A proposal to investigate World Heritage status for agrarian landscapes around the Mt Lofty Ranges has generated interest across the region.
World Heritage Site status would conserve the area's unique qualities, not just for future generations of Australians but also for the world. Not as a museum, but as a working, growing, changing landscape under local planning control. This is the report of that investigation.
The Institute's report for Adelaide councils found that:
World Heritage listing for agrarian landscapes is very rare, and rarer still for working agrarian landscapes. The Val d'Orcia in Tuscany is one example. So are Portugal's Alto Duoro Valley, Hungary's Tokaj wine region, and Mexico's famous tequila-producing area of Jalisco.
The main conclusion of the report is that seeking World Heritage status is a no-lose proposition, whether or not it succeeds. However, many factors suggest that the probability of success for a South Australian bid is strong - for historical and philosophical reasons that most South Australians probably know little about, in addition to the natural beauty and cultural qualities they might acknowledge but may not fully appreciate.
In the course of discussions with stakeholder groups, interest has emerged about how this might work in practice, and the implications for farmers. Such interest is understandable at a time when the farming community is coming to grips with proposals for "right-to-farm" legislation and special Character Preservation Districts, and while issues, such as buffering and land use conflict, seek resolution.
However, the prospect of World Heritage listing is also an opportunity for farmers and farmer groups to re-consider how they currently participate in the governance of agrarian landscapes, and the role they might play in future. An important principle of World Heritage listing is that UNESCO does not become involved in day-to-day governance arrangements: local policy-making and regulation will continue to guide decision-making about land use and environmental management in the listed areas. This gives primary producers important bargaining power because Local, State and Commonwealth governments are unlikely to proceed with an application to UNESCO if a key stakeholder group does not support the proposal.
In short, this is an opportunity for our community to think about opportunities from World Heritage "agrarian" landscapes.