I was listening to the radio during the week and I heard Walgett Principal, Richard Rule, being interviewed in relation to the recent fire at the IGA Supermarket in Walgett. There were two specific items he mentioned that grabbed my attention. Firstly, he explained that the school hall was being offered to IGA as a temporary trading location to help out the community. He said words to the effect that the greater good of the community was more important than the use the children would make of the school hall. It also would give him the world’s most extensive school tuckshop! Obviously alcohol and cigarettes were not being sold from this temporary location (imagine how kids would behave on a windy afternoon if they had some red lollies AND alcohol at lunchtime) but just about all other lines were being sold. I am sure this will be an inconvenience for the Principal, the teachers and the students but the good of the community was foremost in their minds. Keep in mind that this school, only just over a month ago, was branded by the Education Minister, Adrian Piccoli, as being in the worst condition of any school he has ever seen.

The second comment that caught my attention was in relation to shopping dollars. Richard Rule quite correctly stated that if residents of Walgett left town to buy some simple groceries, they would probably buy other items as well therefore taking more money out of the community than just the dollars spent on groceries.

With both comments, I think Richard hit the nail on the head but it often amazes me how many times I see these two principles ignored.

Councils across the state are often making decisions where people complain about the ‘stupidity’ of the decision but many times people are seeing the decision from their own viewpoint rather than looking at the greater good. I recently heard someone complain about a Council asking a shopkeeper to lodge a development application for a simple process of adding a small sit-down dining area to their takeaway café. This person was a regular customer and liked the idea of sitting down occasionally. When the bigger picture is viewed and the greater good is considered, there are other viewpoints to contemplate. Neighbours may not want the additional cars being parked beside the café for example. If the decision was made to allow the dining area, the café owner may be happy but the neighbours, who can no longer easily find a parking spot, may consider this decision of Council to be a ‘stupid’ decision. One of the great challenges of Council life is to consider any decision from a range of viewpoints and ultimately decide what the greater good is.

In relation to shopping locally, which is essentially what Richard was talking about in his second comment, I am yet to find someone who doesn’t believe in the theory of shopping locally and, hypothetically, everyone thinks we should all do it. The actual practice compared to the theory is often distinctly different. Of course one issue here is Internet shopping but I am not just talking about the online competition. We are up to 6.3 per cent of all retail sales performed online but I still see examples of people finding a car $500 cheaper in Sydney – and then spending $400 on fuel and accommodation and taking 2 days to go to Sydney to collect it.

With Christmas approaching (I hate that it is early November and I am already talking about Christmas) I think every community needs to think about how they can encourage their residents to spend more of their money locally and less out of their community. I realise that this may sound like I am encouraging people not to travel to Dubbo to shop. However, there are some goods and services that our surrounding regional towns simply don’t supply so these people will still travel to Dubbo in the same way that we will still have to purchase some items outside of Dubbo. BUT for the greater good for our community and to help boost our overall economy, I would encourage everyone to spend as much of their money in their local community as possible.

These items seem obvious to everyone but actions speak louder than words. People still tell me they love to travel to Orange to go shopping because their shopping is “so much better” but, ironically, I recently attended a meeting in Orange and one of the residents told me that so many of her friends travel to Dubbo because the shopping is “so much better here”.

It appears that indeed the grass is often greener on the other side.

Tell me if you think in our modern society, the greater good has been forgotten for more selfish interests at mayor@dubbo.nsw.gov.au.

Clr Mathew Dickerson

Mayor of the City of Dubbo

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