Hills dominate tour stages

Thousands of cyclists and spectators will descend on the Hills next week as the region hosts stages of Australia’s most prestigious bike race. - Read more.

Glorious food

The sale of Hills-based cheese manufacturer Udder Delights to a Japanese dairy giant shows how far the region’s food reputation has spread around the world.
The $14m price tag will allow former owners Saul and Sheree Sullivan to stay with the company but spend more time doing what they do best – making cheese and developing new styles.
The new owner has the financial capability to invest significant resources into the company’s infrastructure and also has the network to export the products to international markets. The Sullivans believe this injection of capital will create local jobs and be a bonus for Hills dairy suppliers.
The transformation of the region from an agricultural base to one where the advantages of value adding are widely recognised, has been a significant employment creator.
It has also seen businesses keen to link themselves to the ‘Adelaide Hills’ as it signifies a clean, high quality product.
That reputation is priceless.
In this modern, highly competitive food world, producers must be able to “tell a story” about their product and the clean and green Hills is one to which many are keen to hitch their wagon.
The region combines the essential ingredients of food, wine, tourism, clean, green, fresh and high quality.
In an increasingly dirty and mass produced world, a high-end point of difference is gold for marketers.
The State Government is helping to grow this market through initiatives such as its highly successful I Choose SA campaign.
Encouraging people to look for and purchase locally made brands can make a significant difference.
It is estimated that if each SA family spent an extra $2.30 a week on local food and beverages it could support up to 600 jobs.
Activities and promotions such as the Ferment Festival in Adelaide from Thursday (October 19) until Sunday are a valuable tool in promoting food regions such as ours.
The festival highlights the many producers of fermented foods including cheese, chocolate, bread, yogurt, beer, wine, ciders and whisky.
The event has grown out of the popular CheeseFest and serves as a reminder that we live in one of the most pristine food environments in the world and we should not only appreciate it … we should also consume it!

No deal Steve

Last Friday Nick Xenpohon threw a very agile cat among the pigeons when he announced his intentions to return to State politics and lead his SA Best team in the March State election.
The resulting squawking and flapping was immediate.
But it was Steven Marshall – the man in the box seat to become the next SA Premier – who in the ensuing flurry fired off the first volley and in doing so quite possibly shot himself in the foot.
Mr Marshall was adamant immediately following the Xenophon announcement he would not do a deal with SA Best in the event of a hung parliament.
The Liberals, he said, would stand alone.
This may have resonated well with his supporters as some sort of rallying cry, but it also indicated a lack of awareness of the changed political landscape or, even worse, a limited grasp of the pulse of the wider community.
It is very easy to beat your chest and declare it’s either “us or them” but that’s precisely the attitude that is turning voters away in droves. That’s old school politics.
The reality is that, like it or not, more than 20% of people are expected to vote for SA Best – either because they like Mr Xenophon or feel disengaged from the current major parties and are prepared to give him their protest vote.
This move away from the political duopoly has been growing steadily for years and Mr Xenophon’s centrist position is not a step too far for those wanting to ‘send a message’ to both Liberal and Labor.
It is not a blip.
It is clear evidence of the changing political world and something which, remarkably, seems to have either been ignored or gone unnoticed by Mr Marshall.
Numerous political experts believe SA Best will hold the balance of power and could win up to 10 seats.
If the analysts are wrong and Mr Marshall cruises to victory after 16 years in the wilderness, then all power to him.
But to remove the opportunity to form a conservative government in the likely event of a hung parliament is a confusing strategy that gives Jay Weatherill a huge advantage.
The major parties have the chance to evolve and establish a prime position in the new political reality in this State.
The risk Mr Marshall is taking is spending another four years in Opposition to learn it the hard way.

Power shock

It’s a sign of our troubled energy climate that a new Hills housing estate will target power bills and security of electricity supply as its key selling point.

Glenlea Mt Barker’s solar promise highlights all that is broken with our State’s power network in its developers’ promise to deliver homeowners dramatically reduced electricity bills and continuation of supply.

It is a point of difference that may actually change the way we design suburbs and think about electricity generation and use into the future.

In a country such as Australia where sunshine is usually abundant, it makes sense to use this kind of technology.

Previously, solar systems provided a limited power solution, because they produced energy during the day when many users weren’t home to take advantage of it.

Now, coupled with rapidly improving battery technology, solar presents more of a base-load power alternative.

The Glenlea estate will take advantage of the leaps in solar technology, by coupling solar panels on roofs of its 600 homes with battery storage and back-up technology.

Its developers, Axiom Properties and the Gilbert family, point to expected power bill savings of about 80% for future residents.

The batteries will provide baseload power around the clock, while also presenting the opportunity to sell what is an increasingly valuable commodity back to the grid at a higher price in times of peak demand.

It’s a clever concept that taps into our mounting fears about the affordability of an everyday utility.

More importantly, however, it could become a blueprint for how suburbs are designed into the future.

Technology is advancing at such a rapid rate that it won’t be long until combined solar-battery systems are affordable for the average household.

And that will open up options for household-to-household electricity trading, bringing a new form of competition into the market, which can only be good news for consumers struggling with rising bills.

Certainly in years to come there can be no doubt that a well-designed, energy efficient house is going to be worth a lot more than a house without efficiency features.

The electricity landscape of this nation, if not the world, is set to undergo a significant restructure and it is pleasing to see housing developers taking a proactive rather than a reactive role.

Liberal leaflets

It’s almost six months out from the State election and already the Liberal Party has taken up a war footing before any other candidates have been announced in the Hills seat of Kavel.

In a remarkable move for the Liberals – which have historically held the seat with a comfortable margin – Kavel candidate Dan Cregan has already engaged in a head-on fight, with Nick Xenophon’s emerging SA Best Party the first target in his sights.

Mr Cregan has denied that SA Best is his biggest obstacle to winning the seat, but his claims don’t match the actions of his Party which developed the anti-SA Best flyers distributed to letterboxes in the district recently.

That is a strange position for the candidate to take and perhaps one that is less than genuine.  Whether or not Mr Cregan sees SA Best as his biggest threat to Kavel, it would seem someone in the Liberal Party hierarchy does.

In his eagerness to take over the seat from Mark Goldsworthy, Mr Cregan may well be missing the elephant in the room.

Preventing the formation of another Labor Government is undoubtedly the Liberal’s chief concern, but targeting a single minor Party in the pursuit of that end sends the clear message to voters that the Liberals are unsettled by that Party.

With several decades of comfortable Kavel margins under its belt, the State Liberal Party seems to be noticing that this time  the outcome of next year’s election in Kavel may be far from pre-determined.

The months leading up to the election will be fascinating to watch in this region.

But irrespective of the evolving political dynamics, all candidates must ensure their campaigns are contests of ideas and vision, rather than of fear-mongering and scare tactics.

When all the candidates are announced, it will be their responsibility to sell their policies to the electors.

Candidates must convince Hills voters of why their Parties’ policies will benefit them and their region over the next four years rather than simply tearing down their opponents.

Everyone knows that marginal seats are the squeaky political wheels and in a seat such as Kavel – which is experiencing significant growing pains and in need of more attention from State and Federal governments – a close result is the equivalent to a good dollop of oil.

Gold mine issues

The intertwining of mining industries within agricultural and tourism regions is always a delicate issue, causing angst in pockets of many communities.
Terramin Australia’s proposal to extract more than $400m of gold from the former Bird in Hand mine at Woodside is no exception, with many local landholders adamantly opposed to the plan.
The arguments of these opponents are more than just emotional pleas, and credit must be given for their initiative to research the impacts of the mine.
Their two biggest concerns are the potential impact on underground water and the possible staining of the clean, green image of the Hills – both of which Inverbrackie Catchment Group chairman Jim Franklin-McEvoy believe have the potential to threaten up to $800m of economic activity in the area.
This claim has been contested by Terramin, which is confident it can manage both groundwater and dust, noise and vibration to have minimum impact on the surrounding industries.
Terramin has a tainted record when it comes to water, with miscalculations during its mining venture at Strathalbyn causing issues at that mine, and so cannot expect to be taken at its word alone when it comes to water security.
However, the company insists that it has learned from that mistake and is committed to protecting the water use of surrounding properties.
There are also numerous examples of mines co-existing with other wine and agricultural regions, such as in the Hunter Valley, which is home to one of the nation’s oldest wine regions and also a plethora of open cut coal mines.
Despite this, the concerns raised by the Hills community are researched and logical and should be seriously considered by Terramin, the State Government and the community during the development of a more advanced proposal.
But the maintenance of the region’s clean and green agricultural image is vital and a series of independent experts must agree there is no possibility of the mine’s activity affecting the region’s water table before it can proceed.
If the water table is harmed, the damage can never be repaired and the painful legacy will last for generations – long after the mining company has packed up and gone.

Expect respect

The roll out of the postal plebiscite in the coming weeks will give an interesting snapshot into how mature Australian society has become.
While the issue may not be the prime focus for the overwhelming majority (power prices, job security, housing affordability clearly are more prominent for most), it does have the power to highlight just where our modern Australian has landed.
It is hoped that the spectre of a nasty, vindictive same sex marriage debate is avoided.
This can largely be achieved if those inhabiting the extremes of the issue operate in a respectful, calm and honest manner – both in what they say and how they respond to those with opposing views.
Irrespective of the final outcome, the next few months could be a great result for Australia.
If we can negotiate this tricky social debate without descending into an ugly fight then we will have achieved a remarkable outcome.
Just whether that is the case remains to be seen, but Australians should remember we have avoided such pitfalls in the past with great dexterity and have moulded ourselves into an inclusive and respectful multi-cultural society that is the envy of the world.
Sure, there have been plenty of hiccups along the way, but the manner in which this nation has welcomed so many different people from all over the world and united the overwhelming majority is truly remarkable.
Each of our new citizens – whether arriving from Syria, Sudan or Scotland – bring with them a host of principles, practices and prejudices which can seem bizarre to others.
Some may have been brought up in a culture where female genital mutilation is a regular part of achieving womanhood, where a woman should never be alone in the company of a male non-relative or where drinking 15 pints of lager and vomiting outside the pub on the way home is just a regular Saturday night out.
Most are willing to change as almost all who arrive on our shores accept that this society, as imperfect as it is, offers a far better life for themselves and their children.
The bottom line is we all get a say in this current debate.
Let’s not abuse the privilege.

Ward decision

The Adelaide Hills Council finally seems to be moving forward with a decision about its future structure after months of division in the chamber.
But while the council and the community may be one step closer to a final outcome, the turbulence surrounding the process has clearly damaged both the council’s brand and, more importantly, the public’s faith in local government’s community consultation system.
We live in a political climate that has seen voters become increasingly frustrated with the inability of elected members at all levels of government to move past peripheral issues and get the real work done.
The council’s toing and froing about an issue that will arguably impact only a small percentage of the region’s population is unlikely to strengthen the community’s trust in politics.
The council has already lost the confidence of some of its electors who, unable to be convinced by the arguments of the no-ward councillors, felt their concerns had not been adequately listened to when the council pushed ahead with the no-ward option.
It’s yet to be seen whether the council’s decision to change to a two ward system will be considered by the public as an acceptable compromise or if it will emerge as a decision made by community leaders who simply couldn’t agree on any other solution.
Supporters of the two ward system claim it will secure representation for smaller northern farming communities, while also providing more choice to voters and encouraging greater participation in council elections.
Whether these predictions eventuate is yet to be seen.
What is also unknown is whether the two ward system is a stepping stone for councillors wanting to abolish all wards to do so at a future date; or whether residents who so strenuously opposed the abolition of wards will realise that removing the 20-year-old boundaries will actually have less negative impact than they feared.
What is certain, however, is that whatever the future outcome of a two ward structure, the council has a lot of work to do if it wants to restore the public’s faith in the local government political process.

Fire protection

From raging bushfires to flash floods and car crashes, in times of disaster the people of Mt Barker have for decades been protected by their dedicated CFS.

Over several generations volunteers have given countless hours of their time to keep this town and its people safe.

But with projections that this country town will become a regional city of up to 30,000 people, the day is fast approaching when that burden of protection will become too great for the shoulders of its volunteer CFS brigade.

After all, these men and women are already sacrificing time with family and paid time at work to don the yellow overalls in times of need.

When the call-outs come a few times a week the burden is manageable – but what happens when the calls come every day and night?

There will always be a need for a local CFS, whose expertise at dealing with rural emergencies, including bushfires, is second to none.

But as Mt Barker grows into a city there will also be more specialised skills and equipment required to deal with larger, more complex emergencies such as industrial fires and fires in multi-storey buildings.

To its credit the Mt Barker CFS brigade has recognised that change was needed and has spent the past four years lobbying for a new service model.

It is a change that has the support of both the CFS and MFS.

What it needs now, however, is money and a plan.

Like the increasing pressure on the Mt Barker hospital triggering a new 24-hour emergency service, and a lack of sports and recreation facilities prompting three grants in as many months, the town’s fire service, it seems, is the next domino in the line to feel the pressure of the growth forced on this region by the State Labor Government.

It is time for the Government to commit to delivering a MFS unit in Mt Barker by setting a time-frame for the roll-out and deciding on a model that will best suit this region.

Plans need to be made now for the transition to the MFS model, including when and where a station would be built and how it will be staffed.

Lift your game

A more dysfunctional Federal Government is difficult to imagine.
First, the increasing ugliness of the postal vote on same sex marriage is morphing into an issue that has the potential to cause great harm and offence to many – on both sides of the debate.
It will get worse before it gets better.
Already the extremes are mobilising their campaigns and it is clear the community is about to be inundated with propaganda – some of which will be false and misleading – which will significantly offend sections of the community.
And what if the result of the vote is inconclusive – 51% yes and 49% no, for example?
This non-binding exercise could well become a monumental waste of $120m with the decision deferred to the very people unwilling to make a decision in the first place.
Then we have the seemingly endless dual citizenship mess that has made the nation a laughing stock, if it wasn’t before.
The way this series of embarrassing revelations of either incompetence or bizarre bad luck is being drip fed to the public only adds to the community’s feeling of frustration.
So far six Senators and one MP have been outed. More are likely.
The Labor Party can smell blood in the water and, with the Coalition holding on to a slim majority in the Lower House, is busy making political hay.
Labor’s sole objective is to keep the issue in the spotlight – to the detriment of better government.
Power prices and housing affordability can wait, it seems.
To that end both major Parties have refused to agree to an audit of all MPs to work out exactly who is legally allowed a seat in Parliament under the Constitution.
That sensible solution is being pushed by the Greens after losing two Senators in the fiasco.
And just when we thought it couldn’t get any more bizarre, in waltzes Pauline Hanson wearing a burqa.
In retrospect the whole thing looks like a scene from a D-grade pantomime.
Thank goodness there is now a two- week interval in which the public can regain its composure and the politicians can regain their senses, because more of the same is just not an option.

Still the same

The Adelaide Hills Council’s decision to pursue the abolition of the ward-based representation system is proof that nothing has changed over the past nine months.
More than 90% of community respondents still want the council to be divided into wards.
Half of the elected members also want to retain the current system.
And the other half of the elected members, as well as the Mayor, still want an undivided council.
The most recent decision also demonstrated that most of the councillors who were against retaining the wards were also against some kind of compromise, which could have seen the number of wards reduced, rather than completely abolished.
During the previous elector representation review – held during late 2016 and early 2017 – the council pushed ahead with the decision to abolish wards despite strong community opposition during two consultation periods (both over 90%).
This caused some people to feel as though their views had not been adequately considered.
It’s unlikely that the most recent decision has done anything to change that.
There are undoubtedly valid points on both sides of the argument, when it comes to whether or not the council should be divided.
Those in favor of the wards have argued that maintaining the status quo will ensure residents have a local representative to whom they can turn.
Someone who knows their area intimately, is in tune with the issues facing the local community and who can consider their needs.
Meanwhile, the Mayor has researched councils across the nation and found that a wardless system encourages more people to vote, while voters in undivided councils are also more likely to have their first preference candidate elected.
These factors are, in his opinion, strong evidence to say that councils without wards work better.
However, he and half of his fellow elected members have once again failed to convince the community of the same thing.
For the third time in less than a year the council has forged ahead to abolish wards without first bringing the community along.
In the process it has continued to injure the reputation of the community consultation process – a wound that will likely take a long time to heal.