A Stitch In Time Will Save Nine

I attended a public meeting hosted by the NPSP Council on Tuesday evening, the 5th March, regarding the NPSP Rezoning Plans for the Sanitarium Site, the Caravan Park and several other proposed multi-storey sites alongside Linear Park from Hackney to Marden. The residents attending, with many speaking, were singularly united regarding their rejection to all the proposals – in favour of leaving the zones and the locations generally as they already are.

In the most amazing sort of way I realised these residents were explaining to Council the definition of progress. Progress is what you do to address existing problems, progress is what you do to make your community and quality of life – better. Progress is whatever it takes to look after whatever makes life worthwhile. Progress is ensuring change is not ill-considered or detrimental because that is defined as going backwards or worse. All the residents addressed that. All the residents could see what Council was proposing to do was worse than doing nothing – it was anti-progress. So the ‘consultation process’ will obviously have to continue until all agree on what ‘progress’ is.

Several speakers made excellent points about the reality of the congested “infill” they already service for eastern commuters and the ever-present visitors to the parks and city attractions – or indeed hospitals and ancillary services. It all came out as true and spoken from the heart. The residents had defined a true progress that will be loved and enjoyed by all of Adelaide, for decades to come. It was as though the Council was going to “infill” more so as to deny the residents enjoyment of life – and to effectively deny the rest of Adelaide the access to it as well. It was all quite strange to think how such proposals for re-development actually see the light of day when the implications and foreseeable problems are highlighted. What else came out of this meeting?

As residents we were warned by several speakers that Council also “speaks with forked tongue”. It doesn’t listen, it has other agendas, it tries to squash, ignore or side-step your issues and concerns. In short the message was – be prepared to vote them out because that’s what it has taken in the past. So unfortunately I was left wondering whether history will repeat itself. I think I got my answer at the very end of the meeting. It was actually a very sad occurrence. A voice wanted to be heard, a man stood up and wanted to move a motion with a show of hands regarding all these rezoning issues and he was told he couldn’t. Then he was told it wouldn’t mean anything, told it was not permitted, told the meeting was over basically. He argued he was entitled to move a motion at a public meeting, he was very unhappy and upset at the way he was being dismissed.

It was then I called out, “where’s the goodwill” and to let the man proceed with his motion. The mayor told me it wasn’t about goodwill and the goodwill was shown by listening to us tonight – or words to that effect. Now I knew it didn’t matter anymore. History it seems is destined to repeat itself.

The man kept going with his objection and I called out again that the Mayor could decide to let him move his motion anyhow – no one was going to object. No one but the Mayor it seemed. So then I called out to all the Councillors to say what they thought about all of this. All were silent, I pressed the question again and one spoke up saying whether a motion was moved or not it didn’t matter given it wasn’t the right forum to do that and wasn’t binding – or words to that effect. Very sad to see what people do to each other when they don’t really care, although my wife later told me that the councillor who did respond to me also went up to the man who was upset and was speaking to him while everyone else was leaving or milling around in deep discussion. I sincerely hope some councillors will help us.

It was all getting a bit chaotic by now because the mood of the meeting had changed. It was quite profound because it totally symbolised the worst fear we all have about public office. The fear that people take their righteous ego’s and their power-base too seriously, that power and formality are used to hide intent and coercion, and that when people scratch the veneer hard enough – the truth comes out.

No-one likes being criticized for making mistakes and it seems this public consultation process is just as likely to entrench defiance – on both sides – as it strives for the extremely rare occasion when reconciliation and a united vision is achieved. Sadly I fear the goodwill is still not there No matter how you cut it – a councillor who sympathises with your cause will speak up for you and none did. Not while the Mayor was there anyhow. Why is it that people cannot have the courage of their convictions? Perhaps they have – and that is why we must suspect that every Councillor (and certain staff) are unmoved by our serious concerns. I really don’t know what to think – which is why I hate politics and what it inevitably does to people, making them angry and vindictive inside. It will probably end up doing the same to some of us as well.

Perhaps it is the only thing people understand – confrontation. So we all go about it in the only way we know and here we are, in conflict.

We have no idea yet which councillors are going to defend us or condemn us.

They are yet to state in writing what their position is. Are they for the progress of community and character, or are they for the so-called progress of concrete and chaos. Which will definitely come to our streets if the current ‘anything goes’ zoning ideas occur.

People will realise sooner or later, Council and State Government included, that the world is progressively adopting ‘a quality of life’ and not a ‘quantity of life’ as the true measure of progress. On Tuesday night we saw a Mayor who spends a lot of hours in thankless service and probably just wanted to go home, but he also certainly did not want to indulge a worried man for 30 seconds more.

It must be hard to listen to all the upset voters and it must really hurt when you’re the figure-head in charge. Mayor Bria I offer you my sincere support and help in any way that lets us forget about the past and plan for a far better ‘progress’ in NPSP where we just defy anyone who wants to change us – without our consent! Defy anyone who interferes in the wishes of the people of NPSP – it will be a real uniting event to have you standing on the barricades with us! You will never walk alone when you walk with us!

However, mindful of what I was told at that meeting on Tuesday night I also have a message for the residents of NPSP.

Be alarmed and be warned that a fight is coming and we are yet to uncover who amongst the council is the enemy! Trust is irrelevant – get their support for what you want – in writing and be there for the vote to support them as well! Be there for the vote to put a target on who is going to be challenged at the next council election. Some won’t care whether they stay or go – but we all care because this is our home and we mean to protect it! What is hope and trust worth to you when the apartment block goes up in your street? If you value your home – get off your backside, contact your Residents Association and get ready to defend our community! History it seems has a habit of repeating!

Yours sincerely
Andrew VanderSluys