Sunshine Coast Daily staff journalists.Nicky Moffat.
Sunshine Coast Daily staff journalists.Nicky Moffat. Warren Lynam

MY SAY: How artists can save us from a sterile new city

THE SUNSHINE Coast and its rambling beaches, its lazy, sandy shores and fit, cruisy population is changing.

As journalists who write stories about new apartment towers going up, we know people are interested in this change.

When we break news of plans to develop bushland into a housing estate, and of proposals for dense housing and commercial spaces where cruisy, sometimes rundown and outdates shops or housing now exist, people read them and share them on social media.

We can see how many of you click on the online versions of our stories, how long you spend reading them, and how many follow our suggestion to check out related stories displayed.

Stories about development are consistently among the most popular.

But what our analytics don't tell us is what you think about the change.

Comments on our Facebook posts show opinions - and they're often strong ones - but it seems a lot of people form opinions before reading much of a story, which makes it hard to take some of them seriously.

As a fairly recent arrival, I've noticed two distinct arguments about development on the Coast.

Some people see it as inevitable or essential for economic reasons and for jobs. A growing population means more services and opportunities.

Others see it as eroding the culture and degrading the natural spaces that make the Coast unique.

I haven't decided where I sit. I'm not saying everyone should join one of those two camps, but I do know that while we stay undecided, and divided, change isn't going to stop happening. And if everyone isn't informed, involved and vocal, it isn't going to benefit everyone.

My conclusion might seem whacky, but I really believe the answer to this conflict is art.

Hear me out.

Developers are by their nature, generally, passive investors in communities. They come, they buy land, build it up, sell it and move on.

They might own it in a literal sense but it's always the local community who actually use the space that own it in the longterm.

What really matters is not the buildings, but the spaces they create and what the community does with them.

On Tuesday we broke the news that a new night festival will be happening on Duporth Ave in Maroochydore next year, extending the love Ocean St has received over the last three years and creating an awesome atmosphere.

It might even extend up First Ave to the new city centre gateway, once it's built, organisers say.  

For the past 10 years the surprising, rambling Gertrude St Projection Festival reinvigorated its stretch of Fitzroy shopfronts, bringing Melbournites out to explore and enjoy the area by night.

The street was not famously inviting prior to this venture. By day it was charming, but the area had its share of poverty and crime, and it was one of the areas I wouldn't like to venture out in by night.

Events that encourage people to claim public streets and spaces as their own have a ripple effect.

Some people, including sociology academic Jonathan Wynn, argue the social value of street festivals is so much greater than permanent institutions that governments should stop investing in museums altogether, instead funding a variety of festivals, large and small.

As a mechanism for making a place more liveable, festivals have the advantage of being impermanent. They can come and go, bringing crowds to different centres and shopping strips, enlivening different streets.

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