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Mandy Nolan: I park Therefore I am: Woolworths Mullumbimby

Mandy Nolan: I park Therefore I am: Woolworths Mullumbimby

Deborah Lilly and Mandy nolan

Deborah Lilly talks with local celebrity, humorist, social commentator and supplier of fresh food, Mandy Nolan.  

The Mullum Woolworths' money and might shows our kids that different rules apply to different people according to your economic status; bullies do win.   If you or I tried to fence off the street for six months to build [for example] a pool we would be fined, but big corporations can get away with it. This is corporate bullying in a small country town, she said.

This has brought up the age-old wound of locals versus the blow-ins; the people who have lived here for many generations that feel antagonised by those that have only been here 20 years or 15 years. The irony is that its the old family businesses that will be sent bankrupt or closed.

 

Below is Mandy's recent article "I park, therefore I am".


The handy thing about capitalism is that it provides a measure.

Using this model, increased profits prove that something is good, and economic loss of course means that something is bad. On reading Sonia Borenstein’s article in last week’s Echo titled ‘Post Woolworths Maleny: Fast-Forward Mullumbimby’ with the overriding thesis that the white toad that is Woolies probably won’t gobble up all independent business, but  will in fact bring more commerce to town and thus create a Golden Age of ample parking and cashed up shoppers, I was gobsmacked.

Woolies won’t create new commerce, it just funnels commerce that would have been directed to Tweed or Byron or Ocean Shores or even locally into its registers. Of course John Waterhouse (in partnership with Mallams who sold out to Woolies) reckons that the tactics of action groups have been scare tactics. He has a vested interest. He profited from it. The rest of us haven’t. And many of us are quite prepared to cough up the extra bucks for our groceries if it means maintaining community integrity.

Cheaper groceries do not equal a happier town. Woolworths are not an organisation that established lower prices to assist the poor. It’s to strangle competitors. Why does making money make things better? Is commerce the only measure we have any more? We pack halls to see David Suzuki and shudder in fear at his bleak call to arms for our tentative future, yet we can’t move past the cash box when it comes to creating and protecting our own unique communities. God help us if parking ever becomes a measure of social wellbeing.

In Bhutan instead of using Gross National Product to measure the wellbeing of their citizens they use a happiness index. Perhaps in Mullumbimby we could start using parking. We could take it national. Gross National Parking Index. The more parking there is, the happier the citizens. Every time we need to get our Prozac prescription filled we can be assured of a park right outside the chemist.

We have to stop using economic models to measure  impacts and start finding ways to measure social impact. Social impacts of large inappropriate developments are much harder to measure. Perhaps we should come up with a GDI: Gross Depression Index where we can measure the number of alienated and isolated individuals who feel disconnected, and as that increases we’ll know that profits must be up. When people are sad, someone’s making bucks. In fact, the sadder the people the richer the country.

Ethiopians may be poor, but they’re not depressed. They also don’t shop at Woolies. Our small communities are being consumed by a sea of franchise outlets. Pretty soon (wind forward 10 years) our streets will become the streets of any town anywhere. Ironically, after the Botox, the collagen injections, the fake tans and the boob jobs we will look like franchise people. The same people in every town everywhere in the Western World.

It’s sick. I have lived here for twenty years, and in that time I’ve watched us ‘lose’ Byron Bay. I recently had a friend from overseas come stay with me. We’d lived together in Suffolk for six months only five years ago. She was on vacation from Switzerland and had brought her boyfriend Sven along for the ride. She’d told Sven about Byron, this incredible laidback place, this kooky utopian dream. ‘A little seaside willage,’ she cooed.

She was shocked. ‘It’s like a city’. Sabrina spent three hours there and left. She hadn’t come to shop – she’d come to Byron for an ‘experience’ of Byron  which no longer exists. And before you get your BMWs ready to mow me down, I’m not bagging Byron. I love Byron. I still do. But we have all failed Byron. We sold her uniqueness to the highest bidder and then sat back and lamented that it just wasn’t the same anymore. 

We noticed that the tourists who were quite happy to pay top dollar in a low key seaside hippy town now leave complaining because it’s overpriced and disappointing. We fucked it up. But don’t worry, it’s sustainable!  I am tired of the word sustainable. As Paul Francis of Sea Shepherd said recently, ‘sustainable’ just means ‘business as usual’. Nothing changes. Profits continue.

We need to become radical conservationists in every area of our lives. It’s not just whales and koalas and orangutans that need our attention. The problem is in our backyard. The first thing we need to conserve is community. Social capital isn’t easily measured, nor is community diversity and it’s our diversity that’s on the endangered list. So back to the metastasis that is Woolworths in Mullumbimby. And yes, maybe it won’t be so bad. After all, you can learn to live with cancer. Until you die. All I’m saying is don’t sell your soul for a parking space.

 

Published with kind  permission of Mandy Nolan


 

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