Tweed councillors change tack not direction


Tweed Mayor Madam Lashout has not gone Green, despite rumblings to that effect from Youngblood and the Poltergeist. The decision last week to disengage from the race to the bottom and put quality above quantity at Hastings Point makes commercial as well as environmental sense. As Lashout herself put it, “Byron Bay is hyper-expensive because it is not over-developed.”

The people of Hastings Point are celebrating the victory of Green over Greed not because of any ideology, but because they love their corner of paradise and do not want to see it trashed for cash. You only need to visit the richest suburbs of any capital city in Australia to find that the community values espoused by the Greens are exactly the way that the rich choose to live. The mansions along the Yarra in Melbourne’s Heidelberg or in Sydney’s St Ives have no fences, the villages on the peninsula in Sydney’s Pittwater have no supermarkets or traffic lights and richest regional towns sell organic food and local, hand-made produce.

Developers seeking short term profit forget the basic equation of commerce; if you compete on price, the only way forward is down. Eventually, margins are squeezed as competitors exercise the one differentiator available. This truism is masked when a commodity, such as beach front property, is highly sought after and in limited supply but it remains fundamentally true.

You only need one hiccup in the market – such as a credit squeeze, rising sea levels or limited water supply – and the whole house of cards collapses. Wealthy developers only want to build ticky tacky little boxes on other people’s land, when it comes to their own backyards they are conservationistes extraordinaire.

If there is any lesson to be learned from the collapse of the vast Ponzi scheme that we once called global capitalism it is that greed is not good, and fundamental values matter. Warren Buffet is once again the richest man in the world precisely because his investment strategy is to give long term-backing to well run companies with a unique advantage.

All this begs the question of fairness and equity. When the wealthy call the shots they tell the ordinary folk that the rules have been established for the common good. Work hard, buy more, obey authority, or else. When ordinary folk attempt to regulate the excesses of the wealthy they are strung up as radicals, trouble makers and ne’er-do-wells. Yet it is obvious to any observer of the rich and famous that they live by different rules than they foist on everyone else. They buy their way out of trouble, receive huge handouts of taxpayers money and leave the toxic byproducts of their excess for someone else to clean up.

Tweed Shire Council has seen the writing on the wall in terms of developing for long term gain, but it is a long way from learning this fundamental lesson. Denying the public reduced parking fines and the opportunity to comment on Bay Street alienates not only the quarter of the population that votes Green, but also traditional party supporters who hope their representatives will one day come to their senses.

No-one will thank them for refusing to accept climate change as the rising sea eats into real-estate values and the real estate itself. By saving Hastings Point but refusing to give teeth to the regulations governing rogue developers, six out of seven councillors have identified themselves as opportunists.

They will face the consequences in four years.

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