Petrus Spronk

This is a story about gold digging. Gold digging, which is often considered 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 rural character of our town.

I see the town in which we live, set in its wonderful rural landscape, slowly being covered in a city type architecture with its signature of two garages but without space for kids to play or the establishment of a veggie garden. This phenomena seems to be the result of just a few people who 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 seem to have little regard for the people who actually live here and have to deal with the consequences.

As in the corporate world, this town seems in danger of becoming a place of 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 well being of our town. This means that there is no investment in the sprit of the town – no commitment to the inner health of the town, the total picture. There is something distressing about this. See it as an attack on your health, a slow-drain of your energy or consider what it leaves for the children.

Many people 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 in its entirety actually means, the entirety of health, education, past, future, memories, the landscape, work, and other things. In short, every aspect of our live, 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 many 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 to maintain their delicate balance. If we do not take this care, we are in great danger of destroying the self-same qualities which made our town so attractive in the first place. The self-same qualities which tourists arrive for by the busload. In the main a rural, quiet 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 roughshod over issues which are important for the people who live here and 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 task 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 fistfuls of dollars and promises of wealth also have a responsibility – 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 creative insight to deal with these important issues, they may expect some healthy opposition from the people who do care for their town.

It will soon be hard enough to understand that you are entering a rural forest town. You would be forgiven for thinking 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.

Petrus Spronk is a local author and sculptor who contributes a regular column to The Wombat Post.