Australian road protesters multiply

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  • Friday 5 November 2010

Campaigners against developments in two of Australia’s most illustrious wine regions have taken to the streets in protest.

McLaren Vale

McLaren Vale: protest

About 200 people, many of them driving tractors and cars, travelled in convoy through McLaren Vale at the weekend to protest against plans for more than 1,000 homes and a new retail mall at Seaford Heights.

The land, at the gateway to the world-renowned region about 40km south of Adelaide, is unplanted, but has been described as having ‘spectacular’ potential for wine production.

Meanwhile, Treasury Wine Estates – the wine arm of drinks giant Foster’s – has taken out full-page newspaper advertisements to campaign against a planned bypass through vineyard land in Coonawarra.

The long-running issue revolves around moves to divert trucks onto a new road skirting the town of Penola, running through vineyards owned by a number of producers.

The local council proposal was defeated in June last year after it was challenged in Australia’s High Court by wine companies including Foster’s subsidiary Seppelts and Parker Coonawarra Estate.

They complained that the new road would destroy ‘irreplaceable’ terra rossa vineyards, impact tourism thanks to reduced traffic through Penola, and would create road safety concerns along the Riddoch Highway, where most of the area’s cellar doors are located.

However, the plan was resurrected by the council at the end of last year.

Wine luminaries including Jancis Robinson MW have joined the fight against the Seaford Heights proposal, which McLaren Vale Grape Wine Tourism chairman Dudley Brown described as ‘a dirty great strip mall on some of the best vineyard land, and the tourist gateway from Adelaide to the region’.

However, planners point out that Seaford Heights was originally earmarked for development 20 years ago, arguing that its position next to existing housing makes it ‘very difficult’ to reclassify it as agricultural land.

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