Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Cyprian Fernandes: Life's grim in the West of Sydney!

The West ain’t what it used to be!


THERE IS something really strange going on in the Western Suburbs. Take my street in Pendle Hill for example. The folks who live in one of the largest macmansions  in the area hold prayer meetings on Saturdays and Sundays, sometimes on Wednesdays too, with the result  that most parking spots are snapped up and the neighbours are held hostage so to speak: when friends and family come to visit, there are no parking spots; if you are parked outside your house and have to go to the shops, your parking spot is snapped up the praying mob; your visitors are forced to park in your drive way and problem that is that with cars parked in both sides of your vision, it is almost dangerous to reverse out.

If we plan a party or a special event we inform our neighbours out of courtesy and even the police and council if there is a need to, being fully aware of some of the ridiculous incidents common today.

Holroyd Council are not able to help. What would happen if every home held a prayer meeting on each Sunday and Saturday? I have lived in my street extremely happily for more than 32 years and never once did I have to complain about a single neighbour. Now we have to put up with someone haranguing his audience via a loud public address system. Some neighbours go to bed early to start work equally very early the next morning. Their sleep is interrupted by loud voices, laughing and hoo-haahing without any consideration for the residents. It is not their fault, no one has told them it is un-Australia (or plain good manners not) to do so. There are other issues.

Another home in the street has six cars and a boat or two including two work vehicles and a “granny flat”. This results in ugly parking. Driving through Frederick Street is like tackling an obstacle course. The “granny flat” and dual occupancies (sub-division) may have seemed a good idea at the time but its flaw has been the lack of parking for two, three or four cars these generate.

My young family and I moved to Pendle Hill because we loved the quiet village atmosphere. The primary school was next door, there were three Catholic churches within earshot and the Pendle Hill shopping centre was a charming place. There used to be lots of parking and a large variety of shops. Today there are traffic jams, parking is impossible and you would think you were in Sri Lanka with so many shops now owned by Sri Lankans. The character of a once beautiful suburb has changed forever. I am not a racist, I am calling it like it is. Today Pendle Hill stinks, literally.

For a long time now I have feared for the future of the Western Suburbs. As we heads towards another election, it is worth remembering that successive governments have political football with most suburbs west of Strathfield. Yes, I know that every time there is a large migrant intake (legal or otherwise) we Westies cry foul! We scream that the arterial and main roads are choked to distraction, the infrastructure is third world class and the quality of life is a smidgin short of the psychiatric ward. This time it is true. In all my 32 years I have never known the traffic to be this bad. A trip from Pendle Hill Westmead usually took 15-20 minutes at peak times. These days it can take as much as an hour! The day the road poll died on the M4 the rot set in and highway has never been the same. Today it resembles a road in Shanghai with bumper to bumper traffic. The improved M2 and the M7 play their part in a generally congested environment.

Sadly, the Western Suburbs have always been the dumping grounds for the very people who need special care. The refugees and asylum seekers who are allowed into NSW are usually dumped in the Western Suburbs. Kindly neighbours do what they can to help the newcomers but, with language difficulties, their frustration increases sometimes with sad results. However, although there have been a few race-based incidents, people generally get along.

There are even stranger things happening on our roads. You would think that most newcomers would have had to bribe someone to get their driving licences. U-turns at the lights, U-turns in the middle of busy streets, across double white lines, and the parking is akin to that somewhere in South Asia. Why do people have to drive with their lights on full beam in a perfectly lit suburban street? It is dangerous for the oncoming traffic. Some folks give way when they have the right of way causing more chaos and causing tempers to fly. Then there is the new frightening appearance of the Punjabi caravan, a line of mothers pushing their prams bumper to bumper to speak with scant regard for the traffic lights, akin to jay walking and (hope note) one these days there could be a tragedy on our streets. Some folks don’t know how to use the pedestrian crossing, they reckon it is their patch to jay walk resulting in angry hooting from motorists.

With the mining boom almost dead in the mines, overseas migration and a healthy real estate boom in Sydney and Melbourne are the main economic elements that have been propping up Australia which has been bereft any economic reform since the days of Australia’s best ever treasurers Peter Costello (Liberal) and Paul Keating (Labor). Those were the good old days. As we head into the next election, Australia will have to rely even more on housing and migration for budgetary growth. It will again fall on the Western Suburbs to bear the brunt of the new arrivals. At this rate, it will not be too many decades before Westmead, Pendle Hill, Wentworthville, Toongabbie, Giraween, Seven Hills and areas all the way to Blacktown begin to look like the unit-concentrations of Hong Kong, Manila, and other South Asian cities. The quarter acre dream is dead and buried. It won’t be long before dual occupancies (recent subdivisions) will suffer the same fate.

There are already plans for a huge number of units in Wentworthville and Pendle Hill where 1800 units are initialled pencilled in for the old Bonds site off Jones Street. They will probably settle for 1300 or so putting another 4,000+ people in an already over-crowded unit accommodation. (It would be interesting to find out from Holroyd Council how many units are planned for the whole suburb).

It is sad to see what is happening in Western Sydney. Oh, by the way, a lot more people are shopping in each of the suburbs and (even though the official figures showed a minor deflation in Australia’s economy prompting the Reserve Bank to cut interest rates) I think business is booming. On the positive side, the virtual takeover of Harris Park by migrant Indians (mainly Indians) has breathed new life into a dying suburb with the result that some of best Indian cuisine is attracting thousands of diners there.

Now that we have an East Suburbs minded Prime Minister, it will be interesting to see what the Liberals have to offer the Western Suburbs in the forthcoming election. Remember there is not much left in the national kitty. I suspect the Western Suburbs could be the last thing on Malcolm Turnbull’s mind. I am just as pessimistic about Labor, can’t see what they could do to remedy the situation. No one can certainly give us our old life style back.

PS: Bob Carr sounded a similar warning on more and more immigrants being allowed into the country, snapping up homes and making it impossible for young Australians to own a first home. He was quite right in that argument, except that I felt that it would have been more appropriate had it come in an organised fashion via the government or the opposition. Now we know that could never happen because which ever party comes to power it will have to rely on immigrants boost the economy.

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