“The people said ‘no’ and the council ignored them. If the council doesn’t represent the people, just who does it represent? – Mudgee Business Association (MBA) NSW.
“It’s the people and their attitudes that make a town successful”–
Ian Plowman (no relation to PWF editor!) a senior research fellow at the University of Queensland.
Innovative country towns do well but can they fight developers?
It seems that across Australia, towns large and small are being affected by mall developments…from Margaret River to Mudgee.
Mudgee, population 8000, is a lovely, historic town in the NSW Central Tablelands. A couple of few hours drive from the city, Sydneysiders escape here to relax in the region’s wineries, galleries, orchards and restaurants BUT there is a council supported threat in the shape of a Stockland Development that some today describe as a ‘big-box swindle’ (see below).
What has happened in Mudgee? The ‘no big-box development’ position
What is the Council’s position re: the ‘big-box’ development?
A tourism perspective
Gwenda O’Neill, a hairdresser, whose husband, James, runs the Butcher Shop Cafe, insists it was Mudgee’s ‘village atmosphere and its cute shops’ that persuaded them to make the lifestyle choice to move from Sydney five years ago. She fears the mall will change the town’s ambience irrevocably. “Tourists won’t come to a concrete jungle. They’ll go to Leura instead.”
Is there anything residents can do to make their voices heard?
Locals says Mudgee is a beautiful place to live and, despite the grip of this drought, the town still thrives with optimism and locals share a true bush friendliness with everyone. Visitors flock in every weekend to escape the city hustle and bustle yet the local council wants it to look like Chatswood and Penrith.”
The MBA is taking legal advice AND talking to Maleny, Qld, but admits there is probably nothing they can do, other than a boycott, similar to the one residents of Maleny waged against an unwanted Woolworths.
Unrest about similar development in America
In the US Stacy Mitchell writes about The Big Box Swindle: The True Cost of Mega-Retailers and the Fight for America’s Independent Businesses.’
“A growing number of communities are fighting back against the rising power of large retail stores like Wal-Mart. But real change won’t come until we stop thinking of ourselves as consumers and start thinking of ourselves as engaged citizens.
Citizens groups are waging a growing number of successful campaigns against big-box retailers. They are winning victories in places as far-flung as Damariscotta, Maine, a coastal village where two stay-at-home moms ignited an uprising this past spring that not only blocked a Wal-Mart supercenter but led several towns to adopt store size cap laws that effectively ban big boxes region-wide, and Inglewood, California, a working class city near Los Angeles where voters handed Wal-Mart a stunning upset two years ago even though the chain spent over $1 million on a massive public relations blitz.”
Meanwhile innovative people in Australian bush towns are doing well. Ian Plowman a senior research fellow at the University of Queensland and author of ‘Innovation in Rural Queensland – Why Some Towns Prosper While Others Languish’, has surveyed eight small towns with populations between 600 and 10,000. He found that innovative towns are:
Ian says “research I’ve undertaken….to investigate innovation in rural towns shows that innovation depends on members of the community exchanging ideas….The consequence for rural towns, probably mirrored in our larger society, is that few ideas are openly shared and those with experience of civic participation and responsibility are few. Less obvious, but just as detrimental, is that those few have very little exposure to alternative ways of operating. So why do the “few” engage with civic organizations while the majority do not? ”
What CAN a community do if there is no chance of dialogue OR to consider what is happening around the world as well as in our own back yard? The only option is as much publicity as possible and recourse to SBS documentaires such as ‘Independent America’ or Ian Plowman’s research. DO please let us know what you think of this most important topic!