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Save Our Sydney Suburbs (NSW) Inc.
News Release April 2006

It's Happening in Melbourne Too

Hi SOS Members

The imposition of high density in Sydney is not an isolated phenomenon. The "Smart Growth" zealots are steadily cramming people into sardine tins in many cities, and in fact many countries . The article below, Garden State Dies by Andrew Bolt, appeared in the Herald-Sun Melbourne, Victoria on April 5 2006. Andrew Bolt is Melbourne's most popular (and controversial) columnist and also has a regular spot on radio 3AW.

Also, please remember the protest in Ryde on Sunday against the overdevelopment of the Ryde Rehabilitation site:

TIme: SUNDAY 9TH APRIL 2006, 11.00AM

A press release from these battlers is attached.

Herald Sun

Garden state dies
05 April 2006

Blocks are getting smaller and houses are getting bigger. The Government is anti-garden. Its green policies mean concrete lawns.

IT'S a warning as dire as snail trails that a theme of this year's Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show is stone, brick and concrete. In fact, I'm hoping this message is rammed home with a sharp hoe and that the prize for best garden this time goes to the Tasmanian exhibit featuring 60 tonnes of sandstone. Let all that stone be the cenotaph for the death of our old garden state, the green paradise we once celebrated on our number plates. The garden state is denuding into the roof state, so let's mourn properly the loss of the suburban garden at this show, which opens today with flinty and stony displays for people with no time for planting and pruning.

Actually, I'm not being fair. Plenty of show visitors would just love a proper garden -- one with lush lawns, billows of flowers and great trees -- and they'll eye with regret all the show's punnets of seedlings and bright pots of promises. What wouldn't they give for a strip of dirt on which to roll out that plush insta-lawn. How they'll itch to get dirt under their nails and the healthful sun on their back as they use spade and secateurs in the most artistic work of their lives. They know how character-making gardening is, too, and how civilisingly humbling, given that -- as Rudyard Kipling said -- "half a proper gardener's work is done upon his knees".

But they -- and all Melburnians -- are victims of a cosmic green joke.

Explain this: the greenest State Government in our history has made it impossible for many to afford or even find a patch of green of their own. It is anti-garden.

Its green policies mean concrete lawns.

Ask Wes Fleming, whose family owns Fleming Nurseries, Australia's biggest tree nursery and the winner of best garden at last year's Chelsea Flower Show. "It's getting harder and harder to sell a tree," he sighs. "Sales of seedlings are really suffering, too, because the blocks are getting smaller and the houses are getting bigger." Adds Fleming: "Where we need to become green is where we actually live."

Too true. But here is what we see instead.

We see more Melbournians squeezed into the same space over the past 25 years, leading Bob Birrell, head of Monash University's Centre for Population and Urban Research, to warn: "The garden city is being eaten away by infill". As he notes, a third of all new homes now are squeezed between existing houses where trees and flowers once grew. We see also new suburbs in which litters of houses are packed so closely together there is no space for a tree to poke above the roofs. Just visit Waverley Park.

We see new nature strips now with no room for a street tree as big and grand as an oak, beech or elm. We see councils too stingy to prune trees under powerlines, preferring instead to grow stumpy things like the midgets outside my front gate that do not touch the wires -- or lift the sky. We see green gimmicks like the Bracks Government's new environment tax, which raised $44.6 million from water users last year, making the most beautiful plants -- the thirsty ones such as azaleas -- a sinful luxury.

We see water bans increasingly used by a Government too blind with green faith to build a new dam, instead killing the flower beds and plush grass of our parks to "save" some never-seen mystic river.

We see a green Government spend tens of millions on a petrol-fired Grand Prix for yahoos, yet hand a mere $25,000 to this flower show that draws 125,000 much gentler visitors, and nicer. We see planning restrictions and state charges such as last year's $8000 "infrastructure tax", which jack up the cost of land on our fringes so much that young gardeners must live in cheaper flats instead, with only concrete balconies for their seeds. We see new parks in which the trees are so soul-sinking small you could throw please-grow chicken poo clear over them.

So much of this is deliberate, done to "protect" the environment out bush by planners and politicians blind to what they're doing to the environment of their own streets. For the past couple of decades the buzz words among such folk has been urban consolidation -- which means packing us in tighter so we don't put our dirty feet all over that clean nature. The Government even drew a boundary around Melbourne and banned development over it under its 2030 planning scheme, burbling that this would "protect Melbourne's highly valued farming, conservation and recreation areas".

But look at, say, the paddocks beyond Caroline Springs and ask yourself if these are really so "highly valued" that we must live like sardines in a concrete city to "save" them. Haven't we got just this kind of dull farmland stretching endlessly in each direction? Why should sheep have what humans would love better?

Plenty of Melburnians have already revolted against this crazy green vision that sees brown paddocks as more beautiful than the tree-lined streets of a well-gardened suburbia.

The Save Our Suburbs movement, for one, panicked the Government into quietly rubbing out bits of its boundary last November to release enough land to be developed, eventually, into sites for some 220,000 homes and maybe even gardens. But how hard it's tried to make these sites unaffordable. It promptly whacked on its infrastructure tax, so that taxes and charges now make up a quarter of the price of a typical new house and land package in the city -- about $90,000 in all.

Bob Day, national president of the Housing Industry Association, says this is just what he'd expect from such green believers. "They have a pathological hatred of cars and urban sprawl," he fumed. "But it's people they really hate." He's right. Unseen bits of green untouched by humans must be "saved", but the green of our gardens can be buried under stone, pebbles, concrete or bricks.

Victoria -- the no garden state. With a flower show that now sells you just the right stones for where camellias used to be.

Tony Recsei

President, Save Our Suburbs

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