Sunday, August 26, 2012


 The question was asked: ‘What is your vision for Springbrook?’ This was raised after a discussion on various matters that one had concerns about on the plateau. There was a pause. This question presented a difficulty. What words should one use? It seemed a reasonable question, so why was there a pause? Why was there any difficulty in responding, especially after having worked for so long to ensure Springbrook’s future?

While for many years there has been a committed struggle to keep undesirable developments at bay at Springbrook, the question that sought some clarification on how precisely, concisely, one saw Springbrook’s future - in a few words, what should this be? - had never been asked. Indeed, now it seemed that the question had never been contemplated in such black and white terms. Where were the words? What should they be? The problem with the ‘ummm’ and the ‘ahhh’ stumbling response was that it gave the impression of being shifty, and this was commented upon. Why the pause? Surely one so engrossed in Springbrook’s issues should be able to spruik with some commanding, convincing confidence? The point made in summary later in the discussion was that one was perceived as not telling the truth. This was a concern. So just what was the problem? Did any vision exist?

Why could one not make a crisp and clear remark? Years had been spent articulating responses on many subjects to do with Springbrook. Years had been spent trying to prevent inappropriate outcomes. It was made clear that others had responded to this question vociferously, in brief and without hesitation: unequivocally. Why was it so hard now to describe one’s expectations for Springbrook off the cuff, as it were? It seemed as though it should be second nature. Surely one must have some ambition for the place? Ummm! Ahhh!

 On reflection the problem was that descriptions establish limits. They define outcomes - create limits, borders, begging the next question: what is one to do when these have been reached, achieved? If only! Experience has shown how new and different challenges just keep on arising with time. How unexpected issues, different matters, new aspects of the same concerns, all transform the context and require new approaches; new energies; new thoughts. Defining a vision for Springbrook would only describe a particular position that can then become something for others to manipulate when greater flexibility was required. The problematical legal complication strides into the picture: but you said . . but! Words determine ends.

The essential issue is that Springbrook is a World Heritage area. It is a significant part of an area that has been so declared because of its unique and rich biodiversity. This is the core matter, not any particular or personal vision, ambition, fancy, whim or dream. These all hold the same set of limitations as those of developers. They have a conclusion that is sought, an outcome that is desired and fought for. They establish a ‘dead end’ future.

Springbrook needs the space to be what it needs to be. It does and should not have futures defined by personalities, individuals or zealots. One needs the flexibility to manage the outcomes as they arise, to allow World Heritage values to blossom. Anything else creates a problem. Trying to anticipate just what this value management might be today for tomorrow, is merely placing today's possibilities on the future, limiting them rather than leaving issues open to be more appropriately addressed in their time, not ours, as needs be.

This is why it was a problem to clearly respond to the initial question. This is why there was pause when asked to respond to the request to specifically declare one’s vision for Springbrook. The vision is simple. It is the maintenance and enhancement of World Heritage values: that is all, even if these words fail to be considered useful. This has to be the singular and primary aim for the region, not any range of specific varieties of other outcomes that can form a list to be adapted or adopted at another’s whim or convenience. Springbrook’s future is not a popularity contest; and it should never be political.
 One might say that what has been given international recognition with a World Heritage listing declaring its significance, will look after itself. Well, no. One only has to look at how world wonders have been treated over time to see the problem. How many are no longer there? The Buddhas at Bamiyan in Afghanistan of the sixth to early seventh century, is the latest World Heritage wonder to be destroyed - by the Taliban - in spite of a world outcry: perhaps because of it. Indeed, it was destruction carried out for the sheer spite of it. (see
World Heritage needs careful protection and supervision. Our new Neuman government has shown every indication of acting spitefully too. Is this the politics of revenge? Wild and pristine river regions are being opened for mining; literature awards are being cancelled; jobs are being thrown away, as if to prove the point of wasteful spending - to drive the political point home through personal hardship, as if this were a price being paid. All this when words have said otherwise: words, those things that one stumbled on when asked to spell out a vision. Politicians use words for their advantage. They spin words. It may be considered a skill, but this is not wise. It shows a carelessness and a disregard for qualities that are rich and subtle, just as their actions do.
Springbrook is a rich and subtle region. Instead of defining a list that might satisfy as an explanation of one’s activities, one has to stay vigilant. Such an approach is indeed critical in order to maintain and enhance World Heritage values. What is incidental is one's particular description of just what this might mean as a set of outcomes. It might be interesting and become a basis for endless debate and assessment, but such will always be less. It will always require constant updating to remain effective and useful beyond the linguistic dramas. Springbrook needs its own space to be and to remain what is so special.
Questions about ‘what is . . . ’ are pointless. They do not give anything but an immediate blurb about one's own limitations, preferences and prejudices. They also allow an analysis of both quantitative and qualitative judgments, where hesitation can be used to cast one as shifty, a liar - not at all honest - all when things are really otherwise. We do not need arbitrary limits when dealing with such important matters as these World Heritage concerns. We do not need parameters drawn up by Tom, Dick or Harry to suit one’s immediate preferences. It is only with the vision that is structured broadly without specific limitations and defined outcomes, that these values can be given the care and attention they require - to let Springbrook be what it wants too be; what it has been listed for: a place with a unique and rich biodiversity. Anything less is only less, even if the descriptive words might reassure or seem more efficiently expressive of intent. Subtle feeling and care are involved here, not personal stamina, preference or prestige.

One needs to be cautiously watchful. To maintain everything in accordance with preferred lists lessens opportunities and possibilities. It closes doors, instead of allowing the best options and opportunities to be.

Desired or structured, articulate visions create limits, as noted in the adage: ‘If you find the Buddha on the way, kill him.’ Seeking outcomes ignores the ever-present reality of being, of being aware that one has to be forever vigilant about the present. Specific outcomes can be achieved, opening up the next puzzle - what now? - or demanding effort to ensure outcomes are maintained, in spite of . .  Aiming for futures and claiming them remains the vision of the extremists, of fundamentalists. Springbrook needs to kept free from these dangers.

This is why the question, ‘What is your vision for Springbrook?’ is not a useful question, even if it can assist in averaging attitudes as if in a poll, to allow for a comfortable political existence. World Heritage has its own demands and needs to be the gauge against which all activity is assessed and all decisions are made.

For details on Springbrook see

16th October 2012
How things change so very quickly for the worst! On re-reading this piece, I was surprised by the words: 'The Buddhas at Bamiyan in Afghanistan of the sixth to early seventh century, is the latest World Heritage wonder to be destroyed.' Events have already made this statement incorrect. The medieval souk at Aleppo has since been destroyed by the fighting in Syria - see  It is a very sad event for the world and its heritage, let alone for the people of Aleppo.

Recent news reports have also told of how half of the coral of Australia's World Heritage Great Barrier Reef has died, noting that if nothing is done to stop this process, then another half of the remaining coral can be expected to disappear in the next ten years. The Crown of Thorns starfish is being blamed. Its young apparently thrives on fertilizer runoff.

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