2020 is behind us… gone but certainly not forgotten. Sadly, it will live with us for all the wrong reasons.
Have lessons been learned, what changes will stay, and how can we make a new year better?
We all have stories to tell. Some of us are glad that older rellies are not here to suffer through the pandemic, the politics and upheaval everywhere. Those loved ones who are seeing out their days so clouded and despairing, suffer quietly.
And then there are a slew of lonely, struggling and suffering people doing it tough who have little support.
For many of us each day brought new challenges and more things to comfort us, like –
The good old Aussie “she’ll be right” humour, the coming to the fore of some exceptional people from outside the Canberra bubble who are inspiring us; Dr Norman Swann – steady knowledgeable, reassuring . . . Jimmy Barnes and Jane and their family, singing to us from their home almost every day. Along with so many others who’ve popped up on a video clip; to amuse, entertain and comfort us. All those Zoom get togethers.
The many unsung generous people helping neighbours and friends, a legacy from the example of Blaze Aid and those who came forward during and after the bushfires.
There’s an awareness we need to look out for each other, as politicians are too often failing us.
So where to now? Have we been too complacent, has there been too much red tape and political point scoring and shuffling of deck chairs instead of practical action?
There’s the big picture. And there’s our own backyard.
It seems the one thing our community has in common is – The MidCoast Council. For better or worse.
Perhaps we should send them a New Year wish list… So we did a quick run around a few friends, neighbours and contributors.
Things which Concern Us
Top of the list! Council! Expenditure, lack of community consultation, and a seeming lack of transparency.
Our changing landscape. Our quality of life is threatened by too much development. The common factor we all seem to share is the love of where we live; the dairy farms, the forests, the rivers, creeks and hills, the coastline and beaches, which all mean ; space, tranquillity, nature, lifestyle, and hardworking locals having a go and doing well.
Looking back, businesses, like Stebers, Saxbys, the Abattoirs, the Wingham Brickworks, CJ Hogan & Co, Yarads along with dozens of small ( and big) innovative businesses made their mark. All businesses and industries who produced and manufactured here. Think what we could still be doing and attracting here, to produce and innovate. Having a go. But council support and enthusiasm is needed to think outside the pro-development mindset. Develop, but with sensitivity, style, space and a dash of altruism.
Because it emerges that top of the list of what we don’t want are housing estates that cram houses together on small lots, lifestyle villages, Manufactured Housing Estates, and unimaginative dreary cookie cutter business complexes.
We want our roads and bridges safe and fixed AND maintained. Done properly in the first place.
We want a greening strategy that encourages the protection of our environment, animal habitat, forests and oxygen producing, soothing scenery that’s clean and green with old trees protected and gardens and landscaping in towns, homes encouraged – even mandated by council.
We want our rivers, creeks, waterways and beaches cared for and protected. No more illegal sourcing of water, cattle trampling banks and waterways; and where illegal and environmental damage is found, impose harsh penalties.
With horror of the bushfires behind us, there is a demand for a greater emphasis on fire prevention and management. Could not indigenous methods be utilised using skilled local or visiting experts to teach our local teams traditonal methods. (Read Victor Steffesen’s book “Fire Country.” ed.)
Wingham and surrounds want a police presence back in town. Break–ins, robberies, malicious damage to shops in town, trashing of the Brush, juveniles doing drug deals, seems to be ignored. When there is a problem by the time Taree is contacted it too late or no- one is available. The Wingham Police Station and Court House are still there, if closed. Remember Wingham (and its Council) was the centre of the universe in the area, long before Taree and surrounds developed.
Residents worry about water, cost of power and rising rates. And things like, “I’m elderly, how am I supposed to drive my bulky waste to the tip which won’t fit in my boot even if I could manage it?’
Move to the Regions
Council is correct in identifying this is a time when people want to move from the city to the regions. But they won’t come if we don’t have a top class hospital, good roads and services and a socially and environmentally conscious society led by an innovative council.
The perception among locals seems to be that Council is allegedly functioning for itself and not the ratepayers. It’s a constant war between them and us. Clever, interesting, innovative ideas are shut down with little discussion or stage man aged “community consultations.”. Council seems to have its own agenda.
Off The Grid
Many ask, why aren’t we looking at sourcing our own power, securing our water better, developing innovative ideas like integrated communities in attractive surrounds, promoting acreages at higher price levels. To attract young families who will come here for the quality of life and opportunities rather than retirees who are not going to contribute or spend money like entrepreneurial young families.
Other ideas expressed included – that the special rate variations and government matching funding spent on roads, namely 100 million over the next four years, materialise as was promised.
The River Is An Asset
Councillor Peter Epov’s motion to the December Council meeting that the the opening of the Manning River entrances at both Harrington and Old Bar would create an operational waterway system along the Manning River including a well-designed and navigable entrance at Harrington and an effective management plan at Farquhar to create safe and easy access, showed the practical as well as business/tourism advantages. However this was rejected at the December council meeting.
Local communities and individuals have ideas and complaints, but are frustrated they are not being heard or considered properly by Council. Perhaps honest and comprehensive consultation where Council doesn’t “invite” participants but listens and engages willingly and openly with locals, could prove productive.
Well one can dream. We battle on. Which we will. Look out for neighbours and each other.
Warm wishes to you all.