I ran into someone the other day whom I hadn’t seen since our schooldays together. After he finished school he could hardly wait to leave Dubbo. He had many ‘issues’ with Dubbo and planned his move away to find his new and better life. After living in a few different places over the years, he has now moved back to Dubbo – by choice. He can’t believe how wonderful the place is now compared to all those years ago and is incredibly happy back in his old home town.

I spoke with a gentleman just this week who lives in a nearby council area. He wanted to know when amalgamations were going ahead so we could start running his council. He thinks that Dubbo provides much better value for money with our rates and he thinks Dubbo charges a lot less for water. He wants his council to be merged with our council because he believes that will lead to a more efficient use of the money provided by ratepayers.

A few weeks ago I spoke with a Dubbo resident down the street while they were doing their Christmas shopping (it still seems too early to be Christmas shopping). They bemoaned the lack of shopping variety in Dubbo and said they regularly travel to Orange because the shopping is “so much better” in Orange. Of course I pointed out the advantages of shopping locally but that fell on deaf ears. Funnily enough, I happened to speak to a shop owner this week who told me they have many people from Orange visit us in Dubbo as, in their words, the shopping is “so much better in Dubbo than Orange”. Go figure.

On 15 March 2012, when we were going through the process of bidding for the $3.477 million we needed from the Australian Government to build the Barden Park Regional Centre of Excellence for Athletics, I attended a meeting in Tamworth and visited the Tamworth Sports Dome. This facility was officially opened on 17 May 2011 by then-Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and then-local member, Tony Windsor, who just happened to hold the balance of power at the time. Five million dollars was contributed by the Australian Government with Tony Windsor doing a wonderful job for his local area. I looked around the facility and marvelled at how good it was for Tamworth thinking how great it would be for our basketball and netball players if we had this facility in Dubbo. I spoke briefly to one of the staff members and he told me how jealous the sporting community in Tamworth was of Dubbo. Looking around their facility as I replied, I asked why. I was standing in a facility much better than what we have for the same sport. He replied that we are soon going to have an international-standard athletics track and we are known to have fantastic sporting ovals.

All of these real-world examples come back to one of the major issues that councils face across the State – the myth that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. Funnily enough, the proverb is literally true as demonstrated by James Pomerantz in a scientific article from 1983. Pomerantz proved that optical and perceptual laws will make grass at a distance look greener than blades of grass you see that are perpendicular. It is actually very rare for the grass to be greener on the other side of the fence – when you get up close to what appeared to be ‘green grass’ you suddenly notice some dead or yellowing patches and, when you look back at your own grass, it suddenly appears to be greener.

The secret in this is to actually look at what you have and compare that to what you need – as opposed to what you think someone else might have. In reality, the grass is greener where it is watered and cared for. If councils across the State want everyone to enviously look across at their ‘green grass’, we should all look at our advantages and improve what we have – rather than want what we don’t have.

This may sound a little deep and philosophical but I think Dubbo is currently in that positive mindset. We have a wonderful community and, in the main, things are progressing very well in Dubbo. Our community is focused on our positives and gaining strength because of it. The next time someone says that nirvana exists just across the horizon, just sit back and think about what this city of ours has to offer and I think it is hard to be disappointed.

Tell me your thoughts at mayor@dubbo.nsw.gov.au.

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