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Articles reproduced here come from past Rottnest Society Newsletters and other documents up to 2005.

A case for daggy?

(The following article is reproduced from a recent Rottnest Society Newsletter).

What are the elements of the ‘Rottnest experience’ that we believe are important to our own experience, and to that of our children, and what do  we think will still be important to future generations?  Just a few of the words we could include to sum up what is important are: Simple, affordable, sand, fantastically clear water, biking, walking, broccoli shaped trees, quokkas, birds, fish, coral,  snorkeling, rays…

At least some of The Rottnest Society’s efforts over the years have been focused on resisting development which we believed would lead to the gentrification and urbanization of Rottnest. In a recent rather humorous article lamenting the urbanization of our beaches Sydney Morning Herald architecture writer Elizabeth Farrelly had much to say that is relevant to Rottnest and to the management of many of the Western Australian coastal towns and villages and will probably strike a chord with our faithful members and many members of the wider public. 

Farrelly said “Holidaymakers pursue authentic wilderness experiences by faithfully reproducing the fully kerbed, fully channeled, supermarket-accessible, hot-and-cold-running suburbs they've left behind.

Summer makes this especially obvious as we strap on our wheels and head en masse to the edge of the continent. Head, that is, from whatever part of the periphery we normally inhabit to whatever other part of it we regard as proper escape material.”

Farrelly says “Beach culture, as Craig McGregor has argued, now occupies the Australian psyche's utopia-spot once reserved for the bush”.

The Society continues to argue that we need to be very careful about seeking to increase the number of visitors beyond present numbers.  And although her piece was more about coastal villages than our favourite island Farrelly expresses the fears of many people very well she says “The irony is that by flocking to the edge, we dull it…”  “And dull it further still - deliberately and systematically - by the manner of our flocking. So that our luscious coastal fringes, preserved until now(ish) by neglect (notwithstanding the occasional, glaringly Gold Coast-like exception), are changing before our eyes. Changing down.”

“Gone is the humble shack, icon of understatement, the casual, casuarina-shrouded, plain-brown-wrapper not-architecture of time past; gone the flies, the long-drop, the outdoor shower, the sand inside and out”.  So much of what we remember with affection about Rottnest is indeed somewhat daggy – we’ve even had an eighteen year old tell us not to let ‘them’ change the grot. 

And Farrelly is not kind about what has taken the place of the old: “Not before time, you might say. But the replacement is far worse. Because from Ballina to Bega, from Esperance to Mandurah, from Rosebud to the Eyre Peninsula, new and planned coastal developments put one thing beyond doubt: today's holiday home - be it house, unit, condo or time share - is fully ostentationed-up.”  We know that the push is on in so many Western Australian coastal settlements and of course it is just this sort of thing which has driven a large section of the public to attempt hold back the tide at Rottnest – with a large degree of success to date.  And of course there is current debate in City Beach, Cottesloe and Cockburn.

Farrelly goes on “Away, it pouts, with that old modesty bosh. Forget that we're-grubby-we're-on holiday twaddle. High-rise or low, urban or sub-, perma-res or holiday town, the contemporary coastline is upbeat, in-yer-face, look-at-moi land.”

“Complete with agapanthised lawns (daren't interrupt the views), bronzed aluminium and mock-Tudor garaging, it's the Mod Con to end all mod cons. As tin roofs yield to tiles, dunnies to ensuites and verandas to online games rooms, each sojourner can rest assured that no effort has been spared - no swamp undrained, no blowie unsquashed - in releasing homo sapiens from the need to touch nature at all.”  No sensitivity paid here to the local natural environment or to the particular character of what has evolved over many years – and such developments could be anywhere.  An American journalist was recently complaining that the Gold Coast could have been in southern California – it had no special character of its own.

And we know that more of us don’t want to leave behind the wonders of modern technology when we go on holidays.  Why do we do this?  Farrelly says “The reason is obvious: it's a comfort thing. Humans are comfort-seeking creatures. And what could be wrong with that, especially on holiday?  Well, nothing really, except it doesn't work. The human urge to plastinate experience - deleting all danger and discomfort to form a shrink-wrapped, fully processed pre-package - is strong, dating from our evolutionary prehistory, when its fulfilment was out of the question. Now, though, it makes a prime example of our brain evolving less quickly than our culture. Today, with the fully plastinated life virtually achievable, the urge has become counterproductive, driving us to continue cocooning ourselves against the very authenticity - even discomfort, even hardship - we crave”.

"Already, though, we see this same plastination urge throughout our nanny society: the denial of death and disease, the extreme aversion to risk, the rejection of melancholy and despair as respectable emotional states….. leads us to syntheticise our lives to a degree that would bore a slow loris to death. Which is why extreme sports and designer boot-camps have evolved hand-in-hand with the nanny state. Find that edge….a eugenics of beachside building".

As we have argued so many times before a most important thing about Rottnest is that its very simplicity and its lack of development still offer us the opportunity of holidays that are not ‘plastinated’, where our children experience freedom that is so often not available to them in their everyday lives and a bit of dagginess doesn’t actually matter.  In fact too much tarting up is likely to detract from the experience that so many of us value.  That is not to say that we don’t want things to work properly and to be cared for and maintained.  We do