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.

Mental health

Once stigmatised and shunned from public discusion, mental illness will be firmly in the spotlight in the Hills this month as the push continues to raise awareness about a very real health problem.
National charity SANE estimates that 20% of Australian adults are affected by a mental disorder each year and nearly half the population will experience mental illness at some time in their lives.
Those figures bring home the fact that, if it hasn’t already affected us, we will all experience mental illness at some stage, whether as sufferers or as loved ones caring for those affected.
It is encouraging then to see how far society has come in recent years in breaking down stereotypes and increasing services and support to those with mental health issues.
Stories like the one shared by Mt Barker woman Heather Nowak in today’s edition show how valuable a supportive health service and a caring community are to helping sufferers on their road to recovery.
But the alarming rate of suicide among former military personnel – a number that is on the rise – and concerns expressed by the Mt Barker RSL about the lack of support for veterans highlight that there is still much more to be done.

Wasp decision

The decision by Environment Minister Ian Hunter to discontinue the State Government’s funding towards the removal of European wasp nests is yet another example of local government being forced to do more with less.
The councils will either have to pass the cost of nest removal to the property owner or put the rates up for everyone to cover the shortfall.
Either way the buck will stop with the little guy as the State Government washes its hands of all responsibility.
The fact is that people cannot ignore a wasp nest in their backyard or their wall cavity. The wasps must be removed.
The danger is that changing the structure to make it the property owner’s responsibility might encourage people to take nest removal into their own hands.
This could have tragic consequences.
It might also encourage some property owners not to report nests thereby making the problem worse.

Bold bin decision

The Alexandrina Council’s decision to change to a fortnightly bin collection system is a bold move that could become the norm for rubbish collection across the country.

The change to move away from the traditional weekly general waste (blue bin) collection has been driven by the ever increasing cost of dumping that rubbish in landfill.

And with research showing that almost 70% of the material placed in the district’s blue bins could be recycled through either the yellow or green bins (which carry only a minor dumping fee to council), it is little wonder the authority has moved to change the system.

There will certainly be an adjustment period for some residents and business owners who may be inconvenienced by the decision to collect all three bins on a fortnightly basis as opposed to the current system of a weekly pick-up for blue bins and a monthly pick-up of the others.

But with open lines of communication and a spirit of understanding on both sides, most difficulties can be overcome. Mayor Keith Parkes has said weekly collection will be reintroduced at peak periods in the summer to help residents and holidaymakers.

What is essential is a long-running, well funded and professional public awareness campaign from the council to educate the wider community to ensure that more materials are placed in the correct bins. The 70% figure for recyclable or compostable material being sent to landfill through the blue bins is a disgrace.

Clearly too many people don’t understand the system. There will always be a small percentage of the population who don’t care and will dump anything in any bin, but most people – if given the opportunity – will try and do the right thing.

The changes will be implemented during the next financial year so the council has a long lead-in time to educate its ratepayers about the new system and make it a smooth and successful transition.

It is obvious that rubbish collection has come a long way in recent years and is a far cry from every household having a single bin into which everything was dumped and ended up in landfill. Now that the decision has been made the most important thing is to bring the community along with the change.

Vale Grant Paech

The death of Beenenberg founder Grant Paech on Monday gives us all a reason to not only celebrate a wonderful life but to also acknowledge a man who combined two rare traits – an outstanding work ethic and a sharp mind open to opportunity.
Mr Paech and his wife Carol developed an internationally recognised company from  a backyard strawberry patch in a corner of their diary farm and a roadside stall selling homemade jam.
They might have remained struggling farmers were it not for Mr Paech’s ability to both recognise and seize an opportunity to develop a business which would ultimately change the lives of hundreds of people for the better.
Now under the tutelage of his three children Robert (farm manager), Anthony (managing director) and Sally (marketing manager), Beerenberg has expanded to manufacture much more than jams – which it exports to 25 countries – and its range now includes sauces and condiments.
A story in this edition of The Courier reveals how the company is now expanding into selling exclusive high-end tableware.
It is a business that is moving forward and looking for opportunities – just as its founder would have done.
Yet despite its modern global reach and influence, its roots are firmly entrenched in the Hahndorf community.
The Paech family has been living in Hahndorf for six generations and the business has a philanthropic arm which injects money and enthusiasm back into the historic town where it reigns as a local hero.
It provides many jobs and the massive $14m expansion to develop a distribution centre, warehouse and factory upgrade, which is underway behind the current factory, is a testament to the strong ties Beerenberg has to Hahndorf.
Most households have a jar of a Beerenberg product tucked away in the pantry.
So, even though it may have sat there untouched for months, now is the time to dust off the lid and remember a man who had a massive impact on his local community, a significant impact on SA and who played an important role in helping to place Australia’s food industry onto the international stage.
So let’s toast the life of Grant Paech – with a piece of toast and a delicious jam, of course.

New Prime Minister

Liberal voters should welcome the spill that has given Australia Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister.
Even the biggest fans of Tony Abbott would concede that he was losing his grip on the electorate.
A political leader can dismiss the results of consecutive polls for only so long before the rhetoric becomes stale.
Mr Abbott was on the nose, Nick Xenophon’s new Party was shaping up to be a serious contender for SA seats and Mr Turnbull’s supporters could clearly see that if the Coalition kept going down the same trajectory, Labor’s Bill Shorten would be a red hot favorite to win the next election.
Mr Shorten’s odds to win government have now lengthened considerably.
He doesn’t have Abbott’s gift of performing in Opposition and, thanks to a union investigation, has his own image problems.
With Mr Abbott no longer a convenient target to hide behind, he’s going to have to work much harder.
Mr Turnbull now has a year to see if his socially progressive, financially conservative public image will resonate with voters.
He also has to deliver on policies, cement his leadership, keep the Nationals on side and show that he has learned from the lessons of the past when he was deposed as Opposition Leader.
It will be a balancing act but as the swift execution of Monday’s spill showed, the new Prime Minister is a deft political operator.
He will also be helped by the fact that his predecessor is a loyal man, and no Kevin Rudd.
Mr Abbott comes across as a man who will accept his colleagues’ decision, particularly since he was given a warning and a six month reprieve to prove himself.
It was probably Mr Abbott’s loyalty to his supporters that contributed to his demise.
You cannot point the finger at the Australian people and tell them they are living beyond their means when the Speaker of the House is using the public purse to charter helicopter flights to Party fundraisers.
That incident and the ensuing furore over politicians entitlements largely derailed Mr Abbott’s second chance.
In one sense that’s a shame for his legacy because whatever else you can say about the former PM, he did what he said he would do – he stopped the boats and he got rid of both the mining and carbon taxes.

A little lifesaver

A little boy lies lifeless on the sand of a Turkish beach, washed up and stranded like a piece of flotsam.
It is the image that broke the world’s heart.
Three-year-old Syrian Aylan Kurdi died, along with his mother and older brother, trying to cross the sea between Turkey and Greece to find a safe haven in Europe.
He wasn’t the first to die while making that treacherous journey – at least 12 Syrian refugees died attempting that crossing on the same day.
But the death of this one little boy – and the graphic pictures of his tiny body – hit a note of tragedy that resonated worldwide.
It made many of us in our comfortable lives in our safe Western countries finally sit up and notice the true human toll caused by the reign of the extremist group ISIS and the long-running civil war in Syria.
It is not a new issue. A tide of humanity has been flowing out of the region to escape this nightmare for years.
Many of these people, including Aylan’s family, have been living a life in limbo in refugee camps in countries such as Turkey for years.
They cannot go home because they face persecution, death or simply have nothing to go home to.
Desperate to find safety and stability, they put their lives in the hands of people smugglers who promise to deliver them to safe havens in Europe.
Compared to these people, we Australians are rich beyond our wildest dreams.
We live with a level of freedom, safety, security and prosperity that make it almost impossible for us to comprehend the horror and devastation these refugees are fleeing from.
Little Aylan Kurdi’s death brought home this reality last week.
It opened the hearts of Australians who have called for our country to do its bit to help.
As Mayo MP Jamie Briggs highlights, reopening Inverbrackie to house refugees might not be the answer.
But accepting more of these people who have been stuck in the limbo of a refugee camp for years is something we must consider so they do not feel they have to attempt the deadly crossing to Europe.
Perhaps then the death of this one little boy, and the thousands of others to which we previously turned a blind eye, won’t have been in vain.

Help for ice addicts

Listening to the dialogue unfolding at last week’s community information forum on ice – a highly purified form of methamphetamine – was eerily similar to other public meetings in this region in recent years dealing with suicide and mental health.
On one hand you had all the official agencies telling locals that the statistics didn’t paint a picture of a massive social problem peculiar to their district.
On the other hand you had residents dealing with the fall-out of suicide in their communities and wanting that pain acknowledged.
They also wanted some action because – rightly or wrongly – there was a perception that those who needed help couldn’t access the assistance they required.
Many positive moves evolved from that debate.
Residents formed action groups to take the preventative measures they felt were needed in their area.
Departments, agencies and authorities took steps to better communicate the services that were available and they offered more targeted services.
Overall the stigma surrounding mental health was chipped away as society spoke more openly about the problem, encouraging people to seek help.
Hopefully the public debate about ice will open up discussions about drug and alcohol use and addiction in general.
It might only be 2% of the population that uses methamphetamine (with 15% of that number suffering addiction) but this devastatingly potent substance is becoming the popular drug of choice, with all its associated social ills.
Now would be a good time to examine how we as a community can take a preventative approach towards drug use.
It would also be opportunistic to review what services are available, how they are communicated and if they are meeting community expectations.
Drug use is bigger than a 2% problem and it will take a community working together and demanding action to get the help they need, when they need and where they need it.
* People experiencing problems with mental heath or drug use can call the following help lines: Lifeline 13 11 14, Alcohol and Drug Information Service 1300 13 13 40, Family Drug Support 1300 368 186.

Water torture

When planning began for the management of the Western Mt Lofty Ranges’ water resources a decade ago, the memory of the millennium drought was still fresh in most farmers’ minds.
Many had been through the juggling act of managing cattle, dairies, orchards and vineyards on dwindling water supplies from drying dams and waterways.
They could remember the State’s water reservoir levels dropping and the once mighty Murray reduced to a trickle.
There was a general understanding that water was a resource that needed to be better managed to secure the future of the region’s primary production sector, the environment and Adelaide’s water supply.
When they were told they would have to pay a fee to have a licence to use the water many growers’ families had accessed for free for generations, there were grumblings, but they paid up.
Then came the news that landowners would have to have a meter installed to monitor use – and pay for that as well.
When the announcement of a levy arrived, the grumblings turned into heated protests that firmly pitted long-term producers against the Adelaide and Mt Lofty Ranges Natural Resource Management Board responsible for rolling out the plan.
Monday night’s meeting in Uraidla was a further widening of the divide emerging over water management in the Hills.
Growers are meeting the State Government’s threats of legal action and land seizures over non-payment of the levy with their own revolt by threatening to tear up their bills.
For many primary producers, the levy is just another tax – on top of recent soaring Emergency Services Levy bills – making it harder for them to make a living.
For the NRM Board it’s a fair way to raise money to part-fund the cost of water management – a cost that has been borne by other licence holders in the Barossa, Northern Adelaide Plains and McLaren Vale for the best part of a decade.
Why should one region get its water for free, while others pay to access the same resource?
The only certainty in this debate now is that unless both sides can shelve their differences and communicate more effectively to make the plan work, then ultimately everyone will lose out when the next drought arrives.

Houses for sale

A new future for the now defunct Inverbrackie detention facility is a step closer.
The Department of Defence announced back in May that the 80-home site – vacated late last year – would be sold in one lot.
However, the wheels of government turn slowly and there has been a genuine fear in the community that the place will rapidly deteriorate if left abandoned for too long.
A ghost town next door to the 16th Air Land Regiment does nothing to benefit the community and is a waste of the $10m taxpayers spent upgrading the old defence housing estate to an acceptable standard for a detention facility.
Now the Adelaide Hills Council has received a letter giving it first option to buy the land, with a decision deadline set for the end of the month.
Given its experience with the old Lobethal mill, the council is unlikely to take on another commercial project and the department will go to open tender.
The hope now is that whoever buys the property moves quickly to develop the site and that the wheels of planning move faster than they usually do in this area.

Antiques town

Strathalbyn is widely known as an ‘antiques town’.
Indeed its historic and well preserved High Street precinct is a Mecca for antique aficionados with its shops brimming with second-hand goods and collectables.
Last weekend’s 25th annual Antiques, Collectors and Interior Design Fair further cemented the historic town’s connection with the past and, judging by the more than 6000 people who attended the two-day event, it is a valuable hook on which the town can hang its marketing hat.
Most towns would dream of that tourism pulling power and its committee has shown that by adding an interior design element to the usual program it is positive and forward thinking about the future of the weekend.
A pop-up cellar door was on offer for the first time this year in the old grain store opposite the town’s swimming pool and,  with the Langhorne Creek wine region only minutes away, the potential for a more integrated food and wine component remains a possibility.

Building up

Fast-forward two decades and imagine Mt Barker’s town centre streets lined with five-storey apartment blocks and offices.
It’s a challenging thought that high rise developments as tall as the Flinders Medical Centre could take the place of the town’s pool and caravan park, form the backdrop along its creeks and overshadow tiny historic cottages.
Clearly the community has decided that vision is not one it wants for Mt Barker circa 2035.
Their overwhelming opposition to the council’s proposed new maximum building height limit in the town centre is justified.
Such buildings would be far too big for the narrow streets and historic precincts along which they are proposed.
But the fact remains that Mt Barker is a rapidly growing town, undergoing a painful transformation from sleepy country town to bustling regional centre.
These growing pains are placing extra pressure on the town centre to meet the demands of business and community expectations.
Office accommodation is in short supply and there are limited opportunities for those who want to live in the heart of the town.
Residents also expect that Mt Barker will offer the 21st Century infrastructure, shopping opportunities and services befitting a regional centre.
With that extra pressure on a limited town centre, it makes sense to build up.
It creates environmental benefits by condensing the CBD in a confined footprint, while also opening up opportunities for commerce and the community to coexist in a way that can breathe vibrancy into the heart of the town.
There are plenty of examples in inner city Adelaide of well-designed two to three storey developments mixing apartment living with cafes, shops and offices.
This gives new housing opportunities to those who don’t want a big house but do want easy access to services and shops, such as the young and elderly.
Such vibrancy can still be achieved in Mt Barker’s town centre with a reduced height limit of two to three storeys and innovative design to ensure the town centre becomes a pleasant and productive heart rather than a concrete jungle.

Rainbow flag

The response to last week’s letter to the editor from Ruth Trinkle of Lobethal, in which she chastised The Courier for reporting on a council decision to fly the rainbow flag, was nothing short of astounding.
In her letter Mrs Trinkle said she bought The Courier every week for her customers to read in her shop but would stop doing so as she believed stories on what she described as the “homosexuality campaign” would offend her customers.
The name of the business was not mentioned in the letter but it didn’t take long to emerge.
A social media storm erupted within hours of the letter’s publication.
The hundreds of emails, letters, Facebook messages and phone calls – most vehemently opposed to Mrs Trinkle’s views – helped push the matter into the national spotlight.
The story was reported in almost every major newspaper in the country and it placed the owners and staff of The Lobethal Bakery into a very difficult position … particularly as Mrs Trinkle had left for overseas two days before it was printed.
Within hours a Facebook page was established to boycott the bakery and dozens of writers to The Courier’s Facebook page said they would never again use the business.
Some people stood in defence of Mrs Trinkle’s views against the barrage of criticism and, while most Facebook contributors conveyed their thoughts in appropriate terms, the venom displayed by others was disturbing.
Some very unsettling phone calls were received by the business but, as the owners told The Courier on Monday, nothing unseemly was delivered face to face.
Which suggests that in this modern world of electronic communication it is very easy for people to express their views, but very few take the opportunity to do so in person.
We live in rapidly changing times.
Homosexuality was only decriminalised in SA in the 1970s and same sex marriage, in all probability, is likely to be legalised soon.
It is difficult for everyone to accept significant social change and it is not an offence to disagree with its direction.
What is needed in such circumstances is understanding and tolerance – on both sides of the debate.
Isn’t that exactly what flying the rainbow flag is supposed to symbolise?

Site by Sema4 Media |