Mark Parnell in Parliament

GREENS MOTION: Supporting the bid for UNESCO world heritage listing of the Mount Lofty Ranges agricultural landscape

Legislative Council

December 9th, 2015

On the 9th of December 2015 Mark moved and spoke to his following motion:

That this Council urges the State Government to support the Mount Lofty Ranges Working Agricultural  Landscape World Heritage Bid spanning the world-renowned food, wine and tourism regions of the Barossa Valley, Adelaide Hills, McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Peninsula. 

The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: The bid for UNESCO world heritage listing of the Mount Lofty Ranges agricultural landscape, which encompasses the Barossa Valley, the Adelaide Hills, McLaren Vale and the Fleurieu Peninsula, was first suggested by Professor Randy Stringer, an expert in global food economics at the University of Adelaide, in 2012.

The idea first came to public notice around the same time as the Barossa and McLaren Vale character preservation legislation was being debated here in state parliament. Before joining the University of Adelaide, Professor Stringer was chief of the Comparative Studies Service at the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation and had worked with UNESCO in Rome.

The world heritage bid, including the feasibility study currently underway, is funded by six councils in partnership with Regional Development Australia Barossa and the University of Adelaide. The councils are looking to form a regional subsidiary in 2016 to pursue, first, national heritage listing and then world heritage listing. The councils involved include the District Council of Mount Barker, Adelaide Hills Council, Barossa Council, City of Onkaparinga, and Alexandrina Council, and its affiliates include the District Council of Yankalilla and the McLaren Vale Grape Wine and Tourism Association.

Onkaparinga mayor, Lorraine Rosenberg, and Kaurna Nation Cultural Heritage Association representative, Jeffrey Newchurch, have both been vocal in their support. Also involved in the bid is Margaret Lehmann (wife of the late Barossa wine legend Peter Lehmann), and a person I have not met called Patricia Michelle, who I am advised is Julie Bishop's sister, is also involved in the campaign.

What types of landscapes have been recognised by UNESCO as agrarian landscapes? The list is quite impressive—for example, the Loire Valley, in France; Cinque Terre and the Val d'Orcia, in Italy; and Tequila, in Mexico. Champagne and Burgundy apparently are also seeking UNESCO recognition, so we are in very good company.

What makes the South Australian bid relevant to UNESCO and to world heritage listing is an interesting story that melds both historical and current factors. The brochure provided by the Mount Lofty Ranges world heritage bid team says the following about what makes the Mount Lofty Ranges a UNESCO world heritage area:

South Australia's utopian origins were shaped by some of the greatest thinkers of the colonisation era. Colonisation theorist and entrepreneur Edward Gibbon  Wakefield, free  market economist John Stuart Mill and philosopher Jeremy Bentham all h ad a say in the founding of the  state. The international significance of that colonisation history forms the basis of our UNESCO bid, as we show how the innovations of the era continue to be reflected i n the contemporary landscapes, s ettlement patterns and evolving rural land use policies of the Barossa, Adelaide Hills, McLar en Vale and Fleurieu Peninsula. 

 UNESCO World Heritage listing would celebrate our diverse and dynamic agricultural landscapes and allow them to evolve and develop under lo cal and state planning control. 

 If successful, we would join an elite global club that includes landscapes in Tuscany,  Cinque Terre , Champagne and Burgundy. Managed by a consortium of six councils in partnership with Regional Development Australia Barossa and the University of Adelaide, the bid has a core ambition to deliver real and lasting economic, cultural and environmental benefits to the region ,  regardless of the outcome. 

If successful, the bid would lead to around 150,000 hectares from the Fleurieu Peninsula to the Clare Valley protected for its heritage, culture and agricultural sites. The possible benefits that could flow from UNESCO listing are numerous. I think at the top of the list would be the fact that this would be the biggest global branding opportunity this region will ever have. In fact, it would be an economic driver for the whole state. It would be a massive public relations boost for our world-class food, wine and tourism destinations, and it would add value to the things we already produce.

An interesting case study, in relation to that last point about adding value and creating a high-value niche market, is the example of the Cinque Terre region of Italy. According to the tourist brochures, this is:

…a string of centuries-old seaside villages on the rugged Italian Riviera coastline. In each of the five towns, colourful houses and ancient vineyards cling to steep terraces, fishing boats bob in harbours and trattorias turn out seafood specialities along with the Liguria region's famous sauce—pesto. 

This area was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1997. How do I know that it adds value? If we take, for example, lemons—organic lemons in particular—the price that they were able to obtain from lemons simply because they were grown in this region and not because they were of any different quality, was around €2.50 per kilogram, compared to the commodity price of €1.70 to €1.80 for the same product produced just outside the world heritage site, so there is a 68 per cent premium on that one product alone.

The world heritage listing would certainly raise the region's profile with overseas visitors because world heritage is something that is universally understood. Listing here would stimulate agribusiness and tourism innovation. It would attract investment to regional infrastructure, provide farmers with a greater return per hectare for their land, and it would also strengthen resilience in the face of drought and fire risk.

It is important to note that world heritage listing does not freeze the landscape in time and it does not stand in the way of development. To quote from the planning impact statement produced by the Mount Lofty Ranges world heritage bid team:

The bid is pro-development and pro-business, just as it is pro-landsc a pe and pro-environment. The creati o n  of character prese r vation f or food production area s  on their own won't  fa c i litate deve l opment or drive investment. The char ac ter prese rvation  designation is designed to protect existing character and constrain urban development, with a focus on what shouldn't occur ra ther  than proactively supportin g the prosper it y  of the region .  Similar ly , the provisions  for envir o nment and food production areas would esse n tially only creat e  are a s in which residential development cannot take pla ce without effecti vely driving sustainable primary production and profitable economic activity. 

I will just pause there. This is what we have been debating for the last couple of days under the planning bill, and that is the creation of these environment and food production areas. The point that the world heritage bid people make is that it does not drive development: it just tells you what you cannot do. For example, in particular, you cannot create new housing estates. Again, back to the planning impact statement:

UNESCO listing, on the other hand, works as an enabler and a celebration. Unlike legislation, which is generally restrictive in form, and which only comes into effect or has relevance if and when someone proposes to undertake development, National and World Heritage listing is expected to be an ongoing economic driver for alternative forms of development. It aims to stimulate owners and operators to invest, and to commence new employment generating activities, some of which may comprise development guided by local policies, but some of which may lie outside the planning and development system. 

I have mentioned the councils that are involved in the proposed bid, but the precise boundaries of any world heritage site will not be determined for some time yet and it will be done in conjunction with local property owners, state and federal government agencies, and heritage experts. National and world heritage listing will complement and enhance, not duplicate, the state's planning legislation and character preservation legislation. That is important because what we are debating at the moment in no way is undone or somehow devalued by this listing. It is complementary; it is not a replacement.

In terms of the nomination process from here, the bid is currently being progressed, as I said, by the consortium of six councils and their partners. There are two stages of the process—firstly, inclusion on Australia's National Heritage list, followed by a bid for World Heritage listing. The bid process has a core ambition to promote collaboration between all tiers of government and the private sector to deliver real and lasting economic cultural and environmental benefits to the region.

According to the project manager, Stephanie Johnston, the first draft of the bid is on schedule to be completed by January 2016, before we resume our work here. The consortium hopes to finalise the bid by the next call for nominations, but in order to make a bid for UNESCO listing the state government must support first their bid for National Heritage listing, and so far the state government on my advice has given the bid a lukewarm reception. Stephanie Johnston says they are currently talking to minister Hunter and Andrew McKeegan of DPTI on how to secure state government support for the bid. I am also advised that minister Leon Bignell is very interested as well.

Given the length of time over which this project will progress, it does need multi-party support. The state government's support, and planning minister John Rau's support, is essential if we are to successfully pitch to the federal government for National Heritage listing at the end of 2016. From start to finish, the UNESCO World Heritage listing process could take about a decade. It is not a short-term project.

I think this bid deserves all our support. Economically, environmentally and for posterity, the unique Mount Lofty Ranges Agricultural Landscape must be preserved for future generations as South Australia's food bowl and a major source of the state's tourism revenue and exports interstate and overseas. I mentioned that there is some action hopefully taking place in January of next year, so I do want to say more on this topic at a later stage. I now seek leave to continue my remarks.

Authorised by M. Parnell, Parliament House Adelaide.