One of the main reasons I love living in the Adelaide Hills is the rich natural heritage of the area. The Mount Lofty Ranges are not just a very beautiful part of South Australia but one of only two biodiversity hotspots in the state. It’s also a place where we produce great food and wine, and where many people want to live.
Sometimes these different land uses can come into conflict with each other. It’s often, but not always, the result of less-than-optimum planning but I think it can also be due to a lack of understanding that these different land uses can complement each other rather than compete.
Looming over all of this is global warming, which in our part of the world is leading to hotter and drier weather. It impacts our natural environment, our farmers, our public green spaces and our own gardens. It puts a greater strain on local water resources and threatens our native wildlife and vegetation. It makes our region perhaps even more vulnerable to bushfires, especially without significant investment in weed management and fuel reduction.
In the meantime there are things we can do at a more local level, and I think that planning to ensure different land uses in our region are harmonised – rather than in conflict – is an important priority.
There’s no reason why farming has to be in conflict with the natural environment. A healthy natural environment with thriving biodiversity in proximity to farms, properly managed, will promote greater agricultural productivity through better soil health, cleaner water and natural suppression of pests and diseases. It also makes our local produce more marketable if we can demonstrate greater care for the environment.
I envision rejuvenated corridors and reserves of natural vegetation and waterways for our wildlife promoting biodiversity throughout the Hills, weaving in and out of productive and profitable farms producing some of the best food and wine in the world. Private land holders should be incentivised to manage weeds such as periwinkle, gorse and Erica and develop native vegetation, perhaps through discounts on council rates. Our council-owned land could, cleared of introduced species and weeds, become corridors for native species and promote our unique biodiversity.
I look forward to working with all stakeholders, and the wider Adelaide Hills community, to achieve this. Our community’s future relies on a long-term vision and seeing it through.