High Speed Rail – It’s not all good but I want it anyway.

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I’ve been reading the letters section of our local newspaper with interest since the argument for High Speed Rail vs the Airport was proposed then countered a few weeks ago. ¬†I don’t want to chime in on that particular argument as the people involved are more than capable¬†enough to fight their own battles without me confusing things but what I do want to do is share the thoughts that were triggered within me.

The idea of a super fast train making its way through some of the most densely populated parts of Australialand fills me with joy if I’m completely honest. I am a train lover and have lived very close to railway lines twice in my life – now and between the ages of 5 and 8 (I actually lived in that same house until I was 14 but the¬†railway track was ripped out when I was about 8 leaving a lovely long stretch of cycle way but no trains….).

What my own personal experience has shown me is that trains are not quiet. ¬†Occasionally the creaking and screeching of breaks and engine wakes me from my sleep as the coal wagons chug past at an ungodly hour. ¬†Living in the Blue Mountains this is par for the course with many homes hugging either the train line or the highway or both (often both as the lines do run parallel mainly). ¬†As a consequence it can sometimes be noisier at my house than in the leafy streets of Sydney’s Chippendale, Glebe or Annandale.

Noise is one of the reasons people don’t want an airport out west but it isn’t the only one. ¬†The exchange of letters above included comment along the lines of ¬†‘ you do know that high-speed rail is noisy don’t you?’ or words to that effect. ¬†I want to shout ‘the idea that trains travelling at super high-speed would be somehow eerily silent never crossed my probing¬†mind’…..

The next big truth bomb that detractors sometimes throw like a hand grenade into a glitter rainbow party is one that highlights the amount of land that will need to be reclaimed and dug up for this project. ¬†Again I’m left wondering why this completely obvious state of affairs is worth pointing out and I am left feeling slightly sad by the reality that some people might indeed hold the view that high-speed rail greenies are imagining the train to either hover like a butterfly or shrink to fit the space already given over to road or rail. ¬† Of course it will take up space and so it should! ¬†It’s a key piece of infrastructure that deserves all the space it needs to get done.

And so we go on.

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I think it is fair to say that plonking a high-speed rail line between Brisvegas -Sydney – Canberra and Melbourne is going to churn up some of the brown stuff and may even have to cut through some ecologically sensitive areas. ¬†Hopefully these risks will be mitigated with the usual level of care and attention (Ahem) but nevertheless it will indeed be a case of ‘you can’t please everybody all the time’.

But for a greeny type (I’m not even sure I am a greeny type but let’s just go with it) like me this project is different.

All of my life I’ve had to watch as fields get churned up and replaced by crappo eco-inconsiderate housing estates and by-passes that solve nothing much. ¬†Sat in road cone restricted motorways as they widen and expand further and further. ¬†Had to concede defeat as the second and third runways get built to take more and more people on CO2 guzzling trips ‘for their convenience’ and in the name of progress when real progress would have been a conference via SKYPE or a once-in-a-lifetime long tour rather than an 8 hour shopping spree in Paris before coming home for Corrie and dinner (something that would happen when I lived in England). High speed rail is not like that, high-speed rail is visionary.

The prospect of being able to travel up and down this huge land by train is, for me, one of the most exciting prospects ever to have entered my consciousness. ¬†It would allow me to take my bike out into those little country areas, to shop in Melbourne or go see my friends in Brissie or take an international flight out of Canberra while leaving the car at home! ¬†It would also allow for people living in rural areas such as Shepparton or Grafton to get into a capital city and work if they wanted to. ¬†Australia can finally spread out and enjoy its self instead of cramming everyone into the kitchen sink we call Sydney! What’s more it COULD allow me to do all of this without expending a CO2 cent thanks to technology that exists today – ZERO emissions trains run from solar power thanks to advances in solar technology. ¬†Sure the reality might be a little less idealistic and it is also possible that at least in the first few years the power might come from a mix of solar and coal but the exciting thing is that this could, with the right will and enthusiasm, happen now and be something amazing!

As for the money and people side, the ‘we can’t afford it’ and ‘we don’t have the population for it’ then I would finish on this. ¬†Value capture is a concept that could work and is one that has been touted by the very people who are all for Badgery’s Creek. ¬†The government could raise money that way. ¬† In terms of population if the current government gets its way we are set to swell in numbers at a rapid rate so planning this on current population is all a bit silly and anyway, it’s not just about population numbers it is about the travelling population, where they are going and what they are doing and little old Australia has proved her worth in that regard with the Sydney to Melbourne air commute coming in at number 4 in the WORLD!!!! ¬†Sydney to Brisbane¬†is number 10!

The last thing I’m going to say on this is if I was Kerry Mather (MD and CEO of Sydney Airport) and co I’d be looking at how I can get my investment dollars into this high-speed rail thing as that’s the future – not another airport. Sure planes are becoming lighter, more fuel efficient, bigger and even quieter but they are a long way away from being able to run on zero emissions and fuel security in terms of future stocks and prices is a very real issue.

So yes,  high speed rail may well be noisy and will probably run right through some rare flower and bird habitat and might even take my house but I still want it because to have it would make me really, really proud to be Australian.

Amanda

PS: just coming back to the noise issue once again, while the noise from a train line can reverberate through a valley it is usually concentrated along and around the area surrounding the tracks. ¬†The trouble with planes is their intrusiveness into wilderness areas. Wilderness is a valuable asset for Australia and will become an even bigger draw card for tourists looking to escape and explore ‘the middle of nowhere’. ¬†A fast rail could secure our airspace and thus ensure our wilderness hikes are not rudely interrupted by a Boeing 747….

PPS: Here is a government report into HSR completed in 2011. It looks like they thought it was a pretty good idea too!

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The Gambia and my 19 year old self

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The Gambia has been in the news a bit recently thanks to the elections late last year which saw Yahya Jammeh lose his Presidency, a position that he had held since coming into power in 1994 following a bloodless military coup. ¬†I didn’t appreciate the detail at the time but I was there then, with my sister.

My sister was 17 and had recently left school and taken on a job at a local travel agency. One of the perks of the job was the opportunity for cheap travel, an opportunity we both embraced by booking a week in this small East African Country, I was 19 at the time and stranded at home in the long Uni holidays thanks to an illness that had meant I couldn’t take part in a trip I’d planned to Indonesia. ¬†Needless to say I was desperate for adventure and this looked like being it.

We were booked into a resort during our stay but quickly became bored (as teenagers tend to do) with the walled enclosure and opted instead to get out as often as we could! ¬†One tour was with a local lad who had set himself up as a taxi driver, he was a great guide and even joined us on a tour of the local wildlife park where we saw a lion (while in Africa), ¬†some gigantic spiders and a heap of monkeys (not sure what type, I was a bit lax on the details). ¬† What I did focus on though was ¬†the feeling of¬†joy that filled my heart when I found Cadbury’s chocolate in the local store (which had precious little else inside oddly enough), I cringe now looking back – I should have embraced¬†this wild and beautiful land more fully and left the stuffing of face with chocolate until later.

Anyway….

The other vivid memories I have of that trip¬†are a visit to the local Gambian Witch Doctor at a Gambian banquet and dance night. ¬†He read my palm and told me my fortune was that I’d become a journalist or some kind of writer – the thought never crossed my mind at that time, especially as I happened to be in the middle of a science degree¬†(Chemistry to be precise) and had a terrible phobia of writing due to my appalling spelling and grammar skills but look at me now (kind of sort of….). ¬†We can’t remember what he told my sister – something to do with children and that she’d have trouble with childbirth I think- she’s got four kids now, I saw two of them being born and narrowly missed out on being there for the fourth (for the third I was in Australialand) as far as I remember all births went swimmingly with minimal intervention! ¬†Make of that what you will.

But the biggest memory was of the missile launcher incident!

We were on the road out to Senegal for a day trip and had to clear the way for the military to come on barging through with their gigantic missile launchers and pack of soldiers. ¬†I don’t remember caring for the details at that time and neither do I remember my parents back home being particularly bothered by this sudden turn in fortunes for this small African country, a country whose history we were now part of. ¬† Anyway, after that things did get a little bit more tense with a nightly curfew restricting our movement to just the hotel disco (very funky) and making daytime maneuvering a little more tricky (although I still managed a day trip into the capital without too much drama). ¬†We’d been coup’ed!

If only I’d have known then that the guy who ordered this activity would spend the next 22 years in power I may have taken more notice but I guess I was only 19 and had my own things going on and after all, this was a holiday not a piece for the BBC’s foreign correspondent!

the-gambia

So we continued on with our holidaying, got tipped out of our tour bus a bit further up the road on the way to Senegal thanks to too much mud, made friends with the local children, one of whom I continued to write to for several years afterwards – and did our best to soak in the African sun without getting burned – that didn’t exactly happen!

The main thing I took from that trip was my love of travel, my fearlessness and ability to feel at home in any environment and my ability to track down and secure chocolate rations when everything else looks to be out of stock. Those skills have stayed with me to this very day and left me very much still in love with Africa and its huge heart and spirit. ¬†One day I’ll go back and re-trace my 19-year-old steps….

There is a bit more background into the political history of the Gambia here which is interesting to read now as I look back on my short but sweet experience in the country and the experience of witnessing history in the making – OK so I was a bit oblivious but it all makes sense now….

Life sure is interesting.

Amanda x

Australia Day – Why I want to change the date and no, I don’t sip lattees.

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From the Australia Day website:

“Australia Day, 26 January, is the anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet of 11 convict ships from Great Britain, and the raising of the Union Jack at Sydney Cove by its commander Captain Arthur Phillip, in 1788”

More here.

But in 1788 there was no Australia, ¬†indeed the very concept of a new country, united by Federation only became popular in the mid to late 1880’s thanks to the Australian Natives’ Association which, to my surprise was not a club for Aboriginal people but a vehicle through which to glorify the middle class whites (mostly male) (OK, that’s my bias there but I reached that conclusion by reading¬†what is written in this link.¬†

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It is interesting to note that Women were permitted to set up their own branch of the ANA and the Adelaide group had their first meeting in October 1889. ¬†While this is at least a little encouraging what is less encouraging is a note at the bottom of the recorded minutes mentioning the ‘Chinese Question’. ¬†Further investigation shows the ‘China Question’ to be the taxes that Chinese ‘Australians’ have to pay to cross from state to state – taxes that white Australians do not have to pay. ¬†Fair go?

Anyway……

The idea of an ‘Australia Day’ pre-dates federation and was first muted by a ANA member in a letter during the 1885 ANA congress. ¬†The author was a Mr E.W Swift:

‘The idea for Australia Day, to be celebrated on January 26, was first suggested in a letter from E.W. Swift of Ballarat to the 1885 ANA conference. At the association‚Äôs suggestion, the Victorian government organised with its counterparts in the other colonies for the first national celebration of the day in 1888, the centenary of European settlement in Australia.’

One of the people to read that letter would have been Mr¬†Alfred Deakin, the chap that went on to become Australia’s second Prime Minister. ¬†Deakin was a key member of the ANA around this time and while he did champion many social welfare moves, especially for his ‘Australian Natives’ he was also ¬†a key voice in the ‘White Australia’ and ‘federation’ mindsets. The White Australia mindset helped shape policy and attitudes throughout¬†the country over the coming decades – some would say that undercurrents of this work still hold Australia back today, ¬†although the governments official position and policy writing changed following World War 2 in 1949. ¬†In terms of the Federation it is clear that Deakin had a significant part to play in pushing forward with this idea and in working out the detail of how a federated Australia would relate to the motherland.

In all this talk of federation, immigration policy and social welfare, Aboriginal Australians don’t really warrant a mention being even less desirable than non-white immigrants.

But these people were in Victoria, in New South Wales, my state, we had Sir Henry Parkes.

While the political talk gathered pace I’m sure¬†there would have been a great appetite for a day to celebrate all that was being achieved in this exciting ‘new’ colony! ¬†While I don’t really know what went on in Sir Henry Parkes mind I can comment on what I have read and that is that the significance of marking this ‘day of celebration’ on 26th January was not lost on him – again, this is from the official government website:

‘There had been much debate in Sydney about what kind of celebrations should mark the centenary. Sir Henry Parkes, Premier of New South Wales, planned something for everyone, or almost everyone. When questioned about what was being planned for the Aborigines, Parkes retorted, ‘And remind them that we have robbed them?’ At the centre of his plans was the unveiling of a statue of Queen Victoria, the British sovereign since 1837, the opening of Centennial Park, a park for the people, and a great banquet for leading citizens. And, of course, the Sydney Regatta.’

And so it went on and on and on and on until we get to today, two days after 2017’s Australia day.

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I am 100% for a change of date BECAUSE of this history – because the date was conceived by a middle class elite FOR a middle class elite that excludes the very thing that has made Australia great and that’s diversity, mateship and our easy-going nature. In fact I’d say it has done more than exclude these things, it has tried to squash those traits out of us.

This year it ¬†does appear that the momentum for change has grown and that the opposing voices are getting louder and stronger and I applaud that although I don’t support the burning of flags or other acts of violence.

But our opposition to this date has been met, unsurprisingly, with counter claims that we are just ‘lattee sipping, middle class whingers with bleeding hearts and nothing better to do’.

I am allergic to coffee and I can be just as heartless as the next man thank you.

So why do people like me take to reading history and advocating for change albeit from our position of white privilege?

Because our privilege has taught us compassion, highlighted to us that words and deeds do matter and that¬†there is no such thing as a meaningless date (unless we’re talking about Tinder…)

So what do we want now?

What do I want now?

All I want is the date to change and to change because we have collectively acknowledged the inherent racism and dehumanizing undertones that surrounded the origin of this day.  A day for the whole of Australia to celebrate unless you are a person of colour or Aboriginal?  Really?

But some aboriginal people are fine with the day and want us to just get on with more important things.

I acknowledge that this is true and that there is much truth and value in drawing a line in the sand and walking over it.  Healing. But I remain unmoved in my opposition to this date.

To use the healing analogy just think about what happens when a wound heals over an infection. Or what happens when a wound is re-opened time and time again, even just a little bit?

Let there be no doubt about it, for many this is a fresh, living wound.

Some more recent history:

1938 РDay Of Mourning. 

Many people cite 1938 as the first time that Australia really celebrated Australia Day in the way we do today.  It marked the 150th anniversary of Cooks landing and with it a chance to marvel at how far this great nation had come.

But again, greatness and progress are subjective and some subjects were not ‘loving it’ not least because in 1938 Australia’s Aboriginal Community were still very much treated as the nations underclass.

The 26th of January, 1938 is not a day of rejoicing for Australia’s Aborigines; it is a day of mourning. This festival of 150 years of so-called ‘progress’ in Australia commemorates also 150 years of misery and degradation imposed upon the original native inhabitants by the white invaders of this country. ¬†Read more here.¬†

Below is a list of just some of the thing Aboriginal Australians had to live with in the good old 1930’s.¬†

In 1934 the Aboriginals Act, Aboriginal people could give up their heritage and identity and gain access to the same rights as whites.  Nice!

Aboriginal children could still be removed without a court order.

In Western Australia Aboriginal people could be taken into custody without trial and were banned from entering some towns and cities (including Perth) without a permit.

A non-negotiable assimilation policy was introduced and was forcibly enacted.

More here. 

And more recently.

Aboriginal people had to wait until 1967 to be counted in the national census. ¬†That’s only 7 years before I was born for goodness sake – nearly within my lifetime! NOT LONG AGO!

So again, what am I trying to achieve here?

I want us to be able to draw a line and move over it together.  I want that line to be low, ground-low, a line that everyone can cross, that everyone wants to hold hands and step (or wheel) over.  I want us to be able to do this with the solemnity that the occasion deserves and with the energy of hearts filled with excitement and love for what lies on the other side.  I then want us to hug each other before we put another prawn on the barbie, sing our favourite songs and have a go on that giant slip and slide!

And then, when the party is over I want us to go to work putting right all of the constitutional wrongs that have stemmed from this.  That will take time and will,  a change of date will give us the will!

If we don’t do this I fear that the Australian identity, what makes Australia Australia and not the USA, China, ¬†the UK, ¬†Vietnam, Germany or wherever will vanish. ¬†As a Brit whose been here for nearly 14 years I feel anything but a proud Australian on 26th January and I do what I can to avoid all ‘celebration’ – yes I do often just carry on working –¬†It doesn’t have to be like this.

So that’s just a bit of the background into why I can’t learn to just ‘get over myself’ and enjoy this date.

Amanda

PS: And as if I need any further reason to doubt the joined-up-thinking behind this occasion we are now told to eat lamb on this day. ¬†Lamb is not native to this country, sheep are heavy footed and not entirely suited to the soil of this land, often compacting it and leaving it less fertile than it otherwise could be. ¬†Sure I love a lamb chop but how much more dis-connected from this country, this land could we be? ¬†I sometimes wonder…….

 

PPS: So what other date should it be?  Well there is a fun campaign to have it on May 8th as said quickly that sounds like Mate which is quintessentially Aussie and something that really appeals to me I do understand that Jan is a much better time for all things BBQ and fun!  So I think that any date after 1st and before 31st would be good.  Preferably before 26th as that makes it easier to get a clean run at the new school year which currently has to either wait until after the date to return from the summer break or has to straddle it thus leaving two part-weeks and a longer period of time to get the kids settled.

 

There is more to growing a garden than just planting seeds

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Our¬†daughter leaves home today, she’s 15.

Hopefully she will come back many, many times during the rest of her lifetime both to live and to visit but things will never be the same again. ¬†She’s off on her big adventure, the first (I hope) of many.

Our¬†daughter is off on exchange to Finland for a year with Rotary and she will live and go to school in a small community on the west side of the country about 4 hours from Helsinki. ¬†As an aside, my first bout of morning sickness when I was pregnant with Meg was in Helsinki. ¬†Aub and I went there to mark our first wedding anniversary – one year around the sun as husband and wife. The circle of life continues….

Meg (our daughter) is a keen gardener, her passion fruit flowered today and that brought with it much excitement of treats to come! ¬†I’ll have to tend to it now that she’s leaving and I’m a terrible gardener – terrible because I tend to forget that plants need feeding – a reality not unlike that of having children really!

Anyway, while having that conversation with Meg this morning a thought came into my head:

There is more to growing a garden than just planting seeds.

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So we part ways with Meg today knowing that while we have nurtured, fed, protected and (hopefully) inspired Meg to the best of our ability and all of our good will and love now it is her turn!¬†¬†She now has a big opportunity to grow her own garden (so to speak) and to enjoy all of the fruits of her labour safe in the knowledge that she did this, she made this happen, this was and is her choice. ¬†Just like in the garden there is no guarantee that what she plants will blossom and there’s always a chance that the hours invested¬† will appear to come to nothing at times. Finally there’s the frustrating reality that the juiciest¬†of fruits sometimes grow just out of reach OR get munched upon by something else.

I know that you will take all of this in your stride Meg.

So today I’m not sad, I’m excited as this moment is everything I’ve ever wanted for my child. To be strong, bold, courageous and motivated enough to take her own chances and undertake her own adventures. To somewhat outgrow me and what I can offer here in the safety of our home.

Go for it Meg, I’ll be willing you on and supporting you all the way and (hopefully) keeping your actual garden here alive and well.

Love

Your mum.

Amanda x

The Point of Life is not to become perfect but rather to accept our imperfections with grace.

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Perfection is an illusion and yet we still spend our lives chasing cures for ourselves as we attempt to break free from the shackles of our past mistakes and foibles.

I have given up on all of that and have chosen to embrace me, the whole of me, including those bits I would rather not have to deal with.

But that doesn’t mean¬†I’ve stopped declared ‘game over’ in camp¬†self-development, that’s not it at all. ¬†What I mean is I’m choosing to¬†focusing on finding acceptance those things I cannot (or don’t want to) change at this time with good grace. ¬†That I may exist imperfectly but peacefully, helpfully and happily in my wholeness.

And it’s about time as perfection quests are joyless tasks.

 

The Value of the Pause

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It occurred to me today, as I stepped onto the scales only to find that I’m the same weight as yesterday (I don’t usually weigh myself daily or weekly for that matter but right now, post-Christmas, feeling ¬†like I’m 7 months preggo I’m doing it and mainly because I am fascinated in the science experiment that is my body….) that the pause is as important as the progress.

I’m wanting to drop 2Kg in weight not necessarily because of how I look – although I admit to looking more rounded at the mo – but because of how it makes me feel. I have various food intolerance issues¬†and have let thinking and planning for that slip by the wayside over the December¬†due to a combination of tiredness, busy-ness, ¬†partying and not wanting to even think about what I was eating. ¬†Consequently I’m now heavier and less healthy than I want to¬†be. The weight for me is as much a sign of my guts going into shut-down as it is a logical consequence of consuming more than I expend or can reasonably cope with. ¬†I’m not even sure I have consumed too much but anyway…. The net result is feeling sick all day, every day. ¬†I’m not sure that people who just put on a couple of pounds feel totally sick too.

So that’s the position I find myself in and on seeing the numbers – the exact same as yesterday- I did come up with this thought. ¬†The pause here is that my weight hasn’t gone up or down. It had got stuck (albeit for a day so far). ¬†I was momentarily disappointed in that. ¬†I sat thinking about this reality for a moment. ¬†I wondered how long it might take for the scales to reward me for the work I’d been doing in bypassing croissants and gingerbread in favour of avocado, nuts and tuna salad. ¬†I wondered if it matters how long it takes? ¬†I concluded that it doesn’t matter that much.

Another thought came to me.

I am often so focused on the end goal that I forget about all the stages in the process and have a tendency to either miss the planning and the pause stage entirely (I can be quite impulsive) or rush it so I can get on with the good stuff.

The planning in this situation was to do with what I was going to eat and how I can make that happen.

The pause here physically is in weight loss but mentally it’s much more than that. I didn’t lose any weight today but what I gained here was a chance to really think about my life and the care I take of myself. To feel like I’ve created a space.

I remembered why this mattered to me long-term and all the ways that rushing and stressing were counter-productive to my long-term health goals.

My mind shifted towards this being a metaphor for life in general.

I realise that the most important part of any action is not only to busy ourselves with the plan and the practicalities of the situation but to also take the time to pause where we are and to shuffle around there until we create ourselves a safe and firm base.  Holding firm, standing strong, securing our position, creating room to rest, reflect and grow.

I conjure¬†up an image of an army base where no matter what happens on the field the troupes can come back and rest safe in the knowledge that all-being-well they won’t go backwards from here.

I’m feeling grateful for having been reminded of that today even if it did take something that I regard as a pretty silly thing for me to do to bring it to my attention.

My motto for today is:  Pause, embed your Plan and Progress will follow.

Vive le pause ūüôā

 

 

We should all just accept that there will be an airport at Badgerys Creek.

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As 2016 came to an end the Australian Government ticked the last in a series of boxes that are required to make the building of Badgerys Creek airport legally possible.  With that final tick came the end of a long and drawn out process of on-again-off-again process and debate.  The only thing missing now, as we hit our 2017 stride is the cash.

Who will pay?

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But that small, insignificant job of raising the several billion needed to make this thing fly so to speak is outside of our (layman’s) control. ¬†What we can control is how we feel about the whole thing and what we do next.

Predictably, what ‘we’ feel at this moment is becoming increasingly interesting.

This is cranking up to be a shit fight.

So for the last year the major voices we’ve heard on this issue have been as follows:

  • Australian Liberal Government. ¬†Love it, can’t get enough of it, do it and do it 24/7 over Blaxlands house.
  • Australian Labor Government (the opposition). ¬†HQ loves it, can’t get enough of it but then they remember they are labor and labor is the people’s party and decide that they are all for it as long as it’s not all over Blaxlands house.
  • Australian Labor Party, Western Sydney Division AKA those lucky buggers who will be living with it 24/7 and especially those who just got elected to the job or received an increase in support. ¬†OK so not all hate it but the cheerleading is more ‘groan’ than ‘yippee’. ¬†Why can’t we have a curfew? ¬†Why not high speed rail? What do you mean we have to cop the pollution? ¬†Why not throw in a massive F**K me incinerator too! ¬†Show me the detail? ¬†Excuse me for being more than a little suspicious over the fact that a bunch of Mosman and Beach living city slickers know what’s best for us. ¬†Do you even know where Badgerys Creek is people?
  • Australian Liberal Party Representatives Blue Mountains pre-election – Not really liking the idea that the current EIS promotes thank you very much. Mucho concerning and not 100% convinced on the ‘what’s in it for us’ package on offer. Post election – OK so two have now decided that we should just embrace the awesomeness that is the BC airport much to the bemusement of the rest of council (allegedly).
  • Local residents group RAWSA. ¬†A heady mix between NO AIRPORT, ¬†NO 24/7 Airport, ¬†NOT THIS AIRPORT and NO IDEA WHY WE CAN’T HAVE HIGH SPEED RAIL INSTEAD?
  • Interested local residents against the airport. ¬†Read, think about it, act then get on with life.
  • Interested local residents for the airport. ¬†Get with the program people, this is an amazing opportunity and I want it written in as many places as possible.

It’s fair to say that the majority of residents local to me here in the Blue Mountains have taken a somewhat less active interest in the whole debacle over the last 14 months and I can’t really blame them – there is only so much any one of us can do. But now, as I said things have changed.

The anti has been upped.

And some of the people who were quiet before, including elected councillors have decided to speak up and what they are saying is that this airport is going to be GREAT.

I wonder if this is a bit like the Trump victory where lots of people want to say ‘I’m voting for HIM’ but felt somehow unable to do so. ¬†On the other hand I wonder if, like the Trump victory the supporters are still in a minority when it comes to the popular vote but that again like Trump they might win anyway (as the Government is on their side after all….). ¬†Whatever way this plays out the ‘for it’ camp are starting to sing out and I for one feel that is a good thing. ¬†We have to air it and share it is my motto (well, one of them).

So what are they saying?

Well one thing that is coming across loud and clear is the notion that we should just accept this airport as a done deal and make the best of it.

While this risks making me come over all over-reactive and hysterical I do find that attitude most perplexing given this is an entirely man-made project that can ONLY go ahead with popular support and money (potentially OUR money) and that we live in a democratic country where (supposedly) our voices and opinions all count. ¬† I mean sure I can understand that ‘stiff upper lip’ attitude when some other country just invaded you and will kill you if you try to resist but this isn’t a siege, it’s a minor domestic economic situation.

Also in my head I liken that attitude to the mindset of someone who has been groomed for something against their wishes. Be it a hostage or a victim of domestic violence or abuse the air of surrender just leaves me cold.  As my blog says the only choice we have is how to respond so why not respond with your whole heart be that for or against?

From where I’m sitting I would say this, Goliath doesn’t need the extra¬†support thank you. ¬†He seems to be bigger, better resourced¬†and has the power of the law (he makes them), the media (he controls them) and the people (both major parties officially support this) on his side. ¬†To turn now just because apparently ‘it’s happening anyway and we might miss out if we keep sulking’ ¬†would be the ultimate sheeple thing to do unless of course we had ‘seen the same light’ that the other true supporters have.

But let’s pretend we did do that, we did just go with it.

What would the Blue Mountains Council do next?

Well I for one would want answers to the following questions based on the following assumptions upon which our support is now resting:

The Future is Rosy Scenario.

The Badgerys Creek airport will drive more tourists to the district, increase house prices, make the place more desirable to live in, give local businesses more customers and generally make the area more prosperous.

BUT:

  • How are the thousands of tourists who fly into Badgerys Creek planning to get up to the Blue Mountains being as though there is no direct train link planned between the airport and Penrith and that the current line servicing the mountains is practically fully utilised?
  • If there is no train link between the new airport and the mountains how are the roads going to cope with what would have to be a dramatic increase in traffic to produce enough income to deliver these benefits and off-set the costs (peace, potential change to UNESCO status etc)?
  • As the area becomes more desirable and the population of Western Sydney grows how will the Blue Mountains balance¬†the increased pressure to provide for a growing population with bush fire risk and the desire to maintain the Unique ambience of mountain living (why people come here)?
  • How can we best promote the Blue Mountains as a destination for longer term stays and environmental appreciation and protection rather than as a one-day drive through that takes from the mountains more than it gives back? ¬†Do we really want to encourage thousands of day trippers over weekenders and honeymooners?
  • Why do people come here anyway? ¬†If it has anything to do with wilderness, nature, peace, clean air, space, quaint village life and independent retailers and cafes how are we going to protect that?

That’s enough for starters.

So we have a pretty much believable and credible scenario of an opportunity for growth and prosperity if only we just get on board. But most people can see that while building an airport might create some opportunities, fully realising and integrating those into our Blue Mountains community requires further investment and work.

This is where the psychology gets interesting.

I wonder if the people¬†urging us to support this are¬†worried¬†that we might miss out if we don’t get on board? ¬†If we’ll be punished, given the cold shoulder for not playing ball.

Interesting thought.

In addition there are murmurings that we are at risk of missing out on our chair at the negotiating table by being like this.

That may be true I guess but if we are just going along with it because we are scared of missing out and can only go if we agree to swallow our opposition and sit on our hands ¬†I’m not sure¬†its at all worth it.

What would happen if we just continue to oppose this (if that’s what we collectively believe)?

I really do think that there is a FEAR brewing that we really will be punished by being starved of funds, infrastructure and attention if we pursue with this obstinance¬†of airport opposition but it makes no sense for the government to even do that and in any case, it won’t be just the government invested in this.

Why cut off your nose to spite your face?

There is just too much money, time and political energy at stake here to risk that type of behaviour Рif the airport is going to be built, and the rhetoric about jobs and growth and tourism is true the Blue Mountains just HAS to receive attention regardless of whether we voted yes or no for the airport thing.  The pressure from the Australian Tourism Board, the airport operators and the international market would be much more powerful than that of a few hundred angry or enthusiastic residents shouting yes or no into cyberspace.

Just imagine the global embarrassment that is an airport 70km from the iconic and heavily publicised Three Sisters that is IMPOSSIBLE to get to in under two hours due to the slowness of the train, the congestion on the roads and the cost of the Uber driver. ¬†It only takes 2 hours from Sydney by train now AND it only costs $5.81 each way. ¬†You can even drive it in 90 minutes which is only 30 minutes more than the current BC-K Town estimates. ¬†Better for tourists? ¬†I’m not so sure…..

In some ways I see this airport as a Trogan horse that bashes the door down to allow for mass immigration, population growth, high-density living and the commodification of nature. ¬†Think this is too far-fetched? ¬†Then look at the predicted usage figures that justify Badgers Crack and also look at all the housing development that’s going in around the base of the mountains already! ¬†Anyone would think we’re looking to re-house the whole of Syria out here and then invite each family to have 10 children each!

But I digress.

The questions that I’ve got in my head are just as relevant for me to have answers to (as a no airport supporter) as I believe they are for people who are all for it. ¬†It makes no sense financially to spend billions on a project that won’t actually deliver on what it claims to promise and if the new airport isn’t promising greater wealth opportunities for the Blue Mountains and beyond and more convenient travel then why do it? ¬†Overseas visitors don’t give a shit if this thing has been on again and off again for 50 or more years, they only care if it makes sense and makes their holiday or business trip easier and comfortable.

Anyway….

I do accept that in any situation where there are conflicting points of view that one side will lose out and¬†that there does come a time when one does have to make a decision to either get on with it or leave but that time and that decision is not for now. This thing isn’t built and open yet.

For now I think it is pertinent for all sides to acknowledge that there are big, important questions yet to be answered and a shit fight of name calling, shutting down, bullying and shaming is not helpful.

The worst that can happen at the moment is that neither side likes, trusts or respects each others point of view. ¬†I do feel that is starting to happen and one place that can’t happen is with our leaders on council (thankfully it hasn’t yet).

This airport has the power and support to go ahead whether the Blue Mountains support it or not.

This airport deal also has the potential to be shelved whether the Blue Mountains supports it or not.

At the end of the day it is, and always has been outside of our jurisdiction and budgetary control.

What matters is that the Blue Mountains City Council create space for each and every person interested in getting involved to do so.  That all residents and councillors are listened to and that their views are acknowledged, addressed and represented moving forward.

If we don’t manage to do that¬†we have wasted our time and achieved nothing.

And as for the amount of money spent then I say this. What is spent is spent and has been spent with council approval.  Going forward it is important we re-evaluate our position and what we are prepared to spend to back that up.  I believe that is exactly what the council proposes to do at the next meeting which is to be held on 31st January. I will be there.


My final thought for today on this is as follows,  I believe it is time that our collective argument against this airport moves beyond just NO.

I also believe that it is time that our collective support moves deeper than just ‘yes’.

It’s time to talk and more importantly, it is time for everyone to listen, really listen.