Sydney: The home of the precautionary principle?

One of the complaints heard in the United Kingdom, especially from those living in and around Manchester is the taste of ‘Manc water’. For those who don’t live there, this is a reference to the rather strange and almost metallic taste of the city’s drinking water. This is far from unique in the country with some towns making a positive effort to grow their locations as spas. Cheltenham, Bath, Buxton, Leamington all have strongly flavoured naturally occurring mineral waters.


Go over there where you can't see!

Go over there where you can’t see!

The venue was alcohol free (not a problem as I had no intention of drinking at the park) although there was a huge private security presence, plus police and an underlying assumption that there would be trouble. Having celebrated (peacefully and relatively soberly) in Paris, London, New York, Glasgow, Vancouver, and Madrid this level of security and presumed difficulty was new to me. If those other venues can manage without destroying the atmosphere what was sooo special about New Year here ? Suffice it to say the security staff (obscured here for purposes of anonymity) were unprepared, clearly new at the task, unprepared and happy only when you had been ushered to a location with no view of the celebrations. The rationale being ‘there might be a problem if everyone wanted to look at the display from here.’ The irony wasn’t lost on me but they appeared sincere if somewhat misguided. Similar restrictions were ‘imposed’ – don’t stand on the 16 inch wall as walls collapse, don’t stand against the railings, people get stuck in railings, don’t stop on the paved areas as they are used for people to get from point A to point B – it became something of a Kafkaesk joke and in my view reflected very badly on the city and it’s ability to manage events of this kind successfully. A local representative of the city council did listen politely to my concerns and assured me a full complaint and investigation would follow. She carefully took my details (well my name) but no means of getting back to me – so I won’t be holding my breath to hear the outcome of that particular debate. However, I did notice (cynic that I am) that the security staff worked tirelessly to clear areas with a view – strangely enough they kept them clear by assembling in them during the display and watching it on our behalf – very public spirited I thought. However, after a day or two to get over the disappointment and having struck Sydney off the New Years venues for the future I wondered why my experience of this city was so dominated by overwhelmingly unnecessary precautions.  It has been suggested that any unauthorised application of your own judgement or common sense is strictly prohibited. So whilst being the first to recognise the challenges of a city aspiring to host world class celebrations I wonder if quite such a heavy handed and pessimistically paternalistic approach is needed here and not in other cities around the world. I’m certainly glad I visited Sydney and other aspects of the city were incredibly enjoyable but I won’t be back in a hurry. For goodness sake give adults some credit for the considered choices they make and tone the protective tendencies down a notch or two.

#responsibility #protective #Australia #newyear #accountability #sydney


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