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Living in the country?

Updated: Jan 23, 2023

The Amess Road development is back, with a plan to pack 3,500 people on the edge of Riddell, in a style of urban living what will feel very different to old Riddell. Go to New Gisborne, alongside the old Railway Hotel, now Baringo Food and Wine, to see what 400 square metre lots look like.

I like the houses there, and I don’t mind that density where it is, walking distance to the railway station, and a primary school, and a medical centre, and residential aged care. It makes a lot of sense.

1300 lots on the edge of Riddell doesn’t make sense.

With a lot of effort (take a deep sigh people, because we've done this before), resident lobbying might trim the proposal down a bit. You can sign the petition (please do) to reduce the density of the Amess Road development so there are 2500 people on the edge of Riddell, not 3,500, but nothing is going to stop it outright. It’s got Melbourne’s growth behind it, and our political masters just need a place to put those next 3 million people.

But then what? People will come to live in the country, but what does that mean?

For me, it means having the bush nearby, being able to park right outside anywhere I want to go, and meeting people I know on the street and stopping for a chat.

I’m committed to Barrm Birrm being part of how we live here. I think we can make an urban/bush life where we really enjoy, get to know and look after the bush that surrounds us.

You can’t get in many places in the world.

With 8500 people, the privilege of parking close will slip away. It's already more crowded in town, and the vehicle trajectory is up, petrol or electric.

I can live with that if we keep our friendliness. How do we do it? We look to what we've already got that creates that friendliness, and make more of it. Our clubs and groups build friendship around shared interests, whether that be football or photography or zucchinis.

My crowd are the greenies. They are passionate, warm, generous people who aren’t afraid of hard work. They have a long view.

That’s Fergus there in the photo, at the Greening of Riddell Christmas dinner, gathered in the dining room in Dromkeen. He stood up, unannounced, to raise a glass to the anniversary of Gough Whitlam’s election, 2 December, 1972. You can just see his yellow 'It's time' button sticking out from under his cardigan.

It was a heart-warming moment, but it wasn’t about looking back with misty-eyed nostalgia. It was an affirmation of what’s important, then and now, and it was a moment shared between people who while they might have different personalities, care about similar things.

Our interest groups are one the building blocks of friendliness, but I think we could know more about the other groups in town. We have amazing, creative people here in Riddell - if we get to know what’s important to each of us, we will find ways to support each other’s ambitions.

In other words, we don't have to let market forces and residential development be the only thing shaping this town. We can grow the town we want out of the passionate people who live here. We will each have our own groups, but we'll be connected in a network of people who have decided to walk away from the screen and meet up to do things together, whether that is walking, or the kids' basketball, or pushing the Council to get planning for the infrastructure Riddell needs as it grows. Each to her and his own.

Then, as new people arrive to "live in the country", they can join in. They will have more than a tidy house in an enclave of newcomers on the edge of town. They will be able to join in the life of a country community.

There's lots of ways to do be a community in the country - we'll find a Riddell's way to do it.

Ross Colliver, Riddells Creek Landcare

Read a recent comment on the dilution of community in rural towns in The Guardian - 'community does not come from the bush itself; it comes from connection to other people.'

And here's a pithy critique from an American on what cities are really for

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