We are currently taking on City Hall so to speak over in what constitutes a village green. More and more we are finding out that with devolution of power comes the thirst for more and more profits at the cost of community spirit.
It begs the question. At whose expense? A village green was once the center of the community where people could gather and relax and enjoy a green space. An area to get away from the daily grind and to meet with people, play some games, enjoy a picnic and embrace a green and communal zone.
What has changed? In essence – nothing. People still work very hard, people still need to relax, people still want to have a picnic, meet friends, kick a ball around, throw a Frisbee.
Times may have changed from the farmers needing a break from tilling the soils and being able to gather to discuss the corn prices or the foxes attacking the chickens, but in reality there has not been too much of a change. People may talk about different things or want to participate in different activities, but the village green always given some type of respite, some type of solace for the villagers.
The current battle that we are in is with the village elders (sic), Wollongong City Council. They have a vision. Their vision is to boost tourism in the Wollongong Region with what is known as the Blue Mile Plan. This is inherently a good thing as long as the vision includes some flexibility. The Blue Mile has already commenced and is well over budget and well past completion date. It has in all fairness done some really good things and other things that are very ill considered.
The unfortunate part is that with the huge costs involved, other very vital infrastructure requirements are being put to the side, as the money is being single mindedly channeled towards the realisation of the Blue Mile Plan exclusively.
Now the problem. On our village green is a business. It has been there for a number of years but now Council wants it to move it so that they can steam roll ahead with their Blue Mile Vision. Sky Dive the Beach is a privately owned company, who have been given permission to use our village green as the landing zone for the parachutists. The planes leave from another place, the Illawarra Regional airport.
Wollongong City Council’s intention is to move the existing Sky Dive the Beach HQ’s from their current premises which is in the centre of village green, to the side of the village green. This is the focal viewing point to see the parachutists land and is where they want to place the new and much expanded HQ. We all enjoys watching the parachutists land, it brings a sense of vibrancy to the village green. However that does not mean that they need to have the main part of the village for themselves. This is a green space and the only green zone to view our village green. Imagine if all of the villagers then demanded the same right to place their own commercial enterprises on our green.
Herein lies the rub. Sky Dive the Beach as a privately owned company which has operations all over Australia. They in effect have 40% of the village green for their business. The current Council is leasing Crown Land at mate’s rates. In comparison with what other commercial sites ‘off’ the village green are paying, it begs many questions. One of those would be why not relocate the HQ to somewhere else, where it won’t cost +$1.2million to build. Money saved can go to those other necessary infrastructures that have been left wanting while the Blue Mile proceeds like a train roaring down the tracks oblivious to anything else.
Enter our Green Mile Action group who is questioning some of the decisions that we consider need to be discussed and not dismissed to retain the village green. The Councillor’s who represent us have been if anything, either totally ignorant, dismissive, rude or too scared to speak up against whatever power is behind the current throne. Naïve villagers thought that they were there to assist them in a polite manner.
There are so many politics involved in this situation that I wonder whether Wollongong City Council has been blinded by having to be totally unwavering at all times to save face or whether they are so dependent upon this Sky Dive business or that they are too scared, or something ….. to listen to alternative win-win suggestions for the community as a whole.
When is a village green not a village green? Probably when a Council is too arrogant to admit that ‘compromise’ is actually a word and that the village green belongs to the people and that they are mere caretakers of our green zone.
Fighting City Hall is not easy. Fighting the chiefs of the village is not easy. Fighting to keep a village green for the villagers however is worth it.