Urban Development v. Planning
Minister's Decision Will be Made
Under The Cover Of Christmas
by PHILIP WHITE
While you are chug-a-lugging through your festive season, safely away from the drudgery of the daily news, Paul Holloway, the Minister for Urban Development and Planning, will quietly make a decision which will have a permanent and deep influence on the way our wine regions look and function.
In fact, he will be forced to face the bipolar nature of his responsibility: the issue festers away on the crossroads where development and planning collide.
As the development man, Mr. Holloway has been very keen to see Fairmont Homes get on with an intensive housing estate at the infamous Seaford Heights site, at the entry to McLaren Vale and the Fleurieu Peninsula.
This is where his planning capacities will be sorely tested. Having repeatedly made public statements before the election, promising that there would be no more housing developments in our precious wine regions, he has since also uttered words of awkward frustration at the fact that the winemakers, grape growers, tourism operators, and ordinary citizens of McLaren Vale are in defiant opposition to his pet project on some of the most significant unplanted geology in the entire McLaren Vale region.
THE AUTHOR (left) WITH CONTRIBUTING GEOLOGIST JEFF OLLIVER, DISPLAYING THE GEOLOGY MAP THEY CO-AUTHORED WITH GEOLOGISTS WOLFGANG PREISS AND W.A. "BILL" FAIRBURN photo KATE ELMES
Since the publication of the official Primary Industries and Resources SA map, The Geology Of The McLaren Vale Wine Region, it is becoming evident that many of the region’s best wines come from the oldest (older than 500 million years) geology – as opposed to the recent (younger than 56 million years) marine sediments of the Willunga Embayment.
But the official Geographic Indicators boundary of the McLaren Vale wine region extends well beyond the Willunga Embayment, extending north of the Ochre Cove – Clarendon fault to include Happy Valley, and all the land from Hallet Cove south through Lonsdale, Christie’s Beach, and Port Noarlunga. This is all geology of the more ancient groups: perfect for super-premium vine growing. It is almost completely hidden beneath inexorable villa rash, and it will stay that way.
We came, we saw, we concreted. The vast majority of the region’s very best vineyard sites has already gone to housing: the development side of the equation has blitzed the good sense of reasoned planning, although the geology was known to PIRSA long before the map was published.
“Because they’re wine regions, also significant tourism regions, it would not make sense to have urban encroachment to a significant extent into those areas,” Holloway had wisely promised of the Barossa and McLaren Vale before the election. “So we’ll avoid those ... areas and the areas that we’ll be looking at for future expansion are those areas where there’ll be less impact on the important tourism and economic areas ... why would you want to encroach on areas that are important to the economy because of the significant contribution that they make to the state’s economy through the wine industry and the tourism industry? Clearly that would be put at threat if we allowed rampant urban development within those areas."
Hardly had Mr. Holloway’s government been re-elected than it became evident that he was determined to proceed with the Seaford Heights development, on the grounds that his government “has not added any land in the southern parts of Adelaide to the urban boundary other than Bowering Hill and as Leon [Bignell, Member for Mawson] has just mentioned to you we we we’ve changed our policy on that in relation to uh keeping that for for tourism purposes … This particular land at Seaford Heights has been zoned residential for twenty years and it was er in the urban boundary for, ever since we’ve had an urban boundary.”
Both these statements were made on ABC radio. There has been constant rebellion in the Vales, huge letter-writing campaigns, intense internet activism on the We Oppose Seaford Heights Facebook site, a huge tractor rally which blocked McLaren Vale for an hour, and two blistering speeches at the Onkaparinga Council, by Dudley Brown, chairman of the McLaren Vale Grape Wine And Tourism Association until just a week back, when he stood down as he’d always promised to do, having completed his two-year term.
“It’s a key point if you’re talking about saving the McLaren Vale wine district, um, you know we’re very concerned about the entrance to McLaren Vale and Leon’s made that point strongly and we we agree with him and there does need to be a proper buffer on that road, that once you get out of Noarlunga and you head up into the top of the hill and then down into the the Willunga Basin there into McLaren Vale, you do need to have some protection from urban growth and that’s, I believe it was part of the original plan and we’re certainly we’re certainly we’ll certainly be looking at that … ” the Minister said on ABC Mornings on November 1st.
In the Barossa, at Mount Barker, and in McLaren Vale, the Labor government had almost perfected a mechanism that was extremely difficult for concerned residents to deal with. It was dependent on the state government and the relevant local council engaging in a Punch and Judy biffo session, in which both blamed the other for the nature of distasteful development, giving angry citizens an unfathomable, whizzing tangle to fight.
This is precisely how both tiers of government worked with Constellation wines to uproot John Reynell’s heritage-listed 162 year old vineyard at Reynella to make way for intensive units earlier this year.
THE JOHN REYNELL VINEYARD, SOURCE OF THE FAMOUS REYNELL SELECTION CABERNET SAUVIGNON, NOW COVERED IN INTENSIVE HOUSING photo KATE ELMES
“Labor people fluff and bluster about the 30 Year Plan for Greater Adelaide sorting all this,” I wrote in The Independent Weekly in October, “whilst rural Councils get on building ghettoes to guarantee a good supply of rate-paying Labor voters. They don’t consult until the original locals are seething with rage, by which time there’s a whirlwind of planning technicalities, with both echelons of government blaming the other for the very existence of the plan, or its lack of taste and sensitivity ... When opponents finally feel that they’ve landed a winning blow on this spinning genie, poof! It disappears, and there’s a new ghetto in its place.”
But once the McLaren Vale winemakers, led by Brown (left), belatedly realized the imminence of the Seaford Heights development, they geared up very quickly to voice their anger. After a very prickly and packed Council meeting, and an enraged speech by Brown wound to an end, the Onkaparinga Council washed its naïve hands of the hot project, as it had envisaged it.
By convincing council to vote its version of the project down, the protesters had cut their enemy by half: it was only the Labor government left to fight. Blows could be properly aimed.
This led the snookered and obviously piqued Holloway to announce that he would be taking the development over. He accused the council of “flip-flopping,” and told parliament “If every council were to do this, there would be virtually no land left ... there would be absolutely no land available for any future growth for the city.”
While determinedly pro-development Mayor Lorraine Rosenberg (left) survived the recent council election, the composition of her council changed, much to the delight of the protestors. The new council was not obliged to follow the ruling of the old, so last week, the new council met, and Dudley Brown gave it another shot.
“The grape industry of McLaren Vale contributes average annual revenues of approximately $80 million to the local economy,” he said. “It employs sustainably managed and renewable water for over 95% of its irrigation needs while employing over 700 people on a full-time basis. Another 300-500 people are engaged as a second source of income and many more on a contract or part time basis.
“The wine industry of McLaren Vale accounts for over 10% of the national wine output by value, employs over 2000 people full time and contributes $700 million per year in revenues,” Brown continued.
“The tourism industry of the McLaren Vale area just within the Willunga Basin contributes $160 million per year to the local economy comprising over 240 different tourism businesses in accommodation, food, wine, arts, transportation and other areas. Any conservative multiplier would suggest that our industries support another 3000 jobs locally and another 3000 across the state. We provide the single largest source of employment, rates and tourism of any sector of the city of Onkaparinga’s economy.
“Moreover, as McLaren Vale is the highest cost region in SA for wine production, the economy is increasingly dependent on tourism and cellar door visitation as a path to profitability. Evidence of this is that cellar door numbers in the region have expanded from about thirty ten years ago to over eighty at present. This success story has evolved despite major wine companies withdrawing over 50% of their grape consumption and production from our high cost region over the past decade.”
And on he went, presenting fact after fact - you can read the full speech below.
Brown accused both council and state of totally missing the importance of the site’s soil and geology, and referred to my writings on the issue, pointing out that “an article in The Independent Weekly critical of Seaford Heights citing the evidence of this map” led Minister Holloway to “cancel the planned public launch of the map because of the embarrassment caused by this article and overwhelming evidence of this map.”
THE BOTTOM THIRD OF THE GEOLOGY MAP ... THE TOP THIRD OF THE REGION, WHERE THE BEST OLD GEOLOGY LIES, IS COMPLETELY COVERED IN HOUSING ... THE ONLY INCIDENCE OF THESE ANCIENT GROUPS EXPOSED IN THE WILLUNGA EMBAYMENT IS THE SITE OF HOLLOWAY'S PET HOUSING AND LIGHT INDUSTRIAL PROJECT
After making some positive and creative suggestions about what should be done with the site, he finally demanded that council
1) protect as much of the Seaford Heights site as possible for agriculture by any means necessary including requesting the Development Plan be returned to Council
2) impress on the Minister the importance of the location and geology of Seaford Heights
3) include Seaford Heights in the process for the protection of the region’s agricultural lands
4) delay any development at Seaford Heights until legislation can be considered and adopted to protect the agriculture of this region
5) take the position that residents want the highest and best use of this site for the future of the region for all of its residents to be the point for consideration, not what is easiest for the developer to build
6) To send a message to staff that “business is usual development and consultation” in the region is a thing of the past and that it now wants the best for its residents, not the easiest for developers.
Council reacted accordingly, acknowledging Minister Holloway’s letter advising that he would continue the process for the Seaford Heights Development Plan Amendment, but requesting “that the Minister consult with council and the community prior to proceeding further with the Seaford Heights DPA, particularly in relation to any changes he proposes to make to the consultation version of the Seaford Heights DPA,” and listing the bodies, groups and individuals who now should be involved in the new process, and concluding “that in the absence of a commitment from the Minister to consult further with the council and the community on the DPA, the Minister is advised that council objects to his intent to continue the process for the Seaford Heights Development Plan Amendment.”
This became a motion which was put and carried: another of the distasteful morsels Minister Holloway will be chewing with his turkey. Expecting him to need further convincing of their rage, McLaren Vale residents, meanwhile, escalate their angry lobbying.
While they hold their collective breath once all the journalists and news writers have taken their Christmas leave, these citizens will be watching the Minister with forensic scrutiny. The next Tractor Action may not be quite so polite.
THE TRACTOR ACTION PROTEST; HUNDREDS OF AGRICULTURAL VEHICLES CLOGGED McLAREN VALE AND ITS MAJOR ARTERIAL ROADWAYS ON AN OTHERWISE PLEASANT WEEKEND photo LEO DAVIS