Twelve years is too long
30 August 2010
“Didja see this campaign the Wolli Creek mob are running?” said Joadja, indicating the community noticeboard on the back wall of the Brushtail Café.
I took my cider over for a look. Pinned up there were a couple of striking posters. They featured an angry Wolli Possum, a character that looked not unlike myself, holding up a placard that proclaimed “12 years is too long”. The message was simple: “In 1998 the NSW Government promised to protect the Wolli Creek Valley by making it a regional park … it still hasn’t happened.”
“You’ve got to admit, it’s a pretty inexcusable lapse”, said Joadja. “Just another example of breathtaking incompetence and short attention span. If a week is a long time in politics, twelve years is an eternity. The open space along Wolli Creek is a patchwork of bits of land owned by various government departments, like Sydney Water and the RTA, and a couple of big bits owned by Canterbury City Council. All the government had to do was transfer these parcels of land to the National Parks and Wildlife people, but we’re twelve long years down the track and somehow only half the land has been transferred”.
“Holy Mother of Darwin”, I muttered scanning the posters, “As they point out here, it’s three years longer than it took for the Yanks to put a man on the Moon and four years more than it took to build the Harbour Bridge”.
The other analogy was that of a hypothetical kid called Emily who started primary school in 1998, when Carr promised the regional park. Emily would by now have gone through, primary and high school, graduated from university and started working.
“You’d think the electoral implications alone would have motivated them to sort this out”, said Joadja. “Look what’s at stake. It’s the nearest local bushland for people in Deputy Premier Carmel Tebbutt’s electorate and she’s definitely in trouble come March next year. The valley is actually in Linda Burney’s electorate and Frank Sartor’s is on the south side of the creek. The Premier’s electorate, Heffron, is just a stone-throw away”.
“It’s all symptomatic of the spin culture”, mused Old Possum, who’d slipped off his stool at the bar to join us. “These people think that once they’ve issued the media release the job’s finished. But government isn’t like that. The whole reason we have governments is to co-ordinate a whole lot of disparate forces so that things actually happen. Time and again they just can’t make it happen, particularly where public transport or green issues are involved. The current light rail extension is a rare exception. That project’s roaring ahead now, but they really had to be bludgeoned into it by the community”.
“But don’t you find it nauseating how Bob Carr – the man who created this government, and whose style runs through all the premiers that followed him – keeps shamelessly popping up on radio and TV and at book launches?” Joadja asked.
“Yeah, he’s suffering from Relevance Deprivation Syndrome. The man would open an envelope if there was a speech and some canapés in it. But you mentioned light rail, and that reminds me: there was another example of Carr saying one thing and doing the opposite. Ten years ago, when he opened the light rail extension to Lilyfield he said ‘I think the revival of light rail will be one of the great themes of living in Sydney over the next few decades’. Of course, that extension had been planned under the previous Liberal government and it was financed by Federal Labor.
“You’ll remember that the light rail was supposed to be extended into the CBD and other routes were planned … but nothing happened. Carr got on with the job of building more motorways – real disasters like the Cross-City and Lane Cove tunnels. The only big rail project they actually started was the Parramatta-Chatswood line and they stuffed that up by dropping the Parramatta-Epping bit and then deciding, inexplicably, to put the line under the Lane Cove River rather than over it. Of course the costs blew out and an important station had to be dropped from the plan. Come the state election in March, it’s going to be hard to spin away stuff like that.”
• You can sign the online petition about Wolli Creek Regional Park at: http://www.wollicreek.org.au/