“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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23 August 2011

TOP SA VINE LAND STILL GOING TO HOUSES

PLANNING MINISTER JOHN RAU IN THE MEETING ROOM AT THE McLAREN VALE WINEMAKERS' HEADQUARTERS, ANNOUNCING THE GO-AHEAD OF THE HIGHLY CONTENTIOUS SEAFORD HEIGHTS RESIDENTIAL DEVELOPMENT ON PRICELESS 650 MILLION YEAR OLD SILSTONE GEOLOGY, PREFECT FOR PREMIUM AGRICULTURE. THIS IS THE ONLY PIECE OF SUCH GROUND IN THE WILLUNGA EMBAYMENT. VINES GROWN ON ITS MARGINS BRING $185 PER BOTTLE.

Still Cementing Top Country ... We Came We Saw We Concreted More Labor Pollies On The Nose
by PHILIP WHITE


The Hon John Rau, MP, Deputy Premier, Attorney-General, Minister for Justice, Minister for Urban Development, Planning and the City of Adelaide, Minister for Tourism, and Minister for Food Marketing is currently studying community responses to his highly contentious plan to “protect” the great Australian vignobles of the Barossa and McLaren Vale from housing sprawl.

In so doing, his suggestion paper ignored the official Geographic Indicator boundaries for these regions. These took countless thousands of hours: many years to finalise and then have recognized in international law. Indeed at his rather ragged press conference in the McLaren Vale Visitors Centre, when I asked him about this after he'd announced the Seaford Heights go-ahead, the minister seemed unaware such formal boundaries even existed. Rau’s suggested boundary for what he thinks is McLaren Vale, for example, extends some 24 kilometres into the Adelaide Hills GI, all the way to the South-eastern Freeway at Crafers. No Adelaide Hills winemakers were consulted. This land has nothing to do with McLaren Vale.

In exchange, he wants open slather on eave-to-eave housing north of the Onkaparinga River, an area which makes up one third of the McLaren Vale GI and contains some of the very best and rarest geology for premium vineyards.

In the meantime, Rau and Labor continue with horrid developments on irreplaceable agricultural land, in all three wine regions.

One of the most dubious is at Mount Barker, in some of the state’s best dairy farming and viticulture land, on a site with little or no infrastructure in place. The Labor government ignored the voice of the community, which outspokenly opposed the building of thousands of houses there.

It seems that developers and Labor politicians aside, about the only ones happy about the development is the board of Hillgrove Resources, which is digging a giant open cut copper pit nearby at Kanmantoo. As it would have been out of the question to take water from the dying Murray River to supply this enormous hole in the ground, it is highly convenient for Hillgrove that the new Mount Barker suburb will suddenly appear so close by. The pit can now proceed, using the effluent water from the new super-suburb. The pipeline is conveniently short.

THE KANMANTOO MINES PIT DUG IN THE EARLY SEVENTIES. THE LAKE IN THE BOTTOM IS SULPHURIC ACID. THE NEW MINE WILL BE SEVEN OR EIGHT TIMES THIS SIZE, AND REQUIRE ENORMOUS AMOUNTS OF FRESH WATER

Nobody seems to want to suggest the water for the housing must come from the beleaguered Murray anyway. A cynical person could be forgiven for suggesting that the new suburb is a kind of reverse filter, making the clean water dirty enough to be sufficiently politically correct to supply the huge mine.

Former Liberal premier of South Australia Dean Brown is chairman of Hillgrove, the mining company. He is also a sort of replacement for Karlene Maywald, another Liberal, who had been for years Labor Premier Rann’s specialist on critical water issues like the Murray River. Maywald took a cabinet ministry in Rann’s government. Brown has not, as far as we know, also been offered a cabinet position by Labor.

Perhaps he doesn’t need one.

In a recent contentious cabinet reshuffle, Rann, who has since promised to resign in October to make way for the eminently popular and more believable Jay Weatherill, seemed to have no choice but to let John Rau select his ministries. (You may get the gist of some of this contention at the essential ICAC-ICAC site.) Among his other great list of portfolios, Rau chose planning after the humiliated Planning Minister, Paul Holloway, resigned in the wake of approving a string of extremely unpopular planning developments like Seaford Heights in McLaren Vale.


Last week Rau addressed a luncheon of the Urban Development Institute of Australia, and openly criticized the way planning had been run before his ascension to power.

“One point I need to make very clear is this – I am not in favour of decoupling rezoning from infrastructure planning,” he told a house packed with planners, developers and builders. “With the benefit of hindsight, this was a problem in the Mount Barker rezoning – there will be no more Mount Barkers on my watch. The lesson has been learned.

“I will not allow rezoning to run-off without infrastructure planning being bedded down. We cannot deliver communities without infrastructure – it makes no sense to let developers build houses without the Government and local councils being able to support that community with infrastructure.

“I will not allow developers to push me into rezoning when infrastructure needs are not known, not planned for and not funded.”

Opponents of the Mount Barker debacle and Seaford Heights thought momentarily that this indicated a softening of government’s determination to proceed with such intrusions onto the sort of plush agricultural land that this, the driest state in the world’s driest continent, has very little of.

But Rau in fact promised the opposite, in his determined rewriting of the Residential Development Code legislated by Holloway in September 2009.

“It is clear that the residential code was not delivering the improvements that we were expecting,” Rau said. “Just this week, Cabinet has approved for me to proceed with reforms to the Code, and I plan to implement these by the end of this year. These reforms will include 22 changes identified by industry and should deliver a code that is easier to use —with simplified information requirements, clearer terminology and definitions and less prescriptive design requirements.”

“Local planning policy has become dishevelled, disjointed and inconsistent leading to unnecessary complexity and barriers to development,” he said. “My department has made it a first priority to refine zoning policies through SA’s planning policy library. I am about to finalise the first stage of zoning reforms. These new zones will make it easier for councils to align with The 30-Year Plan.”

Seemingly oblivious to accusations that much of South Australia’s planning was being done, de facto, by Transport Minister Pat Conlon, who insists intensive high rise housing should surround his railway stations and bus routes to keep fares down, Rau said “the new zones support the growth of new neighbourhoods, targeted infill around corridors, Transport Oriented Developments and employment activities.”

The next morning, the author took a small part in a discussion of these matters on ABC Radio 891. Here is his own transcription of that conversation.

DAVID BEVAN: Philip White is a wine writer and McLaren Vale resident. He’s also a part of a group opposing Seaford Heights. He’s called 891 Breakfast. Good morning Philip.

PHILIP WHITE: Good morning. I just need to say urgently that this bumbling of [former Planning Minister] Holloway also includes a lot of properties in the south. And it’s time that they just put a stop to it.

DB: You’re saying John Rau’s just focusing on Mount Barker. But if it’s confession time, they should be looking beyond that.

PW: Absolutely. The Seaford Heights site is an impeccable piece of agricultural land. It used to grow barley with world record sugar levels. Guinness used to buy that barley. It’s a very very important piece of ground, and it’s intellectually decrepit to put cement over it.

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: Philip White, but John Rau steered that decision through.

PW: Well he has but –

MA: - and I think he’s quite proud of the work he did on that one in terms of trying to quarantine the important, what he saw, or what the state government saw as important parts of the dirt down there.

PW: But he has to listen to the community. He obviously doesn’t understand the importance of that piece of dirt. It’s really silly, and hypocritical to say ‘I’m saving your district, but we’re gonna cement this bit over.’ Huh! It’s just crazy. It makes no sense. So if he’s feeling any remorse about the stupidity of the Mount Barker decision he should also include what’s going on down here.

MA: Philip White thank you. Philip White is well known in Adelaide as a wine writer and journalist and is a McLaren Vale resident.

EARLY PROTEST AT THE SEAFORD HEIGHTS SITE. AMANDA RISHWORTH IS THE LOCAL LABOR FEDERAL MEMBER. DOZENS OF HER ELECTION CAMPAIGN PLACARDS WERE POSTED IN THE FIELD.

After the news break, the announcers introduced The Hon. JOHN RAU, Deputy Premier,
Attorney-General, Minister for Justice, Minister for Urban Development, Planning and the City of Adelaide, and Minister for Tourism.

DB: … when infrastructure needs are not known, not planned for, and not funded, how did developers push the government?

JOHN RAU: Ah, well now, I’m, I’m … getting representations from time to time from people who would like to er have rezonings occur ah and I have looked into the into the background of rezoning over the last few years and I’ve looked at it through the context of the Thirty Year Plan which has now been in place for a year, and my point in making those remarks was Mount Barker was something which I think is a good project, should go ahead, I’ve got no issue about that, but I don’t think all of the infrastructure issues were nailed down as well as they should have been before the rezoning occurred. So my remarks were about timing of process.

SIGN ON THE DOOR OF THE CONFERENCE ROOM AT THE McLAREN VALE WINEMAKERS' OFFICES WHEN MINISTER RAU MADE HIS ANNOUNCEMENT THAT SEAFORD HEIGHTS WOULD PROCEED










DB: Yes. Your remarks were specifically about Mount Barker. How did the developers push the government on Mount Barker?

JR: I didn’t say they did.

scrambled interruptions

MA: Hang on, by, well, by implication, by implication –

JR: I didn’t say – I didn’t say - I personally, I personally –

MA: Well John Rau, let’s just go back to your speech.

JR: Mmm.

MA: I’ve got a copy of it here.

JR: Yes.

MA: “I will not allow developers to push me into rezoning when infrastructure needs are not known, not planned for, and not funded.” And you give Mount Barker as an example of a development where there was not enough attention paid to infrastructure planning. You give that as “decoupling zoning from infrastructure planning” –

JR: Correct –

DB: In the same breath you say “there will be no more Mount Barkers on my watch –

JR: Correct –

DB: Okay. So in what way did the developers push the government on Mount Barker?

JR: Well as I said, if you read the speech you’d see that my remarks about Mount Barker were essentially this: Mount Barker was a situation which I still believe is a good project – it should have gone ahead – I’m glad it’s going ahead – but the question about planning for the infrastructure I do not believe was adequately dealt with before the actual sign-off. That was my point.

MA: But how did developers push, how did developers push the state government into rezoning Mount Barker –

JR: I’m not suggesting they did –

MA: Well you are suggesting that – if, if, if, let me just put, no, let me put it -

scrambled interruptions

JR: We’re spending a lot of time on the semantics of this but what I was trying to say –

MA: No, no, no, John Rau, John Rau, as you know, John Rau –

JR: You’re not going to be able to push me, having made -

LOCAL BUILDER KEITH WALKER IS TYPICAL OF THOSE WHO SUPPORT THE SEAFORD HEIGHTS DEVELOPMENT







MA: John Rau, if I can just – if you don’t mind – you’re a lawyer and you know the power of words, and the importance of words, so semantics are important, if you say “I will not allow developers to push me into rezoning when infrastructure needs are not known, not planned for, and not funded,” do you think a reasonable person would draw, would draw the implication from that, that up until now, developers have been able to push your government into just that activity?

JR: No I don’t.

DB: Oh so it hasn’t happened in Mount Barker?

JR: No, I don’t, I don’t think it did. That’s not my point. My point is having watched Mount Barker, having seen the amount of, of, community concern that was expressed about Mount Barker - now some of that is “I don’t want a development at all” – I’m putting that to one side – I’m talking about the people who said “Well look. Okay. We don’t mind a development but the process could be better.” My point is I’ve listened to that. I’ve acknowledged that. I’ve got it. And as far as I’m concerned, for the future, that point has been made, and my point was to say that the developers in the future don’t try and push me along the path of redevelopment without me being satisfied that process has been dealt with. That’s all I was –

DB: And, and, you used the example of that as being Mount Barker.

JR: Yes but I, I think you’re assuming that the reason that that Mount Barker’s process was not as good as I think it with retrospect in restrospect okay I’m not, I’m not – I’m being wise after the event here – the reason it wasn’t quite as good as it might have been – I’m not suggesting for a minute was because somebody was pushed – I’m not sure that given the scale of that, and the redevelopments we were doing that people actually had realized the importance of this order of precedents in a way that you get –

DB: Ooooh. So in the case of Mount Barker, it wasn’t that you were pushed by developers, people just didn’t realize what was going on?

JR: Look, I wasn’t pushed by anybody –

DB: No, no, no. It was Minister Holloway. He just –

MA: Are you saying he just didn’t know, he just didn’t know that if you put the equivalent of a Mount Gambier up there um in the Adelaide Hills you’re going to need some infrastructure to go with it?

JR: Of course he did. Of course he did.


MA: sniggers

WHEN THE DEVELOPER KARIDIS RECENTLY BOUGHT THESE VINEYARDS ON THE SOUTH SIDE OF McLAREN VALE IN ORDER TO SUBDIVIDE THEM, HE PAID FAR ABOVE THE GOING RATE. A LONG-TIME DONATOR OF FUNDS TO THE LABOR PARTY, HE IS INFAMOUS FOR INTRODUCING THE FINANCIER TIRATH KHEMLANI TO THE WHITLAM LABOR GOVERNMENT WITH THE PROMISE OF PROVIDING HUGE LOANS, AN EXERCISE WHICH EVENTUALLY BROUGHT WHITLAM AND HIS GOVERNMENT DOWN, LOCAL ALP MEMBER, THE POPULAR LEON BIGNELL, PROMISES "KARIDIS WILL TAKE A DIVE ON THAT ONE. WE WON'T LET HIM DO IT." photo KATE ELMES

JR: Look, can you please – I know that that you you you’re enjoying talking about these particular words but the point I was trying to make was this. The pub – you’d you have had to have your eyes closed for a couple of years not to realize that people were unhappy about the way the Mount Barker process rolled out. I am not acknowledging and did not acknowledge and don’t believe that the Mount Barker redevelopment is a bad thing. I don’t think it’s a bad thing. I have listened carefully to what the people have said. In fact the first thing I did after getting this job was to go up and visit the council in Mount Barker and have a talk to them about what was going on. And I have come to the conclusion that although the end outcome will be fine and is good and I support it and always have, the process by which we got to that point could have been better –

DB: Mmmm. Okay so when you said –

JR: And that’s easy for me to say because I’m wise after the event –

DB: Okay. So when you said “I will not allow developers to push me into rezoning – ”

JR: Correct.

DB: - did you have anything in mind at all? Or is that just a hypothetical?

JR: No, no, I I do, I do have something in, in, in mind, in mind in a broad sense and I’ll tell you what I have in mind –

DB: Well what do you have in mind?

JR: Okay. We have within the Thirty Year Plan, large areas of of land which over the next thirty years are to be uh are earmarked for “Urban Development”. By the time we get to that endpoint, only thirty per cent of our infill will be out there in greenfields areas, seventy per cent will be urban infill which is a completely different question. My point, my point to these people is “If you want me to rezone your land, that’s fine, but we need to have a talk – ”

DB: Okay

JR: “ – before that, about how we’re gonna plan for schools and roads – ”

DB: Okay. So just, just to be quite clear –

JR: “ – and hospitals and everything else – ”

DB: Okay. So just to be quite clear. Just to be quite clear. When you said that “I will not allow developers to push me into rezoning – ”

JR: Yep.

PLANTING THE PROTEST VEGGIE GARDEN ON THE SEAFORD HEIGHTS SITE IN THE AUTUMN ... BEAUTIFUL CABBAGES AND CAULIS ARE NEARLY READY TO EAT

DB: - you had in mind a future hypothetical thing, and not what has occurred in South Australia over the last few years, notwithstanding the fact that Mount Barker is an excellent example of allowing something to go ahead without proper infrastructure?

JR: Well, I, I, I, I don’t, well, I’ll say again. I don’t think in the benefit - with the benefit of hindsight that the infrastructure planning in Mount Barker occurred in the order that I would have preferred. That’s what I was saying.

DB: And why do you think that happened?

JR: Well, look, I think, to be perfectly frank this was a larger scale rezoning than we’d had before, I think a lot of people were, were, exploring this, this issue and, and doing their best at the time, as it turned out, as it turned out, it could have been done better and look, what is wrong with acknowledging in government that if you’ve gone through a process before which I say as I say is perfectly fine there’s no problem with the Mount with the idea of the Mount Barker development, none at all, but if you’ve gone through a process, and the public is telling you “We feel that you could have done it better” do you put your head in the sand and pretend that you’re not getting this message from the community –

MA: Well well now John Rau John Rau, let’s, you you do focus on Mount Barker. Let’s look at another development that was signed off on by the state government just a few weeks before the state election and that was Buckland Park, where by the government’s admission, there is no infrastructure, um, they’re even gonna have to run bus services from the nearest town, the nearest suburb to it, as a short-term gap. Ah, there’s no schools. There’s no railway station. Ahh, there are no playgrounds. There’s no parks. There’s nothing.

DB: And and it’s outside the Thirty year Plan. Is that an even worse example?

JR: Well I don’t think it’s outside the Thirty year Plan. I think -

MA: It’s not now. I think you’ve drawn - it was when it was announced, was it not?

JR: I think, I, I can’t answer that. But I can tell you that I’m damn sure that it’s in there now.

MA: Yeah, yeah, after it was approved I think. Is that true?

JR: Well let’s lets not move away from that. It is within the Thirty Year Plan –

MA: All right. Was that an example of developers pushing the government into rezoning when “infrastructure needs were not known, not planned for and not funded”?

JR: No I don’t believe it is because what I am saying is – look, please – we, we, if we’re trying to get to the the nub of this I’m not saying in those comments “Look the first house is being built at Buckland Park or built somewhere and at that moment all of the roads have to be completed er all of the schools have to be built with nobody in them et cetera et cetera. I’m not talking about infrastructure finished. I’m talking about infrastructure planned. And and a a general understanding of what is going to be required, how it’s going to be managed, what time scale the roll-out’s going to occur over and how it’s going to be funded. That’s what I’m talking about. It’d be ludicrous to say you you open up you know five thousand hectares somewhere, and before a single house can be built, every single bit of infrastructure has to be in place. I mean clearly that’s not going to happen.

MA: Okay. Now we need to move on. Just finally though, can I ask you this on another matter: did Mike Rann, at any stage, earlier this year, tell you he was planning to stand down next March for you to take over as Premier?

JR: No.

MA: John Rau, thankyou for talking to us.

JR: Thank you.

CONCLUSION: Talk about all parties missing the point.

One good question about the mine at Kanmantoo, and another about the mine which the Seaford Heights developers have established within a couple of kilometers of their proposed villa rash, may have flushed out better facts, or at least more amusing confusion. If Jay Weatherill is to retain his relatively clean reputation upon taking the Premiership, he will have to come up with a more convincing Planning Minister than Rau. If indeed, Caucus permits. And, as ICAC-ICAC points out in that link above, Caucus is run by the Shoppies: The Shopranos.

Maybe our promising new Premier has been shopped before he starts.

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