We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children
(Native American proverb).

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Opposite of Sense

For the first time since our tree change, I'm mad. Very mad!

It started at our local farmers market this morning. I was chatting, as I usually do, to our local wine maker about the week, the weather, the wine... the usual. Time passed and he mentioned the simmering conflict between vigneron and local government. Now disputes between councils and local businesses are nothing new, except this one really does defy belief, and I'm afraid, only serves to illustrate a much bigger problem we have in Australia.

My journey of wine appreciation is long and still very much limited. Not long after moving to our cottage in the Capital Wine Region of Australia, we heard a series of rather loud bangs followed by what has been aptly described as a recording of a dying cockatoo issuing a distress cry. It was quite clearly a rather simple and effective way of keeping birds off the ripening fruit of the vines. No dead birds, no chemicals, no inhumane treatment; just a simple solution to a very real problem to produce some of the country's finest wines.

Enter the commuter. You know the one: they earn more money than most Australians (perhaps they're the ones lamenting the $150,000 threshold the feds want to impose on middle class welfare recipients); have a keen desire to live in the peace and tranquility of a rural setting, whilst not wanting to take pride in working the land they have bought with their hard (or not so hard) earned salaries. They don't mind commuting the hour or so it takes to get them to their overpaid job in the city, and all they ask in return is a little peace and quiet to enjoy the spoils of their "sacrifice" on a daily basis. But alas, those pesky auditory bird controls on a Saturday morning disturbed their sleep-in. What to do? Easy! Do what any rate-paying, tax-paying, voting citizen would do, and address your concerns to the local authorities. Then, without so much as a "what did you think you were getting into when you bought into a new rural estate next door to a vineyard?" the restrictions start on the use of audio bird controls.

Now I'm a great fan of the local drop, and everyone who I have introduced it to seems to find something to love in it too. Am I to pay a premium price for a wine which is now going to be in limited supply because the birds have taken their share first? I certainly hope not! Economics aside however, where are we going to produce our abundant agricultural bounty if any whinging commuter within cooee of a regular, "noisy" farm complains that the bird control measures are too loud, or the dogs bark too much when rounding up the sheep, or the tractor made too much noise when they slashed the paddocks, or, heaven forbid, the dust dirtied the washing on the line when they ploughed the southern paddock to plant a winter forage crop... then we won't get jack from anywhere near our maddeningly crowded cities.

It gets worse, because many an "informed" contributor to the recent carbon tax debate in this fair country has complained about the impact of the tax on increasing food prices. Food prices, like all things, are a function of supply and demand. Demand is not declining. Quite the contrary. However the supply is largely a function of the cost of inputs and the cost of transport. That being said, if our cities (which historically are located on some of the finest and most productive farming land, hence the longevity and growth of the settlement in the first place) are to expand into surrounding prime agricultural land thus forcing farmers ever further out into more marginal lands, surely this will have a doubly inflationary impact of both forcing up input costs in order to maintain output through the addition of chemical fertilisers for instance, PLUS increase the cost of transporting the finished product to markets in the expanding urban centres (let alone the additional cost of ever growing energy costs even without a carbon tax!). Which ever way you look at it, this scenario is the opposite of good sense!

Back to our local issues... I have it on good authority that local vignerons are collectively not going to stand for this. Stay tuned for updates as the battle unfolds, and please, support your local growers, your local, state and federal politicians/parties who have policies to preserve our food security and advocate urban consolidation, and if you must live on land, spare a thought for those working the land for our individual and collective benefit. Maybe those of us who live on small parcels of land could learn a thing or two from those who do so, and we could all grow some of our own produce and live healthier and more flavoursome lives.


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