Head for the hills – at least once this winter


Regular or otherwise, whatever the weather they head for the beach when they get here then catch a little local colour at Pottsville Beach, Tweed Boys Club or Kingscliffe market.

We all love the seaside, that’s why we’re here, but I confiscate their travel documents until they’ve done at least one trip inland. A beer at the Uki pub, a cuppa at Chillingham, coffee at Sphinx Rock Café or a picnic at Natural Bridge will do.

I’m not simply promoting the tourist trail, or our great natural beauty. It’s the agricultural wealth of the area that I like to emphasise.

As the global food shortage begins to dominate the front pages of the newspapers it pays us all to remember that agricultural land, fertile soil and regular rainfall are our most precious resources.

Australia might be rich because we export coal, iron ore and aluminium, but when push comes to shove, as the famous red indian on the t-shirt says you can’t eat money … or coal, iron or aluminium.

The farming families of the Tweed Valley have seen the dairy industry move to the Murray Darling, the bottom fall out of the sugar industry world wide, and the price of Macadamia’s plummet as South African farms flooded the world with cheap nuts.

Now, the Murray Darling is in real trouble, sugar is eagerly sought after as a source of energy.

It’s not just the dearth of water that is crippling the industrial scale farms across the Murray Darling basin, high diesel and fertiliser prices are killing them as well. There’s a lot to be said for the small family farm of 50 – 200acres that can be run by the people who live on it, selling the food locally. The agribusiness companies say that it is a relic of a bygone era, but the handful of people that have maintained small holdings, especially those that have rejected fossil fuel based fertilisers in favour of organic farming, are immune to the latest oil shock.

The world’s richest people are busily buying block up in them thar hills and laughing merrily all the way to the bank because the real estate prices inland are a fraction of what they are on the coast.

English rock stars, Israeli business magnates, retired European beauracrats all know that oil prices are never going down again, food shortages will get worse and that US Vice President Dick Cheney meant it when he said that Iraq “is the war that will not end in our lifetimes.”

They are heading for those corners of the world that have stable government, fertile soil and rainfall that will remain good despite global warming. There are not too many places in the world that fit that description. You and I live right on the edge of one. The Wollumbin caldera.

Our beaches may be magnificent, but our hinterland is unique.

Whatever else you do this winter, make sure you drive through it at least once.

And while you’re there, get yourself a little fresh food.

You’ll never eat better.

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