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Community Alliance SA protects own backyard

By Malcolm King - posted Friday, 7 June 2013


Who knows what evil lies in the hearts of Adelaide property developers? Community Alliance SA do.

This Boomer army of 'heritage huggers' is marching under the banner of 'uber sustainability'. Lay down your arms Progress, surrender your virtue Democracy, forget about buying that new apartment kids, because the Alliance will brook no resistance.

These bourgeois vigilantes are reactionary NIMBY nay-sayers. They are warriors of pension day. They are seething that building flats and apartments close to the city will drop the value of their property prices.

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The Alliance's strike weapon is 'sustainability'. This term is now so over used that it can be applied to any context. Would you like some sustainability with your steak? Is that person sustainable? I want a sustainable haircut. Ditto quality. Quality was emptied of all meaning when it entered the lexicon of human resources.

Community Alliance SA want to save Adelaide and its verdant hills from development, end specific planning projects in the CBD, cut population and demand that they be consulted on all property development applications.

While one supports the desire to keep the wilderness pristine and protect wildlife sanctuaries, this suburban 'reconstruction' of the environmental movement is little more than 'green-washed' self-interest. For example, if we built a mental hospital in their suburb, the Alliance would call it unsustainable. A youth or immigrant detention centre would lack accountability. A women's shelter would suffer from a lack of transparency.

They have hijacked the language of the environmental movement and used it as a reactionary battering ram. This is not only a South Australian issue but an Australia-wide issue.

I would politely suggest that the Greens and environmentalists over the last five or six years have watched with growing unease as the environmental message has been parroted, not argued; worn like a fashion rather than something that came from the conviction of understanding.

Planning development proposals in South Australia are the domain of Councils but they can be overturned by the Planning Minister on appeal. This does seem odd but then again, left to Councils, nothing would get done - which is what the Alliance want. Its default position is the same as my black Labrador's – whine and do nothing.

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The Alliance has made a classic error in the definition and interpretation of the term 'consultation'. All good democratic governments hold public consultation processes. In some cases the opinions of individuals and special interest groups are so insightful that they are woven into legislation. The error is to assume that special interest groups have the right or authority to expect their opinions to be acted upon by a government.

According to the Australian Industry Group's Australian States Outlook (2013), economic activity fell sharply in South Australia in the September (2012) quarter with state final demand falling by 3.2 per cent. This was largely due to a fall in residential and non-residential building activity, which fell by 11.7 per cent and 9.2 per cent per annum respectively.

It would be unfair to blame the Alliance for the parlous state of SA's construction industry, as there are global factors at play. But the obstructionist tactics of a few, who seek media attention for confected conflict stories, is a factor in why some developers have put Adelaide in the 'too hard' basket. SA currently has a record $14 billion debt, young people are fleeing to Melbourne and Sydney, and the state has one of the worse unemployment and under employment levels in Australia.

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About the Author

Malcolm King works in generational workforce change. He was an associate director at DEEWR Labour Market Strategy in Canberra and the senior communications strategist at Carnegie Mellon University. He also runs a professional writing business called Republic.

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