The Monkey Trap

Letting go is hard, when the pursuit of pleasure meets the uncertainty of a changing climate.

This, apparently, is how you trap a monkey:

First, you need to find a place where monkeys hang out. Of course, this will be an easier prospect in Delhi than it is in, say, Dubbo – for reasons that should be self evident. Next, find a heavy flagon or urn – something that’s about the same weight as the monkey you want to catch, with an opening just large enough for the monkey to get it’s hand in. Then, in full view of the monkey, place the vessel on the ground and drop something small inside. Peanuts are good, but to a curious monkey anything you put in there might just prove irresistible; so a hand full of pebbles may suffice. Finally, stand back and watch. If all goes to plan, an inquisitive monkey will be overcome by the urge to find out just what good things have been gifted to it. The monkey will reach inside the urn, it will grasp whatever you have left for it, and with a fist full of trinkets it is now unable to remove its hand from the opening. All you need to do, is walk up to the monkey and release it from the bondage of its freedom.

Variations of this little anecdote have been used by motivational speakers and lifestyle gurus the world over; to highlight a classic conundrum in human behavior. It suggests that until one is willing to let go of the lifestyle one already has, they are at risk of becoming enslaved by that very lifestyle. It’s a compelling metaphor; made more compelling some might say, because it features a monkey.

Putting the monkey aside for the moment (with or without its fist stuck fast in an earthenware jug), the idea that we are motivated more by the pursuit of pleasure than the threat of pain is not a new one. If, for example, we look closely at why people appear unwilling to alter their greenhouse-gas-belching behaviors, the similarities are not lost on those that are familiar with theories of hedonic motivation. And that’s most of us, isn’t it?

Here’s my take: hedonic motivation theory suggests that people are generally predisposed to do more to pursue pleasure than they are to move away from pain. Now, if this is true (and many a hedonic motivational theorist will insist that it is), then the threat of catastrophic climate change will be regarded as a reason to continue doing the very things that they tell us not to do: “I think I’ll continue to drive my imported seven seat SUV down to the gym, after I drop by the supermarket and grab some non-organic processed meat products for dinner; if you don’t mind”. This, you see, will bring pleasure, because pain is inevitably on its way.

Or is it? Is it possible that by changing aspects of our carbon-intensive lifestyles we can mitigate against climate change; adapt where necessary; and make it a pleasurable experience for all involved?

Surely it’s possible. Although orthodoxy in the public discourse on climate change would lead to the conclusion that we are about to enter a period of pain. Of course for some, the localised impact of climate change will indeed be catastrophic. These people are among the most geographically, economically and politically vulnerable among us; are members of the worlds poorest communities; and almost all have few material pleasures of which to speak. For these people, the opportunity to pursue pleasure rarely arises when the desire to move away from pain is ever-present. It is ironic then, that those with the material wealth necessary to both mitigate against and adapt to climate change, are also those contributing most to its cause. So the question must be answered: what will it take to get people in relatively wealthy communities to alter their climate-changing behaviors?

Sex appeal. That’s my answer. When we clear away the debris of the ‘climate change debate’, and we look closely at the real reasons why most of us in the developed world choose to do the things we do, and to buy the things we buy (most of which is superfluous, incidentally); our behaviors are largely explained by the elementary principals of marketing. If a low-carbon emitting lifestyle could be shown to boost ones self-esteem; to improve ones potential career prospects; to better ones standing in the community; and to make one more attractive to the opposite sex (if it’s the opposite sex you’re interested in, that is); I don’t think we would have so much difficultly convincing the middle classes to make the switch. Instead of talking down the prospect of a bright future, it’s time to pitch the message differently.

For example, ditching the car for a bicycle on some of those short trips will save carbon emissions: but it might also work off some of those extra pounds, which is good for your self-esteem. When you are out on the bike, you have some time to think about where your current career is headed and you might finally make the decision to quit your job and find a better one. Riding a bike can be good for your career prospects, too.

Because you are out on your bike and not zooming past in your car, you get to share a greeting with others out-and-about in your neighborhood. One of them invites you to join a local community action group – which you cheerfully accept. You attend the first meeting where you are introduced to Chris. It turns out that Chris is the one, and you are married three weeks later in a garden wedding attended by all your new friends and neighbors. So riding a bike improves your standing in the community and makes you more attractive to everyone. See?

Okay, I accept that some of this may appear somewhat far-fetched, but there is little doubt in my mind that the benefits mentioned are more likely to come to those living a low-carbon lifestyle than those living a carbon-intensive one. So to promote the cause, all we need are some champions and a clearer understanding of how much more pleasurable life could be.

Which only leaves one question outstanding from the monkey trap metaphor: once caught, what does one do with a violently distraught and potentially rabid monkey? This could be a question worth exploring further, or it could become a metaphor for something deep within the human psyche, linked of course, to climate change.

A metaphor worth exploring on another day perhaps.


The Deniliquin Model: An Undergraduate Response to Rural Economic Development in Southern New South Wales


etiennetheplanner reflects on some future economic development prospects for Deniliquin, and proposes that a ‘new water future’ need not spell the death of an otherwise resilient rural community.


By my reckoning – ill-informed as that might turn out to be – the residents of Deniliquin have between three and five years to reframe the economic profile of their town to best prepare it for the next round of challenges heading their way. If one thing is certain from the time I spent there back in September, it’s that although some hard times lay in their wake, there’s more of the same to come.

I was one among a large contingent of undergraduate students from La Trobe University’s Bandigo campus who visited Deniliquin on the weekend of September 13 to 16, 2012. Principally we were there to gather evidence for, and to present an economic development study of the community. Admittedly, not all were as keen as I to learn more about the home of the ‘Deni Ute Muster’; some were there to drink beer and get academic credit for having turned up. Nevertheless, all were made to feel warmly welcome by a variety of business and community leaders, council officers and the newly elected Mayor.

Alas, after three days we probably didn’t provide any revolutionary insights that will pave the road to a prosperous economic future. In fact, I’m quite certain of it. But we gave it a shot.

So what else is there to say? Deniliquin can expect more of the same, I guess. Or were there some ideas worthy of further investigation? Notwithstanding the prospect that these came from the ethanol clouded minds of some undergraduate university students, I think there was. Really…


A Word about Water

Without doubt, it’s the uncertainty about water and water policy that dominates the community discourse over Deniliquin’s economic future. Talk of the Murray Darling Basin Plan (MDBP) evokes an impassioned response from those impacted directly and indirectly by it. As one council officer put it; “I wish our economy didn’t rely so much on water”.

Me too. But it does.


The Edward River at Deniliquin. Image: Chris Rowlands

The Deniliquin economy is heavily dependent on water, and equally dependent on the outcome of the debate around water policy. I’m pessimistic about what will come from the conclusions of the MDBA and it’s MDBP. I expect that Deniliquin and many towns like it will probably have to find a way to adapt to a ‘new water future’. There will be much pain – unprecedented pain – perhaps. But that’s where my pessimism ends.

Opportunity exists elsewhere within the local economy. Particularly if we accept that the amount of change that has occurred in the past 20 years could be used to inform us about the changes ahead of us in the next 20. It would be wise to start taking some preparatory steps; informed again by those very changes we’ve witnessed.


A Change and Innovation Continuum

We must accept that the population profile of Deniliquin will change. It may get bigger, but it probably won’t. There will probably be fewer farmers, and they will probably operate larger farming businesses with even greater levels of efficiency and productivity. Those farmers may produce rice, but they might not. Forgive-me my indecision; but the only thing that I am certain of is that the Deniliquin community will change, it will adapt, and it will be at the forefront of innovation in direct response to that change. In fact, the necessity to innovate in response to change is perhaps what Deniliquin does best. It’s this ability that I believe has the potential to put Deniliquin at the forefront of case studies into rural and regional economic development. The very change the community fears might just bring with it the opportunities they seek.


An innovative past, present and future

Without dwelling too much on the past, even a cursory look back uncovers some impressive examples of innovation and success. From the Peppin family’s Merino breeding, and the marketing of a new Sunwhite Rice (SunRice), to the world record Ute Muster and invitation to come and Play On The Plains;  innovation has been at the heart of each phase in the development of Deniliquin and it’s place in the regional, national and global economies. With these examples to draw on, it’s my contention that despite the dearth of tertiary education opportunities and the loss of professional people to other places, there remains a bank of ‘institutional knowledge’ that is unique to the township and its rural hinterland. In particular, the two activities dominate the economic and cultural profile of the region; agricultural production, and large-scale event staging. In both, the people of Deniliquin have consistently proven the adage that security is derived from opportunity, and not the other way around. By combing the capacity to innovate with the willingness to do so has allowed the Deniliquin community to adapt to the challenges of the past, and should continue to do so in the future.

Unlike times past however, emergent commodities are less dominated by primary and secondary production and hard distribution infrastructure, and more orientated toward services and information. Irresponsible as it would be to ignore the role primary industry has and will continue  to play; it would be equally irresponsible to allow the economic fortunes of the region to remain exposed to the turbulence that comes from a preponderance to adopt historic models of rural economic development. For at the heart of the service and information age is, well, service and information; and information that is unique and useful to others can easily become a commodity. But it needs to be mined, and packaged, and sold. The information age presents challenges in this respect, but it also presents opportunities.


A Model for Rural Economic Development. Image: etiennetheplanner

Historically, it was universities and government agencies that fulfilled this role. But with public funding cuts this work is increasingly being done by the private sector. The irony of research funding cut-backs in the information age ought not be lost here either, but a distinction should be made about the type of information that is of value to others and therefore, a potential commodity that brings economic benefit to Deniliquin. For example, I’m certain that there’s much the world could learn about dry-land farming under drought conditions. There’s much rural communities everywhere could learn from Deniliquin about staging high profile public events. And with a clever strategy that makes optimum use of current and emerging communication technologies to share contemporary stories of a progressive rural Australia, there is the potential that Deniliquin could play a leading role in this regard.


So, that’s it then…

I’ve steered clear of proposing any specific projects that might illustrate these ideas more clearly. We pitched some to those who assembled for our public presentation on the Sunday afternoon before we left, but I think there’s much more to learn before any of those ideas would come close to resembling a plan. Nevertheless, it appears to me that the economy of Deniliquin is well positioned to adapt, if for no other reason than it will be forced to. The forces of change need not however, be reason for pessimism. Change can be good, if for no other reason than it teaches us that we can.


etiennetheplanner is a third-year undergraduate student of urban rural and environmental planning at La Trobe University, Bendigo.



This article was composed prior to the release of the final Murray-Darling Basin Plan. I imagine the release of the MDBP might bring with it a little more certainty, but we’ll have to wait and see.

Also, it has been announced that the ute muster site will play host to the 2013 Deni Blues and Roots Festival, featuring Chris Isaak, Carlos Santana and a variety of other international and local acts.

Quote this…

“Community decline happens one person, one family, one business at at time; growth happens one person, one family, one business at a time.”
– etiennetheplanner, 23/02/2012.

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Quote this…

Abundant or not, access to the resources of this planet is finite. No one of us has any greater entitlement than any other one of us, and to think otherwise represents some of the worst of human indecency.” – etiennetheplanner 2012

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Look Up!


I don’t regard myself as parochial toward any particular city. I relate to Melbourne best, because I lived there for so many years. So although I imagine myself to be Melburnian (or however we’re supposed to spell it), I cringe at the thought of comparing Melbourne to other places or spouting Melbourne to be anything other than a great city. Sydney’s a great city too. Great because it’s different to Melbourne, and because it’s not Melbourne. I’d better explain.


On this trip to Sydney, I’ve been struck by the beauty of her built form. I’m keenly aware of some of her prominent historical buildings (around Martin Place, St James Park and elsewhere), but my surprise has come from doing something that most forget to do. As I walked down Market street on my way to the water, I cast my eye up to the buildings high above. Looking up is something all of us that love the city, should do.


Downtown Sydney (oh yes, I did go there… girlfriend) is laid out on an elongated grid of streets running south from Circular Quay. The layout is often traduced for its long blocks, narrow street reserves and (of course), even narrower footpaths. But one of the finer points often missed about the elongated grid, is the view it offers those that bother to look up and along the long blocks of buildings that make up the CBD.


The concentration of high-rise buildings are a demonstration in contrast of material, height, shape and colour. The effect is quite unique in my experience, from any other Australian city. Sure, other State capitals have high rise buildings, but what Sydneyhas is more in the style I imagine many US cities like Boston, Dallas, Detroit, Chicago and New York, to be. By Australian standards they look bigger, and there are more of them. They are in the minds of many, a discerning feature that makes the city, the city. Sydney does high-rise better than, um, Melbourne. In my humble view, Sydney does them best.


But there is no escaping inter-city rivalry, unfortunately. On the Airport Link to Central Station I overheard a middle-aged Sydney local explain the difference between Melbourne and Sydney to a couple who had most obviously just flown in from Asia. “It’s the people” he said. “In Melbourne, they think they’re more cultured than us. But I don’t know… I’d prefer the harbor and the sunshine, you know? Plus, I don’t think Melbournepeople are as friendly as us…”


‘Fuck off’ I thought. But I didn’t say it. That wouldn’t have been very friendly. Plus, I’m not one of those that regard themselves as parochial toward any particular city – as I’ve already explained.


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Essay: Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, to mines we won’t say no!

The following essay was submitted for assessment for a 2/3 year rural planning subject. It did okay – the main critisism was under-referencing which, in hindsight, is probably legitimate. Notwithstanding this, I enjoyed writing this one, even though the subject matter worries me. Deeply.

Back to normal posts soon, I promise.


Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, to mines we won’t say no!

Why land use planning legislation should be bolstered to better address the present conflicts between mining and agriculture in Queensland.

“We dig up diamonds by the score
A thousand rubies, sometimes more,
But we don’t know what we dig ’em for,
We dig dig dig a dig dig.

Heigh-ho, Heigh-ho, Heigh-ho;
Heigh-ho, Heigh-ho,
It’s home from work we go”

(Churchill & Morey 1937)

Figure 1: CSG Gas Well. Source: <;, (Newcaslte Herald).

The little people featured in the famous folktale retold by The Brothers Grimm and immortalised by Walt Disney’s first full-length animated film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, were miners. Charitable, cooperative and hard working small businessmen, portrayed to be the epitome of mine workers of the time. In the Disney film, the mine site is lavishly animated to be a clean and jovial place, where diamonds sparkled in waiting, to be plucked from the earth by a Happy, Sneezy, Sleepy, Dopey, Bashful or Grumpy miner; a portrayal that was as much a fiction then as at any time in history. Mining was, and still is, a messy business.

It’s also become very big business. Results from the 2009-10 ABS Economic Activity Survey published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) found that of the 18 industrial categories represented, mining accounted for the 5th largest proportion of sales and service income, but employed the 3rd lowest proportion of workers (ABS 2010, p. 40). Furthermore, as the most profitable industrial category, a more detailed investigation reveals that 4 out of 6 mining businesses are classified as ‘large’ in size, and the remaining 2 are classified as either ‘small’ or ‘medium’ (ABS 2010, p. 20). Compare this with the time when Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs first appeared in Australian theatres (1939), the mining industry has grown substantially, as have individual mining operations (Crommelin 1983). Unlike The Seven Dwarfs, modern day miners are the little people of industry no more.

The growth of mining activity in Australia has been closely shadowed by an increase in the potential for land use conflict. As mineral exploration and extraction operations have expanded, there has been a continued encroachment on land historically reserved for agricultural and horticultural production (DEEDI 2010). Notwithstanding historical precedents for such or similar conflict, the relationship between mining legislation and land use and development planning legislation is being tested in places where both appear to pursue contradictory purposes. Coal seam gas (CSG) exploration and production is a recent example of mining related activity that is seen as controversial, and a high profile example of where questions arise regarding both traditions of legislation, and whether a better outcome could be achieved.

This essay aims to explore the controversy surrounding CSG exploration and production activities in Queensland. In doing so, it will outline the main issues of concern to agricultural and horticultural land users, and the legislative framework around which land use conflict is managed. This essay will then present some of the contradictions that arise within the legislative framework and how the objectives of land use planning legislation are undermined by the entitlements of miners protected by the provisions of minerals and resource legislation. Finally, this essay will discuss the plight of agricultural land users in their opposition to large scale mining interests. As the new little people of industry, should planning legislation be bolstered to better protect the rights of agricultural land users in their conflict with the mining industry?


Exploration for coal seam gas, or CSG, first occurred in Queensland during the 1980’s (DEEDI 2011). Commercial reserves of the embedded liquid natural gas (LNG) were soon detected, leading to the commencement of commercial production at 10 sites in the 1990’s. By 2010, more than 600 production sites had been established across the Bowen and Surat Basins, positioning the state as Australia’s leading producer of CSG. As an energy source, LNG is regarded as a low emissions alternative to coal and oil. It is cheaper and cleaner to extract; and when burned, emits less carbon dioxide per joule of energy produced (<;, February, 2011). It is becoming increasingly sought after as an industrial fuel locally, and as an energy commodity overseas. Queensland’s CSG industry is regarded as an important part of Australia’s rich resource future.

CSG naturally accumulates within layers of coal, up to 1200 meters below the Earth’s surface (<;, October 2009). To access CSG, wells are drilled through which saline water is pumped to the surface releasing the gas from the coal seam below. Increased yields are achieved through a process called ‘hydraulic fracturing’ (or fracking), which requires that large amounts of water, sand and chemicals are pumped down the well. The practice is considered controversial because of the potential for the residual chemicals to contaminate aquifers, and the accumulation of wells bringing saline water to the surface of the landscape. Controversy, uncertainty and secrecy have caused tension between resource exploration permit holders, farmers, and government.

To a resource exploration permit holder, the prospect of producing and supplying LNG to a growing and lucrative local energy market, and the increasingly profitable export markets of Asia and the Middle East, is an attractive one. Given that CSG is an easier, faster, and cheaper fuel to extract, process and transport than other resources, CSG offers a particularly lucrative opportunity in an industry renown for lucrative opportunities (<;, February, 2011). Investment in the CSG industry is regarded as a sound resource industry investment by most industry analysts, and is strongly supported by the Queensland state government (Queensland Resource Council 2010).

Furthermore, successive Queensland governments have regarded CSG as both a viable and attractive source of fuel for use in local alternative industrial energy production (DEEDI 2010). The CSG industry has gained strong support for the exploration for, and establishment of CSG production sites through legislation, funding and the granting of exploration licences and extraction contracts. CSG is regarded by the Queensland government to be a “clean” alternative to coal (DEEDI 2011, p. 1), and is considered to be an important component of its strategy to move toward a ‘low carbon economy’. However, many agricultural and horticultural land holders in the areas most affected by the proliferation of Queensland’s CSG production facilities share a different view.

For many affected farmers, CSG test drilling by resource exploration licence holders, and the subsequent extraction and production of LNG represents a direct violation of their property rights. Issues regarding rights of entry and refusal; the construction, repair or maintenance of roads, fences and other infrastructure; and the disproportionate level of legislative protection given to the entitlements of miners has led to numerous formal and informal disputes between parties (Lock the Gate Alliance Inc 2011). So too has the loss of rural amenity; and concerns regarding ecological and environmental impacts of CSG extraction practices; and the ‘heavy handed’ negotiation tactics of some permit holders. From a land use and development planning perspective, the conflicts that have arisen are a departure from conventional planning disputes. These are disputes between parties that can both claim legitimate access and usage rights, but where the laws that apply can seem confusing, and at times, contradictory.

The principal mining legislation in Queensland is the Mineral Resources Act 1989. In a similar manner to legislation in other States, this Act makes it clear that mineral resources within the State remain the property of the Crown, and that any party wishing to explore for minerals must first obtain a permit to do so, from the Mining registrar (Mineral Resources Act 1989 (Qld) s. 8). The legislation also makes a distinction between mineral exploration and mineral extraction, by requiring an exploration permit holder to apply for a separate mining claim should they intend to extract any minerals found; and a mineral development license should their claim be successful. Before any mining related activity can occur on privately owned or occupied land, consent from the owner or occupier must first be gained. The withholding of this consent however, isn’t a contingency that legislators have sought to accommodate within the legislation.

Section 18 of Queensland’s Mineral Resources Act 1989 specifically grants the holder of a prospecting permit (the permit holder) the entitlement to enter land bound by the permit, for prospecting purposes (Mineral Resources Act 1989 (Qld) s. 18). This entitlement exists with few exceptions, of which entry on to land on the basis that it is privately owned or occupied is not one of them. To ensure that private landholders are notified of the permit holder’s prospecting activities however, section 19 of the Act requires that permit holders enter occupied land only with the owner’s written consent (Mineral Resources Act 1989 (Qld) s. 19). However, the Act offers no guidance as to how a permit holder might exercise their entitlement under section 18 in the event that by complying with section 19, consent of the private land owner or occupier was to be withheld. The legislative requirement to gain consent from a land owner in this instance, appears tokenistic. It might be argued that the considered use of the term “consent” at section 19 of the Act is a fallacious attempt by legislators to create an illusion of a conciliatory process, when there is no recognition within the act that the new little people might say no. Section 19 might more correctly require that permit holders “notify’ owners and occupiers that their land is about to be subject to mineral prospecting. Once consent has been received by the exploration permit holder, no other consent is required under the act should a mining claim be lodged, or indeed, a production license issued.

This ought not come as a surprise however, given the each of the 7 principal objectives outlined in section 2 of Queensland’s Mineral Resources Act 1999 seek to frame all other considerations around mineral prospecting, exploring and mining. Even those that seek to address issues of potential conflict with aspects of land use and development planning are somewhat dismissive. For example, section 2(c) maintains that an objective of the Act is to –

minimise land use conflict with respect to prospecting, exploring and mining” (Mineral Resources Act (Qld.) s. 2);

or 2(d), to –

encourage environmental responsibility in prospecting, exploring and mining” (Mineral Resources Act (Qld.) s. 2).

In these examples, ‘land use conflict’ and ‘environmental responsibility’ are subordinate to mining related activity. The only hope for the new little people of Queensland is legislation that defends these issues more prescriptively, and offers some level of protection against those seeking to claim their entitlements by wielding relevant sections of the Mineral Resources Act 1989.

But there’s a problem. The legislation best placed to offer this protection in Queensland is the Sustainable Planning Act 2009, and in this instance offers no protection at all. Section 319 of the Mineral Resource Act 1989 specifically states that; “the [Sustainable] Planning Act does not apply to development authorised under this Act” (Mineral Resources Act (Qld.) s. 319). The only exception relates to development that is subject to protection under Queensland’s Heritage Act; generally not applicable in the overwhelming majority of private landholdings affected by an exploration permit or mining claim. The planning laws of Queensland have simply been legislated out to accommodate the interests of miners, the mining industry, and the Crown.

Private agricultural and horticultural land owners have few options available to them, if they wish to prevent mining activity from occurring on or near their productive land. Some are being encouraged to resort to invoking claims of trespass under section 11 of the Summary Offences Act (Lock the Gate Alliance Inc 2011). This can be an effective way to frustrate permit holders, but is mostly futile by virtue of the fact that anyone with a lawful purpose for being on private land can not be determined to be a trespasser (Summary Offences Act (2005) s. 11). This tactic is really just a diversion. The reality is that Queensland farmers have no effective method under law to prevent their productive agricultural and horticultural land from the potential ravages of mining activity.

The priority afforded to the entitlements of miners above and beyond those of food and fibre producers should be of concern to the broader Queensland community. Although mining as a method for accumulating sovereign wealth has historically been given precedence; a robust modern democracy would be well served to scrutinise the validity of pitting the interests of this industry over the other, particularly in the modern sociological, environmental and economic context. Although the demand for mineral and resource products continue to increase globally, so too does the demand for productive farmland (Mudd 2009). As a nation that is rich in both, it would be prudent for the governments of Australia to better balance the future needs of both industries, by enacting a more balanced legislative framework.

As the legislation most relevant to the core issue of land use and development, the Sustainable Planning Act 2009 should be the dominant legislation that determines where mining activity should be located within Queensland. To achieve this, the Mineral Resources Act 1989 would need to be amended to remove section 319, and to instate mining as an activity that is subject to the provisions of the Sustainable Planning Act. In simple terms, mineral prospecting and mining should be regarded as a land use like any other. It should be subject to the same tests that any other land use is, and be restricted to places that are best suited to accommodating it. To exclude mining related activities from the land use and development planning system entirely undermines that system, and precludes those that are most affected by it from a just outcome. For this reason, Queensland farmers have every reason to regard themselves as the new little people.

Although the land use and development conflict between miners and farmers is not unique to Queensland, the proliferation of CSG projects in Queensland has acted as a precursor to what other states can expect in the near future. New South Wales, Western Australia and Victoria have each pushed ahead with the development of CSG exploration and production projects; and each face similar conflicts. Each has also excluded mining from its respective planning system to better facilitate the needs of the mining industry in the scramble to claim an increased share of the minerals and resource market. It appears unlikely however, that any state will move to amend its mining or planning laws to instate mining as a land use like any other. Just as unlikely perhaps, as a beautiful princess walking through a forest, and stumbling across the home of seven dwarfs after having eaten a poisonous apple.

A fairytale, indeed.



Australian Bureau of Statistics 2010, 2009-10 Australian Industry 8155.0, viewed 20 October 2011 <$File/81550_2009-10.pdf&gt;.

Bungil Shire Council Planning Scheme, Bungil Shire Council, viewed on 24 August 2011, < >.

Churchill, F & Morey, L 1937, Heigh-ho, Heigh-ho, in W Disney (producer) Snow White and the seven dwarfs“,

Coal Gas, video recording, ABC Television, Sydney, 22 October 2009, viewed on 24 August 2011, <;.

Crommelin, M 1974, ‘Mineral Exploration in Australia and Western Canada’, University of British Columbia Law Review, vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 38-55.

— 1983, ‘Resources Land and Public Policy’, University of Western Australian Law Review, vol. 15, no. 1, pp. 1-13.

Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation 2010, Guide to Queensland’s new land access laws, viewed 25 August 2011, <;.

— 2010a, Land Access Code, viewed 25 August 2011, <;.

— 2011, Queensland coal seam gas overview, viewed 24 August 2011, <;.

Department of Environment and Resource Management 2011, Protecting Queensland’s strategic cropping land Draft State Planning Policy, viewed on 26 August 2011, <;.

Is Coal Seam Gas worth the risk? The backlash to a billion dollar industry, video recording, ABC Television, Sydney, 19 September 2011, viewed on 18 October 2011, <;.

Lock the Gate Alliance Inc 2011, Coal Seam Gas Fact Sheet, viewed 24 August 2011, <;.

The Gas Rush, video recording, ABC Television, Sydney, 21 February 2011, viewed on 24 August 2011, <;.

Manuel, J 2010, EPA Tackles Fracking, Environmental Health Perspectives, vol. 118, no. 5, p. A199.

Mineral Resources Act 1989, State of Queensland, viewed 18 October 2011, <;.

Mudd, G 2009, ‘The Sustainability of Mining in Australia: Key Production Trends and Their Environmental Implications for the Future, Revised – April 2009’ Research Report No RR5, Monash University and Mineral Policy Institute, Melbourne.

Queensland Resources Council 2010, Surat’s big day out, viewed 18 October 2011, <;.

Summary Offences Act 2005, State of Queensland, viewed 18 October 2011, <;.

Sustainable Planning Act 2005, State of Queensland, viewed 18 October 2011, <;.

Essay: A Place for the Public’s Art

Not much may have been posted over the past few weeks, but written plenty. I thought a couple of the more interesting essays I’ve generated might be of interest to those that check in regularly. The first is the themed essay I wrote in response to my observations of how place-making public art is used within the European context. It was submitted for assessment, and was marked, um, favorably. (It helped me to maintain my hefty grade average, but that’s all I’ll say). The second essay will follow in a subsequent post.

A Place for the Public’s Art

In 1949, a voluntary scheme was established by the former West Germany to promote the commissioning of public art through a program that has become more conventionally known as ‘Percent for Art’. Generally, the scheme encouraged building and property developers to set aside 0.5% of their development budget to commission art pieces and programs for the public realm (Hamilton 2001). The scheme was modelled on a similar idea that arose out of France in 1936 but had yet to be implemented. The Kunst am Bau (Art in Building) program became so popular across West Germany during the post-war reconstruction period, that it was eventually extended from 0.5% to 2.0% and mandated in many cities and municipalities across the country.

Figure 1: Joan Miro, “Sculpture de Joan MIRO,” 1978, La Defense, Paris. Source: Author.

Percent for Art programs have since been initiated in countries across the world including the Netherlands, France, Sweden, Norway, Spain, the United Kingdom, the United States of America and here in Australia. Not all programs have been legislated or been made mandatory by other means, and not all have been as popular as the Kunst am Bau in Germany. However, each has been predicated on the idea that public art programs and instillations contribute a net
improvement in the physical amenity of the public realm, and that this improvement brings with it other, more broad based benefits to the community – a contention that has for decades now, generated wide ranging criticism and debate (McCarthy 2006).

This themed essay aims to explore the relationship between public art and the public realm in the contemporary urban context. In particular, it seeks to document and discuss observations made during a five week study tour which concluded on July 15 of 2011. The tour visited cities in Germany, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands, Spain, Ireland, Wales, England and France. For the purposes of this essay, the aim of the tour was to test some of the ideas put forward in academic literature that support the use of public art in contemporary urban development and redevelopment.

This essay does not seek to present observations of how these factors may impact on the public acceptance of each piece, only to analyse the direct observations and personal experiences gained on the tour. This will also attempt to show that contemporary public art does have a legitimate ‘place-making’ function, but also achieves other important objectives. And although some of the public art instillations visited on the tour fail to attract place-making status, these have been included as evidence that the practice of commissioning these works could quite conceivably result in cultural and economic development activity in other forms.

Figure 2: Henk Vische, "Marathonbeeld," 2001, Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Source: Author.

It’s also important to note that this essay does not seek to critically appraise any of the public art pieces that were encountered on the tour; nor is it intended that any piece be
judged on its artistic merit. The public art instillations that are the subject of this essay have been selected on the basis that they represent permanent, contemporary pieces that have been commissioned for and on behalf of the public, and are displayed within the public realm. In an attempt to narrow the scope to relevant pieces, political, military and other monuments; uncommissioned artwork such as “graffiti” or “street art”; architectural or landscape works; temporary works; and works located outside of the public realm have all been omitted.

The Art in Place-making

Monuments, statues and sculptures featuring imperial, political, military or religious iconography have long formed the basis of artistic works within the public realm (Schrank 2010; Hubbard, Faire & Lilley 2003). Prior to the end of World War II, alternative decorative devices in the public realm were mostly confined to architectural flourishes and landscapes – gardens in particular. The idea of art for art’s sake was, for the public at least, something of a rarity. Post war reconstruction activities across Europe led to a rethink in the role art might play in public open space (Miles 1998). With the introduction of various Percent for Art schemes in many parts of Europe, and later, in America, the decorative intentions of public art began to be supplemented by purposes more closely aligned with community and economic development and place identity, or place-making. Public art was also purported to be a useful device for cultural and economic development (Hubbard 1996; Hall 2003; Miles 2005; Sharp, Pollock & Paddison 2005). In the United Kingdom, it is said that a ‘golden age’ of public art occurred during the 1980’s and 1990’s, as the cities of Glasgow, Birmingham, Manchester, Dublin and Belfast each began a post-industrial transformation (Pollock & Paddison 2005). The conspicuous use of public art as a tool in the urban design strategy of each sought to brand these places within a global context, and as Pollock & Paddison (2005, p. 335) describe, were “cited as having a catalytic effect on the local economy”.

Figure 3: Richard Serra, “Tilted Arc,” 1981. Removed in 1989 by court order. Source:

In the years since, the place-making intent and efficacy of public art as a driver of cultural and economic development have been challenged and openly criticised by commentators, academics and the wider public. Perhaps the most high profile example of such criticism occurred in the years preceding the removal in 1989 of Richard Serra’s “Tilted Arc” (1981) from Federal Plaza in New York. The decision to remove the 120 foot long steel sculpture came about after a protracted public hearing and court ruling, and a failed legal appeal by the artist. Tilted Arc was an ambitious attempt by the Arts-In-Architecture Program – a Percent for Art scheme administered by the US General Services Administration – to use the work of a high profile artist as a central feature of the redevelopment strategy for the precinct (Pollock & Paddison 2010, PBS n.d.). This event gave rise to debates regarding the role of government arts funding; ‘site specificity’ and the appropriateness of artistic forms in the urban context; the rights of artists to their public works; and the role of the public in determining the value of public art. These debates became intertwined with broader questions relating to art as a driver of cultural and economic development.

A proliferation of public art has occurred throughout the world in the years since, despite the Tilted Arc controversy (Miles 2005). At it’s pinnacle, the concept of ‘cultural regeneration’ or ‘culturally led urban development’ has manifest in new flagship cultural institutions at the
centre of regeneration projects in Glasgow (Scotland) and Bilbao (Basque Country, Spain) – the latter lending it’s name to the phenomenon described as the “Bilbao Effect”. But dissent against the movement of art into government policy is the position of many within the artistic community, as concerns arise with regard to the objectification and misinterpretation of artistic works (Miles 2005, Hall 2003).

The disparate controversies surrounding the role of public art became the focus of this investigation, raising two specific questions regarding the use of public art in three European cities. First; what role, if any, does public art play in the place identity of precincts within a city? And second; is the existence of public art of itself a driver of place identity, or a consequence of it? To investigate these questions, a simple site visit was conducted to observe the location of each piece, and it’s proximity to other urban features. A Survey of the locality was conducted to determine the acceptance with which each had been embraced by the public. Was there evidence to suggest that the piece was embraced, rejected or disregarded by the public? Finally, an observation of how each piece might act to enhance or detract from the amenity of the locality in which it sits. Each factor contributed to the overall assessment of the contribution each piece makes to the identity of the precinct.

Public Art in Freiburg, Germany

Figure 4: Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, “Gartenschlauch,” 1983, Freiburg, Germany. Source: Author.

Located in the south of Germany, Freiburg is a small city renowned for its progressive adaptation of sustainable urban development and public transport. A major contributor to the town’s vitality is also the Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg (University of Freiburg), with campus buildings dispersed throughout the central part of the city. Perhaps the most prominent instillation of public art is “Gartenschlauch” (Garden Tap), a sculpture 11 meters tall, located at the centre of an expansive public park (Stühlinger Park) to the West of the city centre. The expansive scale of the sculpture appears well suited (in scale) to its park location, and appears to act as a dominant landmark along the tram route adjacent to the park. At the time it was viewed, local children were climbing upon the sculpture, and the bare earth at its base indicated that it was a popular site for visitors to the park. It was a popular object for graffiti too, albeit limited to simple painted and inscribed tags – no substantial damage had been inflicted.

Figure 5: “Gartenschlauch,” in its urban context. Source: Author.

“Gartenschlauch” features in the psyche of Freiburg residents, as a ‘place’ in the city. On two occasions, passengers on the tram were overheard referring to it. One passenger spoke of the sculpture in glowing terms, and described the artist responsible as an “important American Pop-artist”. Although factually incorrect (the artists were German, and not of the ‘Pop Art’ genre), “Gartenschlauch” has etched an important place within the urban landscape of Freiburg.

Figure 6: Roland Phelps, “Bundel-Stele 1,” 2007, Freiburg, Germany. Source: Author.


By contrast, “Bundel-Stele 1” is located within the grounds of the Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg in the centre of the city. It’s tucked away under a canopy of mature trees, and perched above the eye line of those at street level. The instillation itself is tall, and dominant, albeit hidden and awaiting discovery. The precinct itself is in the midst of a large scale rejuvenation with the dominant university library building (under redevelopment) only as short distance across the intersection (refer to Figure 7). “Bundel-Stele 1” it seems, is a feature within the new and bold future the precinct is facing.

Figure 7: “Bundel-Stele 1” in its urban context. Source: Author.









Public Art in Prague, Czech Republic

Figure 8: David Cerny, “Babies,” 2000, Prague, Czech Republic. Source: Author.

David Cerny is a high profile, albeit subversive, contemporary artist and sculpture responsible for producing many of Prague’s most renowned public art instillations. “Babies” is one of the last in a series of projects featuring large scale ‘alien’ form sculptures of infant humans. This instillation located at the edge of a public park (Park Kampa) and in the shadows of the walls of Museum Kampa, features forms that are familiar to the people of Prague. In 2000, similar (if
not the same) sculptures were fixed to the side of the prominent Zizkov TV and telecommunications tower in Prague; a temporary instillation that bought international acclaim to the artist and to the city of Prague itself.

Figure 9: “Babies” in its urban context. Source: Author.

“Babies” is a sculpture that has featured in promotional campaigns for the city, and plays an important, if not influential role in the modernisation of Prague in the contemporary, global context. It is interesting to note that at the time of visiting the instillation, a wide variety of people stopped to engage with the sculptures; to have their photographs taken beside them and to stand up alongside. Interesting also is the absence of any type of wilful damage or vandalism of the sculptures, perhaps an indication of the regard resident have for them, or the security presence at the nearby Kampa Museum.
Other works by the artist have been the feature of tourism and trade events internationally, and play an important role in identifying the city as a place of creative rejuvenation.

Figure 10: David Cerny, “Piss,” 2004, Prague, Czech Republic. Source: Author.

Not far from “Babies” is another of David Cerny’s works, in the forecourt of the Franz Kafka Museum. As another example of the subversive style that is typical of the artist, “Piss” is located inside the public entrance to the Museum, in a place better suited to its more liberal minded audience. “Piss” is both a kinetic and interactive work that appears to appeal more to the sensibilities of the somewhat more liberal minded target audience of the Franz Kafka. Nonetheless, the sculpture offers residents and visitors a distinctive sculptural work by a high profile Czech artist – a common characteristic of place-making public art.

Figure 11: “Piss,” in its urban context. Source: Author.









Figure 12: Sign explaining the temporary removal of sculpture during underground tunnel sealing works, July 2011. Source: Author.

Public Art in Berlin, Germany

Although installed in the years immediately prior to German reunification, Brigitte Matschinsky-Denninghoff’s and Martin Matschinsky’s “Berlin” remains one of the Berlin’s most liked public art pieces (Loeb 2009). In a city that seems awash with military and political monuments, “Berlin” stands in contrast with its scale and form. Normally located in the centre median strip of a busy shopping street, the sculpture had been temporarily removed to accommodate underground metro rail tunnel works for the duration of the study tour visit to Berlin. In its place, a sign had been hung (ref. Figure 12), alongside a series of display cases with models and illustrations depicting the renewed streetscape and the return of the “Berlin” sculpture.

Figure 13: Brigitte Matschinsky-Denninghoff and Martin Matschinsky, “Berlin”, 1987, Berlin, Germany. Source:

These depictions demonstrated quite clearly that the sculpture was to become an even more prominent feature of the public realm, perhaps an indication of the enduring popularity of the piece both as a landmark within the precinct, and as a piece of public art that resonates in the hearts and minds of the community.

Figure 14: Jonathan Borofsky, “Molecule Man,” 1997. Source: Author.

A more recent instillation sits within a geographically prominent location on the Spree River. Viewed mostly by passing vehicle traffic from a busy road bridge nearby, “Molecule Man” is one in a series of sculptures in a similar style produced by the Boston (USA) born sculpture Jonathan Borofsky. “Molecule Man” is an example of how a public art instillation by a high profile overseas artist seeks to contribute a creative-cultural element to the rejuvenation of an industrial area as it is redevelopment into a mixed use residential precinct.


In the end, it’s just Art

After the removal of Tilted Arc in 1989, a justifiably aggrieved Richard Serra was quoted as saying that “Art is not democratic. It is not for the people to decide” (PBS n.d.). Despite the tensions that exists among the artistic community regarding the politicisation of public art, and the disparity of opinions both in support of, and opposed to the proposed benefits of public art in urban development; the observations made for the purposes of this essay lead to the conclusion that public art plays an incredibly prominent role in the amenity of urban precincts. These observations also indicate that the public good that arises from the instillation of public art at the very least might be measured by aesthetic interest and appeal, if not by any real or perceived cultural or economic benefit. The diversity of pieces presented in this paper alone suggest that public art plays an important role in generating vitality; a desirable objective, one would imagine, in the ongoing evolution of modern cities.



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