Petrus Spronk

This is a story about gold digging. Gold digging which most consider as a somewhat romantic part of our history, but which isn’t. It continues today with the same ferocity and sense of greed as it has in the past. With the same disregard for the landscape, in the broadest sense of the word, and the people who live in it. More than this, however, this story is an appeal for the maintenance and respect of the quaint and rural character of our town.

I see the town where we live, set in its wonderful rural landscape, slowly being covered in city type architecture. This phenomena seems to be the result of just a few people with the need to ‘Develop’ at any cost. And, ultimately, at the cost of many. Developers, attracted by our tourist dollar, see opportunities, which is fair enough. However, some have little regard for the people who actually live here. And have to live with the consequences.

As in the corporate world, this town seems in danger of becoming a place for easy take-overs. Not always understanding the many local issues and considerations, investment seems on financial terms only. There is in this attitude little or no care for the health and wellbeing of our town. This means there is no investment in the spirit of the town. No commitment to the inner health of the town. To the total picture. There is something distressing about this. See it as an attack on your health, a slow-drain on your energy or, consider what it leaves for the children.

Many people in Daylesford seem to think that ‘a healthy economy’ means Dollars, Development and Growth without considering the ‘basics’ upon which an economy exists. Without seemingly understanding what the concept of ‘Economy’ actually means in its entirety. The entirety of health, education, past, future, memories, the landscape, work, etc. In short ‘every’ aspect of our life, and the environment in which it occurs, is an integral part of our economy.

Daylesford is a rural town set in a natural environment as expressed in the beautiful farmland-landscape and forest. It has an interesting and rich history, visually expressed in its architecture. The architecture which holds most of its stories. Additionally it has the Mineral Springs. There is much beauty. And, as is the case with great beauty, it is fragile. These fragile elements need care in maintaining their delicate balance. If we do not take this care we are in great danger of destroying the self same qualities which made the town so attractive in the first place. The self same qualities which tourists arrive by the busload for. In the main a rural, quiet and tranquil place with a strong, and interesting, sense of history.

We all understand the power of money coupled with the argument for development and growth. But when this is accompanied by riding rough shod over issues which are important to the health and wealth of the local people, whose lives are quite often adversely affected, when this is accompanied with insensitivity to the natural, social and architectural environment, it is time that we, the community, the Council and the developers, occasionally stop and together review the situation.

Development is welcome. Daylesford enjoys progressive, creative and successful people in any field. This makes for a vibrant community. Therefore we need development, but development which is sensitive to the overall health of the town. This is a difficult ask, but with due consideration and a creative approach, not impossible. We need development which also considers beyond the immediate financial gains. We all have a responsibility to the town. Developers in any field from within or out of the town, beyond bringing fists-full of dollars and promises of wealth, also have a responsibility. They are responsible to the people of the town who hosts them and from whom they will profit. They have a responsibility to maintain the natural and architectural integrity of the town since both our collective memory and wealth are based on it. These aspects represent a richer source of wealth than any amount of financial investment. They have a responsibility to be more sensitive to local feelings. If they lack the sensitivity and/or creative insight to deal with these important issues, they may expect some healthy opposition from people who do care for their town, who do live here and who have to live with the consequences of other’s actions.

An example. Quite a number of years ago now BP plonked a totally inappropriate Highway/Suburban Melbourne type service station at the lake entrance into our town. Appropriate for an industrial setting maybe, but aesthetically totally out of tune in this environment. Far too loud, too hard. A development like this will never fit in, soften or, over the years, grow a patina and become part of the landscape. (It is obviously designed not to.) Surely with a little sensitivity and consideration for the integrity of the rural spirit of the town another answer would have been possible. Could have been found. Many promises for ‘tree planting a softer appearance’ were made, none were kept. Developments like this are happy to own the profits, but shy away from owning the destruction.

Of course, in a way we deserve all this because we are allowing these things to go ahead.

It will soon be hard to understand that you are entering a rural forest town. You would be forgiven to think you’d arrived at the edge of a city. Our visitors will soon be faced with the very aspects they come here to escape.

If we do not tread with some care the attraction to the attraction will destroy the attraction.