09 March 2008

"A good hearted little town, not overburdened with imagination..."

What I think of Adelaide now is pretty much what I have thought of Adelaide every time I've come here, that it is a good-hearted little town not over-burdened with imagination. Much of it is very like the seaside Melbourne I grew up in, only more so.

Thus spake Germaine Greer about Adelaide in today's Sunday Mail/ Adelaide Now.

Many of her comments were about the environment:

The architecture of the upmarket beachfront homes at Henley Beach and Glenelg is just as bad as that of seaside suburbs anywhere in Australia, but there are signs of greater awareness in the treatment of the Adelaide foreshore than I can recall seeing elsewhere.

I grew up dodging flashers who lurked amid the dunes and behind bushes; in Adelaide walkways have been built and everybody has to keep off the fragile coastal vegetation and use them.

The dunes are still infested with exotic weeds, marram grass and gazanias, that will not leave of their own accord as the sexual predators have had to. As much of a worry are the exotics that nobody is making any move to extirpate, chief among them, the Norfolk Island pine.

There are more Norfolk Island pines on the Adelaide foreshore than anywhere else in the world, including Norfolk Island.

Every year thousands more are planted – which is what I mean by lack of imagination. There are alternatives, melaleucas and casuarinas that would help to clothe naked sidewalks and car parks, making beautiful shapes that will filter the breeze.

Some city fathers have dared to plant Turkey palms on their roadsides and central reservations. These are no less exotic than the Norfolk Island pines but they are more unusual, and in Adelaide's semi-desert conditions they do well, better than the araucarias.

The valiant efforts being made to clothe with native vegetation the banks of the Torrens and the batters of the storm drains are producing results. As I drove west along the A6 (Sir Donald Bradman Drive) a blue heron kept pace with me and native ducks dabbled in the fast-drying mud.

Nevertheless, environmental catastrophe looms over Adelaide. The increasing salinity of the Coorong has already turned it into a Dead Sea. The Hindmarsh Bridge of Sighs will soon straddle no water whatsoever. Already the draught is so shallow that the big yachts cannot use the waterway and smaller boats moored midstream are careened twice a day.

The "Hindmarsh Bridge of Sighs" is presumably meant to be the bridge connecting Hindmarsh Island to the mainland at Goolwa. The River Torrens, which is spanned by several bridges in the suburb of Hindmarsh, is also in a sad state: when I last went by several weeks ago there was no water there for much of its course through the western suburbs. Near the city centre a weir preserves what is really an artificial lake, but even here algal bloom is a major problem and, despite efforts to treat it with aerating machines (like little fountains) the river/lake has been closed to boating and similar activities (it may have been reopened for the festival: I'm not sure).

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