Most people would agree that Sydney is one of the worst planned cities in Australia, if not the world. A legacy that began when the early settlers ran cattle tracks in all directions, which has left us with a jumble of narrow streets, increasing traffic congestion and a series of band aid measures designed to stall the inevitable gridlock.
The ad hoc ‘planning’ that began in the city proper quickly spread to the suburbs and the madness continues today, with endless roadwork infrastructure, unbridled high rise developments and a sense that we are all about to explode at the seams. But, whoopee, you need not totally despair. The NYE fireworks are about to blow all that pain away, like a huge hit of dopamine – at least for a couple of days.
Yes folks, we are reliably informed this year’s pyrotechnic spectacular on Sydney Harbour will be (as they say every year), the “biggest and best ever” – with billions of TV viewers tuning in around the world to observe this multi-million dollar extravaganza. Just don’t ask how many millions of dollars go up in smoke each year as both the City Of Sydney Council and Destination NSW are reluctant to release actual figures for the total cost of the event. A rough guess in recent years is that the City alone spends around $50,000 a minute on just the crackers.
Then again we have just saved around $20 million with the City Of Sydney’s announcement that they have cancelled the horrendous Cloud Arch, the gigantic Casper The Ghost concrete ‘artwork’ that was to have straddled George Street like a lingering smoke ring. Admittedly some $2.25 million in design and artists fee has, like the fireworks, simply gone up in smoke but let’s be grateful for small mercies.
When the monorail finally closed in June of 2013 many were led to believe that Sydney’s days of mad impulsive planning decisions were now well behind us. There has always been a long held belief that the city should always be on show. Irrespective of the harbour, the Opera House and all the other attractions, the credence is that we are an international city and projects like the monorail and the ill-fated Cloud Arch are necessary to cement that position – attracting hordes of foreign tourists in the process.
Who cares if they are glued to their TV sets in Mozambique or Uzbekistan to marvel at the Sydney fireworks. As clichéd as it sounds, the big picture of sexy infrastructure and million dollar parties has overshadowed all the little pictures of everyday life in this city. Like coffee shops and other small businesses forced to shut down as a result of light rail construction and music venues that are no longer because of over regulation and bureaucracy run amok.
As a postscript I have often wondered what happened to the monorail after its closure some five years ago. Some of the cut up carriages were snapped up by locals as conversation pieces for their backyards or hobby farms. And about three years ago it was reported that twenty one of the carriages were shipped to Taiwan, with the possible option of using them in an amusement park.
Clearly if this was the case, we have missed a golden opportunity to promote the great city of Sydney abroad. We should have purchased all the advertising space on those carriages, proclaiming “DIRECT FROM SYDNEY AUSTRALIA”. Don’t tell me that wouldn’t have seen thousands of Taiwanese rushing to their travel agent to book a package down under.