Friday, March 10, 2017


(dogs with federation pavilion)

"We demolish your houses, destroy your avenues, build hotels on your parks and zoos, flog your institutions, lock your bars, empty your streets of life, fill your burbs with motorways."

Elizabeth Farrelly's piece in the SMH today touched a nerve. Read it. She's genuine and heartfelt, and not bunging it on. I'm not saying she ever did, but there's something there, some end-point, that feeling that enough is enough and 'the point' is close if not reached. You really don't know you are at those moments till you are there, till something goes snap. SNAP.

I had a less than pleasant experience last week in Centennial Park. A bit of a snap experience. The park has been the subject of some criticism for its increasing privatisation of various parts, for varying periods of time, some regular (out door movies), some recurring (fun runs), some one offs, two offs, who knows what's next (film shoots). Plus film festivals, food fairs, garden shows, you name it, they've probably thought of it. Even camping or glamping is mooted. I bet the wildlife can't wait.

There's one area of the park which is especially dog friendly. It's the valley - Federation Valley -where the Federation Pavilion sits, a large sandstone edifice which all but totally overwhelms the sandstone plinth commemorating the union of the states therein. In years I don't think I've seen anyone inside (it's mostly gated and somewhat forbidding) looking at this memorial, which once sat in a bit of a rough paddock, surrounded by a steel picket fence, open to the elements.  But it did ask the question - who am I?

If you look at a map of the parklands, you can see why this doggy area is just that - a hugely popular doggy area.

(map 1 - overview)

Below is the detail of top-right of map 1, and shows the Federation Valley below the Moonlight Cinema area and surrounded by all the parking hullabaloo that goes with it  :

(map 2 - detail)

Now, dogs aren't allowed off-leash within what's called Grand Drive (the white circle in the top map) and for reasons of access (foot or car), topography (level and grassed, suitable for all ages, with good wide visibility), animal safety (a good distance from roads) and free of competing interests, this Federation Valley is essentially the only decent place for dogs and their owners to (both) socialise safely. It wasn't always to be. Park management went through a phase of wanting to ban dogs in the Valley, as hard as that is to believe. A public outcry, Rally for the Valley, eventually saw the public emerge the winner. 

But you wonder if there is still is some smouldering resentment. There's no poo-bag dispensers except for one, not infrequently empty, a steep climb was up yonder beyond the sandstone ridge (see map 2). Bins are scarce and roadside, for ease of emptying, not for ease or safety in disposing. 

And (slowly getting to the point) the Valley has been recently taken over for a film shoot (Peter Rabbit). For months, maybe 3 or 4 months if memory serves me well. The closed off area (it even had no photos notices splattered around at first) occupies the whole of the Valley but falls short of the Monument, effectively forcing dog users elsewhere, or around the Monument, and therefore much closer to the main road, cars, and bicycles. 

Note the "Centennial Parklands is proud to support the Australian film industry". They're not doing it for free - that's the whole point - and the subtext is a pretty strong:  if you have any problem with this, then you're not supporting the industry.

Anyway (very slowly getting to the point). recently there have been signs advising that there may be loud explosions from the set. Like loud explosions that could scare dogs, off leash dogs. Indeed they could. 

We arrived the other evening, and getting out of the car, with the dogs of course, were met by a pleasant woman from the shoot, warning that explosions were imminent. Thank you I said, quite calmly actually. It wasn't till I got down to the Valley and saw the dogs on the roadside side of the monument, with a ranger driving through them in a ute, that the prospect of a loud BANG and scattered dogs became quite real. I was worried for the puppy. Before I could gather myself, let alone the dogs, the ranger had arrived in the ute. 

"Are those lovely kelpies yours?"
"Yes, they are."
"Well, there ..."
"I know, the lady up the hill told me. And can I say I am really pissed off about it."

(Verbatim, continues)

"Dog owners are usually nice people. What happened to you?"

And off she sped, across the dog off-leash area, waiting-for-loud-explosion-to-panic-the-dogs area, leaving me wide mouthed.

SNAP. It was a snap moment. I was playing the ball. She had played the man. I phoned the Park management. He was polite and indulged me. But, as I unleashed about having used the park almost daily since the man walked on the man (when I had first moved into the immediate area - yes I was a University student, and now I'm old), and about my father born 1902 who had played in the quicksand, probably the swampy lands in the centre, and how I felt strongly about the park being a people's park, he eventually got a word in edgeways, and pointed out that no I wasn't paying anyones wages, that as a tax and rate payer I wasn't contributing to the Park, and that the Park actually got no funding from Government, none. From a Government not exactly short of a quid. He seemed rather proud of the fact. 

I was left to say : "So it isn't my Park. In fact I am a guest in your Park". To which he did not disagree. 

SNAP. My attachment was severed. I felt disenfranchised. I felt I knew something of what it was like to be disenfranchised. I felt I glimpsed some understanding of how people who are disenfranchised took action - at the ballot box, on the street. And moreover, the more I thought about it the clearer it became that apart from the dog issue, which will revert shortly to the status quo, at least until the next 'Proud to support the Film Industry' episode, there is simply nowhere in Centennial Park where there is guaranteed peace and solitude. Not like the great parks of the world - Regent's Park, the Vondelpark, the Tiergarten, even the heavily used Central Park in New York. 

I'm with you Elizabeth Farrelly. 

By the way, the inscription on the Federation Monument reads:

                                     MAMMON OR MILLENIAL EDEN


Anonymous said...

The state government cut off the Centennial Park and Moore Park trust's recurrent funding in about 2013, though even then it was only about $1 million versus about $20 million "self-generated" revenue.

But it's still your park, historically the public has paid from it (after the initial theft from the indigenous people, that is) and the capital resource which is the source of income is a public resource - assets on their books at a bit over $1 billion.

The Trust seems to be have been salting away quite sizeable profits for the past few years and has built up quite a bit of cash in the bank.

It also receives capital grants from the Govt from time to time.

So I don't think your interlocutor was telling you the whole story.

wanderer said...

Thanks M. I knew it was more complicated. I had tried to play the tax payer card and was put n my place pretty strongly. It matters little to me now one way or another. Impotence makes for disinterest.

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Elizabeth said...

I agree - the tipping point is being reached throughout the city - WestConnex is a big one (and now the major parties in the inner west have united against the Independents and Greens to support it) but there are small fights everywhere as the community reaches the snapping point. Elizabeth Farrelly is right. It is time to start pulling out the surveyor's markers and throwing them in the harbour. (markers not the surveyors!)

wanderer said...

More Farrelly here today Elizabeth.