Another Tour Down Under has raced through the Hills and been declared a resounding success.
The district shares the international cycling event with regions around the State but wherever the riders pass, the locals come out in force to wave and cheer and join in the carnival atmosphere.
Lobethal residents spent months creating sculptures for the Stage 2 start they hosted, and they were rewarded with the event’s Best Dressed Town Award.
More than 10,000 people packed Main Street for the start and 25,000 people converged on Stirling for another hugely successful finish.
What a contrast in acceptance among the locals towards this event compared with recent grumbles about car rallies in the district. The January time slot helps avoid school disruptions and many people are on holidays but still the attitude is much more positive and tolerant of road closures and detours.
Part of that is probably due to the professional organisation of the Tour Down Under which changes many of the routes every year and the nature of cycling races means many roads are only closed for a limited time.
However, the biggest selling point is the image of cycling itself.
It’s healthy and inclusive – a sport or activity that most people can do. The Tour Down Under invites everyone to the party.
Trees are a vital part of the character of Hills towns.
Stirling, Crafers, Bridgewater and Aldgate are known for their towering exotics that each year put on a spectacular autumn show and lend their shade to ease the summer heat.
In the Mt Barker district, it is the majestic centuries-old red gums that stand like sentinels watching the region’s rapid change.
The issue of how best to protect these natural icons is not an easy one for any State Government to tackle.
Trees here are a vital link to the region’s heritage – both environmental and human – and any development affecting them can trigger an emotive community response.
And yet they can also present a threat to life and property.
Any control measures must finely balance these issues.
The Government’s planned changes, however, appear to tip that balance too far in favor of the axe.
By allowing any landowner in a medium to high bushfire risk area with a tree within 20m of their home to cut it down without approval, the regulations pave the way for potential widespread clearing that would drastically change the leafy character of this district.