GRAHAM Brown is a self-confessed “doer”. His words and he’s got form to back the claim.
Recent history reveals the advent of his Tidy Up Taree Day and the deliverance of placemaker, David Engwicht to our community in the form of the ‘Change The View, Change The Valley’ meeting on June 19. More than 130 people gathered in Taree to listen to ideas that could help to unite and enliven our central business district and create a community connected by pride in its town.
Mr Engwicht challenged Greater Taree City Council to think differently about the central business district of Taree, to think differently about regulations and according to Mr Brown, council listened.
Earlier this week Mr Brown announced that with council’s support, Taree is to get a “civic heart” in Victoria Street. Street pavers, metal seats and garden beds will be removed from parts of the street and replaced with grass mounds and “funky” wooden seating is to wrap trees. Scattered throughout the green space will be sculptures and importantly, retailers will bring their stores to the footpath and cafes will create spaces that invite people to sit, talk and work in the street.
According to Mr Brown, council’s contribution to this project is the development of permission plans that will enable this change to occur and the decision to allow a 12-month trial for the use of space without fees being payable.
Mr Brown is delighted council has “changed its view” and says “they deserve a pat on the back for this!”
In recent days social media provided a forum for people to discuss the civic heart concept and it sparked comment about the use of ratepayers funds for this project. Gayle Head initiated the conversation with the comment that “Taree needs to fix roads before all the decorations, the roads around this town are a disgrace ... as for improving the town, who wants to come to a town where the roads are so bad you only have to drive down Dale Street or Railway Street to see how bad things are and if the money is coming from ratepayers or taxpayers then we have every reason to complain about them.”
It is a common complaint heard in the Manning Valley, according to Mr Brown, but he says it is important the community understand that no cash is coming from council’s coffers for the civic heart project.
Local businesses will fund the civic heart project with goods and labour and it is expected the community will also rally to help transform the central business district. Mr Brown says State government support will also be sought via an application under the Building Community Partnership Program.
“Council has agreed to change its thinking in regards to footpath use and to fast-track community projects which is a great step in the right direction,” Mr Brown said.
“For years the community has complained that council has not been helpful enough and now we are seeing change. We must applaud council for this new way of thinking. If we all support this first project and prove it works imagine what we could do with a more co-operative approach between council, business and the community at large.
“It is a fact that our roads need attention but having looked over the council budget, as an accountant, it is apparent that they just don’t have enough funds to fix the roads problem without reducing other services. I believe that would be a backward step for our community.
“This community driven project is a chance to show Taree in a different light to visitors and tourists. It will also have people stop and shop here and that may assist in filling some of our empty shops and provide jobs for our kids.
“There has been many studies done across the world showing that the successful communities are ones where the people are engaged in their community.
“We need to take more ownership as was done by our parents. This government management of communities is broken in today’s financially stretched governments. The community must take back some of these roles to help us move forward. If nothing else, volunteering for your community makes you feel really good about yourself and others.
“Tidy Up Taree is an initiative of mine to try to help the community recover from the many job losses over the last five years. I have been buoyed by the reaction in the community and the support I have received so far. I am a self-confessed doer and always see a project to the end.
“I have spent many thousands of dollars making sure that this initiative continues to grow and am saddened by the fact that there are people who, it seems, would like to bring it down. I am a community minded person just trying to bring about change, which is why we work under the slogan of ‘Change the View, Change the Valley’.
“It seems not only do I have to work on the physical view but now need to turn my attention to the psychological views as well. Come on people, don’t try to bring us down but help us build up!
“Enough of the, “Yes But” thinking and let’s replace it with “Yes And” – conversations starting in this way are always much more rewarding.”