The answer, as Professor Andrew Millington has discovered, is not as obvious as you might think.
Geographer and Foundation Dean of the School of the Environment at Flinders University, Professor Millington asked 53 residents to draw lines on a map to mark the outlines of McLaren Vale, the Willunga Basin and the Southern Vales.
He found that while there was general agreement on the location of the township of McLaren Vale, and that the Basin’s eastern boundary was defined by the Sellicks Hill Range, the residents’ perceptions of the other boundaries of McLaren Vale and Willunga Basin varied considerably otherwise. Mapping of the Southern Vales – an older wine industry term – proved the most confusing.
The exercise is part of the Sense of Place project which aims to uncover what Willunga Basin residents think and feel about the past, present and future of the area in which they live.
It is being conducted by Professor Millington – along with Robert Keane, a geographic information system specialist in the School of the Environment; Kathryn Bellette, Director of Flinders Water and Environment Research Hub; and Professor Britt Dale from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology – with a $10,000 Knowledge Exchange Grant from the Southern Knowledge Transfer Partnership.
“There’s a certain interchangeability between the terms McLaren Vale and Willunga Basin but there are important differences,” Professor Millington said.
“McLaren Vale is a township; it’s also a geographical indication (GI) for the wine industry, which is a legal definition; and it’s also a new planning protection district under South Australian law,” he said.
“Those definitions don’t superimpose upon one another and we were interested to see whether the residents’ general definitions superimposed as well.”
In some cases, residents marked suburbs such as Flagstaff Hill as part of McLaren Vale; others considered areas such as Mount Compass to be part of the Willunga Basin, and Goolwa as part of the Southern Vales.
“There are a lot of things that make up people’s perceptions of place,” Professor Millington said.
“The most important thing is what they feel it is, and that may vary considerably depending on whether they’re a newcomer to the area or they’ve been here a long time or if they’re involved in the wine industry.
“The results have important potential applications for planning, marketing and tourism.”
As part of the project, Professor Millington has also conducted detailed interviews with residents.
In coming months, he will present his analysis of the interviews and mapping surveys to meetings of interested community and council groups, including the City of Onkaparinga, the Friends of the Willunga Basin, the Willunga Environment Centre and the McLaren Vale Grape, Wine and Tourism Association.