Balance or Manifest Destiny – that is the question?

Balance or Manifest Destiny – that is the question?

Featured Image: ‘Manifest Destiny’ in the Wild West USA

How do you achieve acceptable balance? The NSW Department of Local Government Council’s Charter requires that we as elected Councillors act according to the following premises: provide directly, or on behalf of other levels of government, adequate, equitable and appropriate services and facilities for the community; ensure that provided services are managed efficiently and effectively; exercise community leadership; have regard for the long term and cumulative effects of decisions; have regard to acting as custodian and trustee of public assets; effectively account for and manage assets for which we are responsible; raise funds for local purposes by way of rates, charges and fees, investments, loans and grants; keep the local community informed about activities; ensure that in the exercising of regulatory functions act consistently and without bias.

The Guide to good governance and ecologically sustainable development for local Councillors states that the Council serves to represent its local community and that local Councillors are intrinsically more accountable and accessible than their counterparts in other spheres of government (‘grassroots government’). On quality of life and ecologically sustainable development Councils make decisions that can significantly touch upon the day-to-day lives and ‘quality of life’ of the local community; Councils and Councillors must provide vision and leadership to their community; Councils and Councillors must protect and improve the community’s quality of life taking into account competing priorities that are inevitably involved – ‘social, economic and environmental’ dimensions’.

The Mission of the Upper Hunter Shire Council (UHSC) is ‘to enhance the quality of life of all Shire residents by the provision of appropriate services and facilities through effective and efficient management of resources’; ‘to serve the community through equality of opportunity and involvement’, and ‘to build a prosperous environmentally sustainable future’. Similarly, we are committed to ‘protection and enhancement of the natural environment, including the promotion of development, which is compatible with the area’s natural environment and which will enhance the area as a place to live and work’.

I think you’ll agree it’s a pretty tall order? The keyword in all of this is ‘balance’. My review thesaurus lists alternatives to balance as equilibrium, poise, stability and steadiness. Frequently during the past four years we have been placed very firmly under the microscope to arrive at decisions which will satisfy the criteria listed above and not upset more than 51% of the local population. Recent DPOP roll out consultations have reaffirmed this in spades. Think Scone Traffic Lights, Bickham Coal Mine, Air Quality Monitoring, Wind Farms, Timor Quarry, NEH overpass, SRV and CSG to name but a few without mentioning ‘fugitive emissions’ in our midst.!

Herbivorous dinosaurs were very good at the latter both front and back with no concessions to etiquette. Rural and remote say roads, roads and roads. The jury is still out on some of these. Manifest Destiny was the 19th century American dictum that the United States was destined to expand across the continent. It was used by Democrat-Republicans in the 1840s to justify the war with Mexico. Advocates of Manifest Destiny believed that expansion was not only wise but that it was readily apparent (manifest) and inexorable (destiny). Do other democratically elected governments share the same philosophy? Do you think it’s our manifest destiny to be devoured by the ever northward expanding industrial corridor with its insatiable voracious appetite – or will we retain our identity?

Remember the North Muswellbrook jibe early last year. Its well over 200 years since Lieutenant Shortland discovered coal on the beach at Newcastle while pursuing recidivists. That really started something! Could it be that our largely silent mainly urban majority warmly welcomes the exceptional lucrative job opportunities made available in the mineral extractive industries? Some of the arguments are compelling while others are equally dispelling. Did I mention balance? Aren’t wind energy, solar thermal and geothermal tomorrow’s technology? Do you ever delude yourself we’re masters of our own destiny? Are we united only in the face of adversity? Clarity of vision and unity of purpose are high ideals but I rather fear Homo sapiens are more inclined to solipsism, sophistry and vested self-interest?

Do we have the power of self-determination or are we subservient to ‘the odious hypocrisy of economic convenience’? How do you redress the balance? You might like to contemplate all of this before the LGA elections. You might even ‘throw your hat in the ring’ come September 2012. That’s the challenge. ‘Never forget only dead fish swim with the stream’ said Malcolm Muggeridge! He also stated that ‘one of the many pleasures of old age is giving things up’. I might subscribe to that.