Monday, March 05, 2007
The pity of progress
They are an endangered species - facing extinction. It seems so perverse. They do no harm, these lakeside shacks. And yet, bureacracy has ruled that they may not stay. Those who holiday in them have been given lifetime occupancy - but one which curtails the tradition of handing down. The movement is to reclaim foreshores on lakes and rivers where families of the less wealthy have always holidayed in their simple, much-loved shacks. Shacks are an official "eyesore".
On Lake Alexandrina at the tiny town of Milang, there is this community of lovingly-kept shacks, primitive little constructions occupied for generation after generation, where fathers fish and children learn water skills and explore wetlands. This community has fought the demolition edict and begged for a heritage listing, for it knows it represents a history of holidays and cultural mores. Officialdom has denied this request. The shacks are doomed.
Milang is not a tourism mecca. It is a fairly obscure little township - one pub, a pizza place, a general store, a campground... It sports a small wetland trail, dry as a bone now in the drought, a train exhibit and a little cafe-cum-information centre. It is a darling town with a history of lake activities and some historic buildings. But it is a bit off the beaten track. Tourists trickle through and are enchanted by the time-warp, particularly by the shacks.
The irony is that the bureacracy which hates the shacks is the very one which will approve the developers. Are large condos more beautiful than these colourful, characterful little shacks? Ye gods, no! They are the new ugly. The greedy new ugly. The eyesore and the bane.
Is there some rule that says that the rich should enjoy water views and the working class should not?
Apparently there is.
I abhor it.
The shacks of Milang represent all that is joyous in family holidays, in childhood pleasures, in the simple things of life. And in an egalitarian culture.
This is not jet ski sound-and-water-pollution territory. Nor powerboats and mindless watersports. It is sailboats, canoes and fishing - the gentle water pursuits. It is a haven of black swans, pelicans, ibis...
Destroying this little world is nothing less than a government crime against family life!