Apart from that brief moment in the 1990s when we were “going all the way”, South Australia’s license plate slogans haven’t really done much to stir the imagination.

We’ve had “The Defence State”, “The Wine State”, “The Festival State” and, weirdly, “The Electronics State”. I didn’t even know we had an electronics industry (although it certainly would explain a lot if Steven Marshall turned out to be a locally-made cyborg).

Anyway, I’ve got an idea for a new plate slogan that not only stirs the soul with provincial pride, but is a true reflection of our state’s unique dynamism when it comes to urban development: “South Australia: The State That Sucks At Laying Pavers”.

Admittedly it’s probably a bit long, but it’d be the most accurate one we’ve ever had.

You might think that, when it comes to city planning, putting a bunch of hard, square things down on the ground so your shoes don’t get muddy wouldn’t be the most complex or difficult part of the process.

Except you’d be wrong. At least in Adelaide, where we seem to have a chronic problem with the concept.

Either that, or our city’s head engineers have secretly entered us in the Laurel and Hardy Awards for urban engineering and we’re gunning for a gold medal.

Last June our $40 million Torrens footbridge was unveiled to much deserved acclaim. Nine months later the pavers were ripped up to fix a drainage problem. Whoops!

At the same time last year Hindley St West got “activated” with a fancy new design including some slick pavers. Three months later when it rained everyone realised they were literally slick, and the street had its speed limit cut to around that of a leprotic donkey until a solution could be found. It stayed that way until April, when someone finally Googled “non-slip spray coating”, and now we can all hoon down Hindley at a searing 30 km/h.

Those same pavers were also laid during Victoria Square’s recent “activation”, so now buses are having to activate their brakes more frequently to avoid crashing. Not that there’s much left in Victoria Square to crash into, but you get my drift.

And this week it was announced that after just nine months of impressing everyone with their dull greyness, the new pavers in Rundle Mall are to be torn up because someone forgot to put electrical cabling underneath.

The council blames late design changes, but I prefer to imagine it unfolded a bit like when you’re building something from Ikea and you end up with leftover screws but have no idea where they’re supposed to go. I can see it now: all the council workers wiping the sweat from their brows, surveying their new pavers with pride as a small voice to the side squeaked “Er, guys ... what’s all this cable for?”

Anyway, depending on where you stand (not on the pavers, obviously) the saddest part of this story is that they’re going to be laid back down when the work is finished. Bummer.

But look, enough of the complaining. Frankly I think it’s time we embraced our complete ineptitude in paving as a unique tourism selling point.

New South Wales has the Big Banana, Victoria’s got the Giant Koala; SA could have the “Big Paver”, a giant block of concrete we rip up and move every six months to a new location.
We could rename Adelaide United the Adelaide Pavers: they might be a bit flat at first but they really tear up the second half.

Oh, and I’ve just thought of a better license plate slogan: “SA: Paving the way”. I’m not sure to what, exactly, but at least it’d fit.

First published in The Advertiser on July 10, 2015