In 2008 I drove through the Upper Hunter. Less well known than the international tourist magnet aka wine theme park the Lower Hunter Valley. By the way I call it a theme park because while it contains over 120 wineries, only about 3% of Australia’s grapes are grown in the Hunter area. It can be nice to visit though, particularly the smaller places. But I disgress…
The Upper Hunter also has some awesome wineries (Callatoota Estate, for example – the owner likes his Chardonnay but I took a liking to the port) and it is of course much more quiet. That is, fewer tourists. We did have to dodge several large trucks and other vehicles on the small roads. Why? The Upper Hunter is being carved open for mining. My last experience on the ground there was, as I mentioned, in 2008. But take a peek at an aerial map of the area:
Zoom in closer to the grey blotches and see for yourself – and the scale of these areas. A friend who recently drove through on his motorbike reported that he saw a hill disappearing.
It’s crazy. This is about short term profits and a long-term wasteland. Australia is short of quality top-soil. Once it’s gone, that’s it. You can’t just replant something later and expect it to all be fine. Not vineyards, or other stuff. The wine growers I spoke to were already telling about the dust on their vines and other aspects affecting their farms. And I figure that the new landscape is not much of a tourist attraction, either.