“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)





05 January 2018


Signing up: the McMurtrie family, grape-growing neighbours to the proposed resort and original colonial pioneers of McLaren Vale, have begun work on their campaign material to oppose the residential development of premium Primary-Zone agricultural land.  The Hut Block proposal is outside the boundary of but adjacent to the McLaren Vale township. Just as Seaview Heights adds an ill-planned, intensely-built suburb on one end of the Main Street, this extends the other end further into Primary Zoned country on McMurtrie Road.

Richard Hamilton: False start for huge resort on Leconfield's Hut Block 

Plans for a major resort on prime McLaren Vale agricultural land hit a hiccup before Christmas when Onkaparinga Council planners appeared to suggest the developer admitted the plan was non-complying and would re-reapply for renotification in the new year. 

"The application will be re-notified as non-complying in due course," Team Leader (Planning) Steve Tilbrook advised stakeholders. So the application will not yet be presented to the Council's Assessment Panel. Drinkster awaits clarification from council planners and press officers - key players are still on leave. 

The resort plan included 150 five-star rooms, a conference centre, two restaurants, a café, cellar door, meeting rooms, indoor swimming pool,  gymnasium, a day spa and a two-storey carpark.

Looking east, from above The Salopian Inn, along McMurtrie Road across the Hut Block site (foreground). That's the new Mitolo restaurant complex centre rear; on the right are entrances to the Hugh Hamilton and Primo Estate tasting cellars, hidden from the road.

While it is commonly felt the McLaren Vale region lacks a conference-scale five-star resort, many argue such a development should be within the boundaries of the existing town plans.

The Hut Block Vineyard site is 40-50 minutes from the city of Adelaide. It's on McMurtrie Road, opposite Hugh Hamilton's cellars and Primo Estate, between The Salopian and the turnoff to Wirra Wirra at Strout Road. 

The construction would cover that spectacular rise right through to the back of Serafino on McLaren Flat Road, between the bicycle/hiking track and the new Mitolo restaurant and tasting room.

From above the junction of the bicycle/hiking track and McMurtrie Road, looking north. That's the Serafino winery/resort/restaurant/motel complex at top left; the Hut Block is that central swathe of vineyard

Whatever form development number 145/2797/2017 eventually chooses to take, it looks like being the first major challenge so far for the McLaren Vale and Barossa Character Preservation Legislations. 

In this case, the battle is whether, within the confines of the act, tourism is more significant than agriculture. 

Are the visitors and their money more important than the agriculture which attracts them? 

It shapes up very much like the battle over the priceless site at Seaview Heights, where government decided intense suburban dormitoria was more important than agriculture.

Last time the farmers of McLaren Vale took some Tractor Action, they lost the battle against the horrid Seaview Heights suburb but were rewarded with the Character Preservation Legislations, the very character of which is now under threat.

In Question Time in the South Australian House of Assembly in November, local member Leon Bignell, the Minister for Agriculture and Tourism said (of a nearby piece of land) "What we have done with that is lock that land in forever, or until both houses of parliament agree that gutter-to-gutter housing is better than what we have on those lands at the moment  ... on those lands we have prime agricultural production and we have fantastic tourist activity, as well. 

"Since we introduced these character preservation rules around McLaren Vale and the Barossa, the price of land for vineyards has gone up significantly." 

Not up far enough, it seems, for Hut Block owner Dr Richard Hamilton, who is rumoured to hope to sell the vineyard once the development approvals are secure. 

Locals report groups of Chinese gentlemen inspecting and photographing the site. 

East across Hut Block: Mitolo and Wirra Wirra, centre rear

"Leconfield's wines are based on a simple philosophy – great wines are crafted from great vineyards," Hamilton's spiel runs. 

"By retaining control and ownership of our estate, we are able to ensure the health of the vines, and continuity of fruit quality." 

The famous Hut Block's current sales blurbs include repetitions of lines like "second highest pointed Cab at the 2017 McLaren Vale wine show" ... "some of the oldest vines in the region. Beautiful and delicious!" ... "the vineyard contains our oldest vines, the 120 year old Centurion Shiraz, dry grown and planted in 1892. These vines are amongst the oldest in McLaren Vale." 

While the development is not gutter-to-gutter - the big box stuff on the initial drawings leaves no room for gutters - it represents the single biggest intrusion of the messy McLaren Vale township onto scarce premium Primary Production-zoned land since the building of the simply atrocious Seaford Heights at the other end of the street.

We thought then that enough was enough ... photo from McLaren Vale - Trott's View (photographed by Algra, Brice, Reid and Wordley, edited by White, Wakefield Press 2007)


miss bize said...

yeah right we'll build it here what's this called La Tache? oh great name for a resort ... yeah right

wet ones said...

Hi Whitey did yuou hear Seaford Heights just came within a whiska of catching on fire?