the Premier’s special projects unit has just approved for Mildara Blass, against all local argument, north of Nuriootpa, should instead be built in hidden industrial parks. As a local, I watched that Bilyara site sink beneath a metre of floodwater on numerous occasions. This is serendipitous, when you consider that one tonne of grapes requires about 1.5 tonnes of water for manufacture. I am not including the irrigation water it takes to grow a tonne of grapes - just the water needed for washing and rinsing during vinification.

BRL-Hardy is now locked in a new environmental struggle - in the Barossa - which offers it a golden opportunity to show the true hue of its Banrock Station greenness. It wants a new 9,000 tonnes capacity winery at Marananga.

MARANANGA LUTHERAN CHURCH

The winery would be directly opposite the heritage-listed Seppelt’s mausoleum, on a road hedged by the magnificent heritage-listed Seppelt’s palms. It would occupy a currently empty field in the heart of the Greenock Creek/Seppeltsfield vignoble, which is right now earning unprecedented international admiration for the astonishing quality of its shiraz and grenache. The winery would be directly opposite the Marananga Lutheran Church, which is the most famous and most photographed of all the Valley’s churches, and which features constantly in government promotional material.

Unfortunately for Hardy’s, many of the neighbours work in the wine industry, and, being good Barossans, with a work ethic unmatched, declare with open throats that they are most certainly NOT anti-development. They include the likes of John Vickery, the great riesling maker of Leo Buring and now Richmond Grove; and many local winemakers, including Richard Lindner, Malcolm Seppelt, Michael and Annabelle Waugh, Brian Falkenberg, and David Powell.

These folks are quick to list concerns about the Hardy plan. They want it moved to an industrial zone. They say the proposed 20 acre woodlot is unlikely to healthily sop the 15 to 20,000 tonnes of waste water such a factory will exude each year, as the local moisture-retentive soil types will not handle such a system. And of course the joint will grow, once it’s approved and up.

Residents don’t want the stink of vintage, nor the extra demands on their water and power. They already complain that their water mains manage only a dribble at the height of summer, and when the Seppelt refrigeration plant kicks in their lights already go dim. They say the poor tourism roads are nowhere near adequate for the industrial traffic such an instalment will require - it has no bottling line - and that their council will have to pay for constant rebuilds.

These neighbours don’t want the huge floodlights such a factory involves, nor the constant roar of cooling plants and trucks which will echo down the natural ampitheatre below the site, where the heritage listed cottages of the Vickerys, the Falkenbergs and the Craigs have slumbered since the beginning of the colony.

Consider these proposed buildings. One will be 135 metres long. They’ll be 17 metres high. Not only will they obstruct a famously uninterrupted rural vista, but they will be made from that famously heritage Barossa shedding, colourbond.

It’s easy to understand how our big wineries have gathered the confidence to mount such audacious projects, right in the face of the very communities upon which they depend. The Olsen government froths at the bit to bash things through for industry, and the $40 million four-story office block taxpayers are shouting the wine business in our own beloved Botanic Gardens is just one indicator of their lofty presumptions. That building, coincidentally, will be about the same size as the colourbond job at Marananga. But if it’s cool in the sacrosanctity of the Botanic Garden, it’s a breeze in the Barossa countryside, eh?

Ironically, these Barossadeutschers are the same people who practised what was probably the world's most organic dryland viticulture methods for the 130 years preceding the invention of the broadacre vine trellis.

The trellis, by the way, was made essential by the invention of the grape-picking machine.

The invention of the grape-picking machine was made essential by the introduction of equal pay for women, thankyou Gough Whitlam.

The trellis made possible the age of minimal pruning, which brought about the age of moulds and fungicides and sprays of every nasty description.

So the Hunter has become a sort of WINEWORLD, where everything is expensive and pretentious, nothing is real, and you never see a real local human out and about. The Barossa seems confused about whether it should be GERMANWORLD or WINEWORLD, but it'll be interesting to follow nevertheless.

And now these great brains, these planning gurus, have brought their vast sensitivity and expertise to our Botanic Gardens, where we shall pay to install them in a wine industry headquarters designed by the man responsible for the architecture of the Rundle Mall.

I've had some experience in government sponsored wine centres. I was invited to assist in the planning and content of the interpretive display there in the Fleurieu Visitors Centre. Here we saw government unite with local wine identities to spend $1.3 million on a tasting room which also houses a display.

When the building, which brings to mind a southern Californian petrol station, was called finished, which it wasn’t, the budget not stretching to accommodate much of the original plan, there was $70,000 left in the kick for the experiential displays, photography, videos, web-page and all the informative display texts within.

I’d still like full payment for the texts, but they never seem to find any money left at the bar, which I notice is sponsored by a brewery.


I'm also stupidly responsible for the National Wine Centre. Back when Valmai Hankel, the librarian who keeps the rare and precious books and the wine collection, was trying to find a use for what had formerly been the State Library reading room on the corner of Kintore Avenue, we worked together on an idea for a wine centre for visitors to Adelaide who didn't have the time to visit any of our wine regions.

If it didn't work in the Library, I thought, the then derelict Botanic Hotel would do the job. I called Brian Croser about using the Botanic, and he suggested nobody would pay for the development. Eventually, in a futile attempt at cynicism, I suggested that Tram Barn A might do.

The idea proposed a tasting room where your could see a flight, say, of rieslings, choose which you liked best, see a video of its source, and the B&Bs you could use there if you had the chance, order the wine for delivery from the maker to your door in New York or Paris or wherever, and begin planning a more leisurely return trip.

Dean Brown took the Liberals to election on his promise of demolishing Tram Barn A and that awful retentive Victorian pile beside it, in spite of Philippa Menses' unpopular National Trust plans to have them retained. But once elected, the new Premier blanched, uncertain of the real public attitude.

You could hear the minders ponder: "What's popular? What can we use it for? Wine! Bewdy! Didn't somebody suggest a Wine Museum? Whitey! He'll back us! Let's go!" And off they went.

So what started as a simple, profit-making service for visitors quickly became a State-funded wine museum, which quickly reverted to an office block for bureaucrats and mandarins, partly because nobody thought the word museum was much good in this modern age. On the committee I joined at Premier Brown's invitation, the first wine centre committee, the word museum was abandoned because nobody really knew what it meant.

NATIONAL WINE CENTRE, BOTANIC GARDENS, ADELAIDE

None of those great brains had heard of Zeus, or Jupiter, the boss of the heavens, nor of his wife, the Goddess Mnemosyne, or Memory. They didn't realise the daughters of this couple, the cover girls of their day, were the official inspirers of all poetry and art. Cleo was the trigger of history, Thalia of comedy. Euterpe was the source of all music; Urania of astronomy, and so on. They were called the Muses, just like my much uglier lot's called the Whites. The Muses lived in the Museum.

No good, no good. It'll have to be the National Wine Centre. It'll have to be in the Botanic Park because:

1 The Gardens already attract 1.3 million visitors a year - more than any other government-owned property;

2 The East End is already a famous tourism and gastronomic precinct (The Universal Wine Bar's there), and

3 It's a nice place to have your offices.

They overlook the fact that the East End is rapidly becoming a violent drug-crazed mirror of the old Hindley Street, where a good deal of the working community are the enthusiastic users of a constant wave of powder drugs; and they don't realise that the very reason that 1.3 million people visit the Botanic Gardens each year is that there are no industrial headquarters, office blocks, car parks, conference centres, or monorails in sight.

Don't laugh - a monorail was seriously suggested, to siphon customers from Rundle Street across the Botanic Garden, which is a dry zone, to the Wine Centre. This was seen as a possible solution to the car parking problem in the Garden. Nobody listened to the traders' complaint about the loss of business in Rundle Street, because there's no real parking there, either. Anyway, show me a monorail and I'll show you a Premier who's just lost power.

The initial concept for a straightforward, self-funding facility for wine enthusiasts was sufficiently attractive to lure a horde of self-interested political amateurs and industry mandarins, whose clumsy and transparent manoeuvres in pursuit of taxpayers' funds and sacred inner city parkland, abuse not just the clarity of the first proposal, but snigger in the face of the uncommonly tasteful and discerning community of Adelaide.

After five years of squandered expense and volunteered energy, this centre is further from its origins than credibility extends.

The citizens of Adelaide now face the construction of an industrial headquarters in their extremely popular Botanic Garden. This $40 million-plus tax-payer-funded Xanadu will have little purpose beyond housing the bureaucrats who will be responsible for the next taxpayer-funded Vine-pull Scheme.

There has been no consultation with the neighbours, none with the community at large, nor anything vaguely resembling consultation with the wine industry proper. The old buildings wisely rejected by the wine industry will now house the unfairly misplaced botanic scientists whose perfectly suitable, unobtrusive buildings and laboratories will be demolished to make way for the imposing new wine industry headquarters.

Those who intend moving into this facility, like Wine and Brandy Corporation Manager, Sam Tolley, refer to it as their "new offices". Winemakers Federation of Australia Chairman, Brian Croser, admits privately that the centre, as imagined by him, does not "necessarily have to be in the Botanic Garden". Margaret Lehmann went on the record on ABC radio earlier this year saying that she was not convinced that the Botanic Gardens site was appropriate. A fortnight later she was the Marketing Director of the same damned thing.

And driving force Ian Sutton, Chief Executive of the WFA, Wine Australia Pty. Ltd., Australian Wine Foundation and the Australian Wine and Brandy Producers' Association, says "My job's not to consult the wine industry -- my job is to represent the wine industry".

Now that Glenthorne Farm, a perfectly suitable alternative site for a self-funding centre has been found and purchased on the old CSIRO research site at the top of Flagstaff Hill, those who would raid the public purse, not to mention the Botanic Garden, have become more secretive and even more determined in their nefarious pursuit.

GLENTHORNE FARM
I have a sick dream. It's punishment for having the idea of the wine centre in the first place.


In it, Brian Croser, Ian Sutton, Ann Ruston, Margaret Lehmann and Sam Tolley all go to Alice Springs, where they build their glittering shangri-la in the bed of the Todd River.

For there, indeed, lies a perfect example of the target market of all those cheap plonks made in our devastated Mallee, or imported from Argentina, Moldova, Italy, Spain and Chile.

What began with the gun is being finished by complacency, and the great Australian Wine Industry profits every inch of the way.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well done Whitey. You tell it as it is...

Stuart George

http://worcestersauce.wordpress.com/

Anonymous said...

BRAVO... only found this now on serendipitous appearance on my homepage via the indomitable Dominique. Sharing generously. JC