Full of homegrown tourists and international travellers the Indian Pacific makes its way into Sydney past the dilapidated, graffiti scrawled landscape of the old Redfern railway yards. As the train slows and snakes its way into Central Station the choking bushfire smoke has all but obscured the view from the carriage windows.
“Where are we?” queries one bemused passenger. “Have we finally arrived in Sydney?” “You certainly have,” comes the cheery reply as a team of NSW Tourism courtesy staff board to hand out complimentary gas masks. “Please enjoy your stay and listen carefully for the bells and foghorns on the light rail before crossing the road.”
Welcome to Sydney 2020 where climate change and a total lack of Government foresight has redefined the way we attract tourists and entertain Sydneysiders themselves. But do not despair, we are a resilient lot and it’s often the case of making the best of a bad situation.
The Opera House is out of bounds for the time being – too many steps to fall down whilst navigating the smog that has enveloped the harbour and also brought all ferries and pleasure craft to a halt. There is however a guided tour of the ruins of the old football stadium at Moore Park, which for various reasons, the Government has now declared a permanent archaeological site. There’s not enough money now to rebuild it but at least there is a revenue stream from those punters, prepared to trudge through the rubble and recall the glory days of the Rugby League grand finals. For a small extra charge, you can dig deep below the concrete remnants of the old dressing rooms and uncover a long lost jockstrap or busted mouth guard.
The Powerhouse Museum at Ultimo has finally closed and it could be years before the new facility at Parramatta is open. In the meantime, the Government has introduced a unique initiative whereby Sydneysiders can host and store one of the Museum’s many treasures, for a small security deposit and monthly charge. The “Adopt An Artifact” program will see thousands of treasures distributed throughout suburban homes as well as nursing homes and pre-schools. The move will save thousands on storage and see popular museum pieces like The Transparent Woman and the Strasbourg Clock out and about in the community.
There’s no pill testing at music festivals but organisers of one of the biggest events have asked all patrons to come naked in an attempt to foil police strip searches and the possible concealment of drugs. It’s part practical and part a nostalgic flashback to the days of Woodstock when hippies cavorted naked as a liberation from society’s conservatism. The State Government fights back to ban not only pill testing but nudity as well, although on very polluted days the police will not be able to ask you to remove your gas mask.
Sydney is running out of drinking water in 2020 although the Premier assures us we still have essential supplies of Kombucha. As a last-minute resort all foreign tourists are asked to bring their own bottled water and refrain from showering for longer than 15 secs. All public toilets are boarded up and pits are dug in the Domain and Hyde Park for those who really need to go.
The homeless have never been a good look in a flourishing international metropolis like Sydney, especially when they bed down at night in the city CBD in some of our most affluent areas. We waived a magic wand back in 2000 during the Sydney Olympics when they miraculously disappeared (for two or three weeks) and it’s time to repeat the exercise. It won’t solve the problem of homelessness but it’s certainly a case of out of sight, out of mind. The city is now so badly polluted with year-long bushfire smoke it’s an easy exercise to get the entire homeless population on the midnight train to Lithgow, lured on by the offer of free sandwiches, oxygen bottles, doonas, pillows and even complimentary WiFi. They all return in the morning but visibility is so bad on the streets of Sydney, they are almost impossible to distinguish.
Welcome to 2020 and beyond!