“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)





02 January 2009



UN Ambassador Insists No Housing Permitted On Glenthorne Plan

Greedy University Scrambles For Credibility


The Hon. Robert Hill, Australia’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations, New York, says the whole idea of the CSIRO letting Adelaide University have Glenthorne Farm was to prevent it from being subdivided.

“The land was sold to the State Goverment so that it would be preserved from urban development” Mr. Hill told DRINKSTER.

“They nominated Adelaide University.”

The Adelaide University, however, continues with its push to sell 1,000 housing blocks on the land.

In a demand many consider akin to blackmail, the University says that if allowed to break the Deed it signed in 2001, which very specifically disallowed housing, it would use the money raised to reforest the South Mount Lofty Ranges over the next 100 years.

The University was given the land after winemaker Greg Trott convinced the South Australian government to purchase it from the CSIRO.

Mr. Hill, a Senator for South Australia (1981 – 2006) was Federal Minister for Environment from March 1996 to October 2001. He assisted in ensuring the CSIRO - which could have subdivided the land, as it certainly needed the money - to keep its price down to $7 million.

While the University Council gave authority for the Glenthorne Deed to be signed on the 26 July 1999, the University then took almost two years considering the deal.

Vice-Chancellor Mary O’Kane did not sign the deed and affix the University seal until 24 May 2001. Mr. Hill was Federal Minister for Environment for that duration. He played a key role in assisting the transfer of the land from the CSIRO through the State Government, and Minister for Planning, Di Laidlaw, to the University of Adelaide.

The Deed says “For many years the CSIRO has used the land for purposes of agriculture and as an agricultural research facility.

“The CSIRO has only agreed to sell the Land on the proviso that the Land will be preserved and conserved for agriculture and other related activities and will not be used for urban development.

“The University, as the person nominated by the State, has agreed to purchase the Land from the CSIRO , to preserve and conserve the Land for other related activities and not use, develop or permit the Land to be used or developed for urban development”, the Deed says.

“Part of the farm was to be planted with grapes for research and as a repository of genetic material”, Mr. Hill said of convenor Greg Trott’s plan for Glenthorne.

“The balance was to be conserved as open space and ultimately rehabilitated.

“It was a unique opportunity, care of CSIRO, to provide a large green space between the suburbs of southern Adelaide”, Mr Hill enthused.

Mr Hill held a number of shadow portfolios in opposition including Justice, Foreign Affairs, Defence, Public Administration, Education and Science and Technology before taking Ministry. He studied law at the Universities of Adelaide and London, where he took his Masters. He lists environmental education among his deepest interests.

The University pledged to forever preserve, conserve and use Glenthorne Farm for agriculture, horticulture, oenology, viticulture, buffer zones and for community recreation.

It further promised to ensure that land was available for project research activities, University research, education activities and operating a wine making facility.

Since the Roseworthy winemaking college was closed, and that college was absorbed by Adelaide University during the determined deputy-chancellorship of Brian Croser, there has been no room at the University’s Waite campus for full-scale industrial winemaking experiments or realistically-scaled viticulture.

The purpose of having Glenthorne passed from the CSIRO to the University was to permit large tracts of land for viticulture research and winemaking, as such facilities were not covered at the jam-packed Waite Campus.

The trial vineyard there is only a couple of acres on the Urrbrae Secondary School campus.

Adelaide University winemaking students are now expected to learn their industrial hands-on knowledge out in the wine industry, which enjoys the cheap labour, but doesn’t supply the space for trials and independent industrial-scale viticultural experimentation which Roseworthy permitted and Glenthorne promised.

I refer to the sort of research no transnational will pay for, especially when grapes are in oversupply and stupidly cheap, and the environment looks dangerously short-term.

The current parlous state of the Australian wine industry reflects the yawning need for such research. (See the following article.)

If our University had been up to speed with issues of drought-resistant viticulture and minimal irrigation procedures, our precious River should still have some water in it, and we should have wines which the world wants to buy at a fair price.

Martyn Evans, boss of Community Engagement at the University, recently summoned me to a tour on which he tensely struggled to prove there was no need for real-scale vineyards or winemaking, considering the excellence of the laboratory research facilities at the Waite, which he seemed to regard as part of his vast estate.

I agreed that the facilities are very impressive, surpassed only by the bright diligence and tenacity of the staff there.

However, I couldn't help feeling that the great minds which had been briefed for my visit were holding a preset spin line: that indeed the University needed no ground for full-scale independent viticulture research or winemaking.

Ask a winemaker/viticulturer if free land is neeeded for tests and experiments, and I know what you'll be told, especially if the land is perfect for the job and a quick 20 minute drive away.

Powers that be at the University seem to have decided long ago to sit on Glenthorne until all those original promises were forgotten, and then go for the money with a subdivision.

They seem genuinely surprised that anybody remembers the details of the arrangement, let alone objects intelligently to their audacious intention to scrap the solemn agreement which got them the gift of this priceless land to be protected and maintained in perpetuity.

Evans looked incredulous when I asked him why he hadn’t considered subdividing the reserve Peter Waite bequeathed to the University in 1914 – land which has increased with further gifts and purchases. There is 147 hectares of prime land there now, beside Brownhill Creek, immediately behind the new laboratories and greenhouses.

Being in the ranges, and not maritime coastal, this property is obviously more appropriate for the nursery work the University says it will conduct on the undeveloped land at Glenthorne in order to reforest the South Mount Lofty Ranges.

And of course this Hills Face Zone would be worth much more as housing land than any of Glenthorne.

“You are obviously more respectful of the citizens of Mitcham and Springfield than you are of those of Hackham”, I suggested to Mr. Evans.

I told him that I believe in moral exactitude, which seemed to leave him dumbfounded.

Neither Mr. Evans, nor the popular environmentalist, Dr. David paton, whom the University habitually wheels out to defend and announce its intentions, have ever laid eyes on the Deed.

The late Greg Trott, visionary environmentalist and founder of Wirra Wirra, carefully engineered this Deed so that Glenthorne could be used for the research of dryland viticulture, which would be essential at this time of climate change, drought, and consequent industry collapse.

Trott imagined the revegetation of the creeklines and headlands, and the rest of the land used for trialling premium-quality minimal-irrigation drought-resistant vine types that had never before been tested in Australia.

There are at least 10,000 grape varieties yet to be planted here.

Some of the best hot climate dry-land red wines on Earth, for example, right now come from from Greece, which has always been a laughing stock wine producer in Australia. We don't even know what these varieties are.

Trott was keen to see Glenthorne used for such things, and biodynamic and organic viticulture trials. He was particularly interested in developing natural bird management techniques without shotguns or noisy scaring devices.

To fund his idea, Trott struck a deal with Stephen Millar, the boss of BRL-Hardy, to participate in these trials and ensure his company bought the grapes not used by University students.

BRL-Hardy immediately sought to plant a large frontignac vineyard.

“Fronti” of high quality would have brought the earliest possible monetary return to both partners, as BRL-Hardy sought to use it to make a low-alcohol, high quality Moscato d’Asti-style sparkling wine, then barely known in Australia.

This would have provided the company with a premium low-alcohol product at a time of increasing wowserism, and quickly provided funds to assist the University trial other types of minimal-irrigation or completely dry-grown viticulture.

Industry sources say Deputy-Chancellor Croser wanted chardonnay and not frontignac.

BRL-Hardy said Australia had far too much chardonnay of the quality Glenthorne would provide, but no quality frontignac.

Eventually BRL-Hardy found the University’s approach unworkable, and withdrew from the arrangement.

The University interprets this as the site being “not viable” for viticulture. It also imagines this as being "full consultation with the wine industry."

While Dudley Brown, Chairman of McLaren Vale Wine Grape And Tourism, says nobody in his region has been consulted by the University over the issue, the University claims it has widely consulted the wine industry, which it claims says Glenthorne is not viable for vineyard, partly because there’s insufficient water.

The University obviously has no problem finding water for the 1,000 houses it wants, and cannot produce any wine industry operative who will publicly state the land is not viable for viticulture.

“It’s bloody perfect for viticulture” McLaren Vale winemaker Jock Harvey said before handing the Chairmanship of the McLaren Vale Vale Wine Grape And Tourism to Mr. Brown.

“Experimental vineyards; community fruit and vegetable gardens, native reveg, box gums .... all the things we need to be doing except building more of the crap housing government seems to expect us to accept in this district."

In response to attitudes like this, Patrick Conlon, Minister for Infrastructure, has courted winemakers' concerns over Bowering Hill, another piece of contentious McLaren Vale land which had been deemed due for subdivision by planning Minister Paul Holloway.

Mr. Conlon recently declared his government "has no intention to use the [Bowering] land for housing.

"This land is unique given its location and potential importance to the wine industry and tourism", he said, "and their input into the future potential and nature of development in this area, along with the broader community, will be important."

Immediately upon taking the McLaren Vale Chairmanship, Mr. Brown issued a statement saying his organisation expected the University to stick to its vows in the Glenthorne Deed. His statement suggested the organisation would be delighted to have its first consultation with the University, but that the University should keep all the promises it made in the Deed.

To make matters worse for the University, Planning Minister Holloway recently announced an end to rampant urban development in the gazetted wine districts of Barossa and McLaren Vale.

To ensure there would be no housing on Glenthorne Farm, the Mclaren Vale winemakers drew their appellation boundary around the farm’s northern fenceline some years back, with the full knowledge of the University.

“Look it’s simple common sense”, Mr. Holloway said. “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.”

So, Mr. Conlon. Is this little matter of 1,000 houses rampant urban development?

As Glenthorne is truly the gateway to the McLaren Vale, through which all tourists approach, and there is the little, ahem, matter of this Deed and the solemn vows contained therein, would you bow to the sly developers at the University of Adelaide?

If they expect the community to let them break a vow they made eight short years ago, in exchange for a priceless spread of land which we bought for them, and entrusted them with, why should we now trust their offer of a hundred years of reforestation of a huge range many kilometres distant?

A Deed with seals and signatures is the heaviest piece of pledge/vow/oath this society has. Monarchs have run entire countries on such terse, unbreakable solemnities for thousands of years. Modern republics and states use them.

What do we have to replace this? The word of a politician? The solemn promise of the current staff of the University of Adelaide?


Honest Boffin Takes Polish Off Glenthorne Poll

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