Camden · Colonial Camden · Colonialism · Edwardian · Heritage · history · Interwar · Place making · sense of place · Uncategorized

Camden Needs A Residential Heritage Style Guide

Camden Needs A Residential Heritage Style Guide

There is a crying need for a local Camden Residential Heritage Style Guide. Why do other Local Government Areas in Australia have a Residential Style Guide for their heritage housing styles but Camden does not.

Federation Camden is a period of growth from the dairy industry across the district (I Willis)
Federation Camden is a period of growth from the dairy industry across the district represented by sturdy timber cottages (I Willis)

Camden is one of Australia’s most historic localities and yet newcomers and locals have to guess what is an historically accurate guide to residential housing styles.

The new Camden Region Economic Taskforce (CRET) is an opportunity to promote the historic and heritage nature of the local area. The Taskforce promotional material states that Camden LGA has a ‘unique history’ and that the aim of the CRET is to maintain ‘Camden’s unique historic heritage and natural environment’.

This is an opportunity to the see if Camden Council is prepared to back its words with action. One easy way to do this would be to draw up a Residential Heritage Style Guide for the Local Government Area.

Camden heritage is a tourism drawcard to the local area. It creates jobs and business opportunities.

Carinya Cottage c1890 (Camden Historical Society)
Carinya Cottage c1890 was an example of a Federation Edwardian Farm Cottage at Narellan now demolished (Camden Historical Society)

The aim of the CRET is

  1. creation of jobs
  2. attraction of investment and
  3. creating the right environment  to support the growth of business and industry (both existing and future).

Houses are an integral part of our daily lives. We live in them and take them for granted. But they are more than this. A house is an historical statement of its time. As history changes so does the type of housing.

The CRET publicity states that the Camden LGA is a ‘rapidly growing area’ and is subject to change in the form of ‘rapid commercial and industrial development’ and there needs to be an understanding, according to the CRET, of ‘our unique heritage’.

 

There a number of housing styles that have been identified by architects in Australia since colonial times. The major periods of the styles are:
1. Pre-colonial period 30,000 BCE – 1788
2. Old Colonial Period 1788 – c. 1840
3. Victorian Period c. 1840 – c. 1890
4. Federation Period c. 1890 – c. 1915
5. Inter – War Period c. 1915 – c 1940
6. Post – War Period c. 1940 – c. 1960.
7. Late Twentieth Century c. 1960 – c. 2000
8. Twenty –First Century c. 2000 – present.
The Camden Local Government Area has residential buildings from most of these time periods.

 

Camden has a number of very good examples in town buildings from the Victorian era (I Willis)
Camden has a number of very good examples in town buildings from the Victorian era (I Willis)

The housing style of a particular location in the Camden or Narellan area gives the place a definite character and a certain charm. It is what makes a place special and gives it a sense of its own identity (Inter-war period along Menangle Road). The housing style will give the place its special qualities. The houses are a reflection of the times in which they were built.

 

The style is an indicator of the historical activities that have gone on in that area. It is a statement on changing tastes, lifestyles, social attitudes, cultural mores, and a host of other factors (Inter-war cottages in Elizabeth Street and the use of colour glass in lead-light windows or the appearance of garages for the new motor cars of the day).

Example of modern design from the early 1960s at 64 Macarthur Road Elderslie NSW (I Willis 2010)
Example of modern Ranch style design from the early 1960s at 64 Macarthur Road Elderslie NSW now demolished (I Willis 2010)

The housing style may be complemented by a garden and landscaping that reflected the tastes and lifestyles of the occupants of the building. Even gardens go through fashion trends (English style gardens or native gardens).

 

The housing style says a lot about the occupants. Whether they were landed gentry who owned one of the large estates in the area (Camden Park House, Brownlow Hill, Denbigh) or ordinary farmers who were making a living from a patch of ground (simple Federation weatherboard cottages like Yamba cottage in Narellan or the Duesbury family in Elizabeth Street or Hillview in Lodges Road).

Ben Linden Narellan J Kooyman 1997 (Camden Images)
The cottage known as Ben Linden at Narellan is an excellent example of the Edwardian period in the Camden Local Government Area (J Kooyman, 1997, Camden Images)

Camden has been remote from the urban influences that drove the high forms of these architectural styles. But local people adapted the style to suit their particular purpose (simple Federation brick or timber farm cottages like in the Struggletown complex or Barsden Street). Sometimes they created their own vernacular style that used local materials.

 

Some of these styles have more examples in the Camden area than others. This reflects the economic prosperity in the history of the area. The Inter-war period is one of these times. Between 1915 and 1940 the town grew based on the wealth generated by dairying and later coal. There are quite a number of inter-war buildings in Camden (Californian bungalows in Menangle Road and Murray Street). The post-war period of housing construction in Camden in Macquarie Avenue and along the Old Hume Highway was driven by the economic activities surrounding the mining of coal in the Burragorang Valley.

 

Each housing style illustrates cultural influences from Great Britain in the Victorian style or from the United States in the Inter-war period in the Californian Bungalow and the Ranch style in the post-war period.

Camden shows the influence of the American west coast during the Inter-war period with Californian bungalows of the period (I Willis)
Camden shows the influence of the American west coast during the Inter-war period with Californian bungalows (I Willis)

The local housing stock shows the skills and expertise of local builders, such as Harry Willis or Walter Furner who constructed many of the Inter-war housing stock. Ephraim Cross who supplied brick for some of the Federation style cottages in the area or James English in the 1940s or Ron McMIllan in the 1950s and 1960s.

 

Each period represents the modern and progressive ideas of its time. Each housing style is a representation of the hopes and aspirations of those who built the houses. Just as Oran Park housing developments are representative of the late 21th century so Harrington Park and Mt Annan are representative of the late 20th century. They have been driven by the urban expansion of the Sydney area.

 

Within each of the major time periods there are a number of sub-divisions. There are around five major styles within the Inter-war period, such as the Californian bungalow (West coast USA influence) or the Art Deco (European influences). The post-war period has around six style divisions ranging from the austerity (which reflected the lack of availability of building materials and labour following WW2) to ranch style (which illustrated the post-war influences from West coast American and Californian housing styles).

Yamba Cottage, KIrkham c. 1913 (Camden Images)
Yamba Cottage, KIrkham c. 1913 is an example of an Federation Edwardian farm cottage on Camden Valley Way at Narellan (Camden Images)

Camden needs a Residential Heritage Style Guide to consolidate all these factors and influences in the Local Government Area.

Why is it that other Local Government Areas around Australia can achieve this but Camden cannot?  What is the matter with out local government representatives? Examples from other parts of Australia include

  1. The New South Wales seaside community of Moruya has a wonderful document called the MORUYA RESIDENTIAL STYLE GUIDE.
  2. In South Australia the inner Adelaide City of Unley’ has a document called Appreciating Heritage and Character Dwellings Design Guide 1 .
  3. In Queensland the Toowoomba Region Council has a series of guides for heritage properties covering Victorian, Edwardian and Inter-war houses.

Camden Local Government Area has examples of housing stock that corresponds with each of these housing styles. What is wrong with Camden Council on this matter?

Read more on these matters on this blog:

  1. Edwardian Cottages in Camden
  2. Inter-war Camden
  3. Ben Linden at Narellan
  4. Urban planning in the Camden LGA

 

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Camden · Colonial Camden · Uncategorized

Camden’s mysterious heritage list

A 1915 view of Commercial Banking Co building at corner of Argyle and John Street Camden
A 1915 view of Commercial Banking Co building at corner of Argyle and John Street Camden

Recently I needed to consult Camden’s heritage inventory list for a research project. I also consulted similar lists for Campbelltown and Wollondilly LGAs. They were easy to find.
Camden’s list was mysteriously hiding somewhere. It had to exist. The council is obliged to put one together by the state government.
But where was it? Do you know where Camden Council’s heritage inventory is to be found? I did not know.
So off I went on a treasure hunt. The treasure was the heritage list.

Cobbity's St Paul's Anglican Church 1910 (Camden Images)
Cobbity’s St Paul’s Anglican Church 1910 (Camden Images)

A simple search on the council’s website using the keyword ‘heritage’ revealed a list of links about heritage with the most useful information being listed on page 3 under the heading ‘heritage information’. This webpage provided some useful guidelines and some links that were out of date and did not work anymore.

 

Camden Valley Inn, Camden, c.1938 (Camden Images)
Camden Valley Inn, Camden, c.1938 (Camden Images)

The ‘heritage information’ page stated that ‘Camden’s heritage is made up of a combination of significant places, buildings, works, relics, moveable objects and precincts’. But alas no list of heritage items or list of the heritage inventory.
The intrepid researcher is directed to a document called Camden DCP 2011. So what does this mean? For the uninitiated this is the Camden Development Control Plan 2011 and on page 57 there is a list of ‘potential heritage items –built heritage’. So we have found the potential list?   Was this the mysterious list. Well not really as there are other lists. Confused? Well you are not alone. So I kept searching. All dead ends. I must say council’s website is very convoluted and legalistic. Not very user friendly at all.

Macquarie Grove Airfield 1930s Camden (Camden Images)
Macquarie Grove Airfield 1930s Camden (Camden Images)

As a seasoned researcher I tried another tactic. Lets try the link to the NSW Heritage Branch of the NSW Government’s Office of Heritage and Environment off the council’s page. From past experience I have found after some trial and error that this website for the State Heritage Inventory can be very useful. If you just do a search using the keyword just for the Camden LGA then it reveals that there are 14 items listed under the NSW Heritage Act and 166 listed by ‘Local Government Agency’ without stating what that agency is. Each heritage item has a standard format for listing with detailed information. This was more productive than a search of the council’s website. Was it the mysterious list I was looking for? No unfortunately.

Maybe we should try the tourism webpage. Not bad and the council must be commended on its contribution to the 2015 Macarthur Visitors Guide and the supporting website. It is user friendly providing a range of historic and other attractions including the Camden Museum. But it was not the mysterious heritage list.
Yet our friends at Campbelltown are able to access their city’s heritage list on a simple internet search under the heading ‘Heritage Items in Campbelltown’. The heritage items are listed by suburb and are easy to access. Each items has a separate page with a summary of images, history and description, condition and use, heritage significance, heritage listing. Unfortunately no such list exists on the Camden Council website.

 

Central Camden c1930s (Camden Images)
Central Camden c1930s (Camden Images)

Further down the road in the Wollondilly LGA a simple web search reveals a page titled ‘heritage’ with a straight forward link to the council’s heritage lists in the 2011 Wollondilly LEP. Similar links on the Camden Council website appear not to exist.
Using this experience I searched for the Camden LEP 2010 and sure enough found the Camden Heritage List in this document is found in Schedule 5 after some looking around. Aha! Daylight and success at last.It was not easy. But I did find the mysterious heritage list I was looking for. It took a lot of searching which should have been unnecessary.
Camden Council’s spokesperson Lisa Howard Senior Project Officer – Heritage and Place Coordination stated in an email to me recently that ‘council is unfortunately not in a position at present to provide information on individual heritage items on its website’. She directed me to the Heritage Information page of the council’s website which I have discussed earlier. Ms Howard also stated in earlier correspondence that it was council policy ‘To ensure that the information is up to date, it should not be a separate database on Council’s website’. Meaning that council has no intention of providing a separate listing of local heritage items.

 

Bank of NSW, 1938, Argyle St, Camden the route of the Hume Highway (I Willis)
Bank of NSW, 1938, Argyle St, Camden the route of the Hume Highway (I Willis)

This is really a cop out by Camden Council. If it is good enough for Campbelltown Council to have summary listings why not Camden Council. Why not do what Wollondilly Council has done on a simple web link. Camden Council is located in one of the most historic areas in Australia for European settlement. The local area is part of the foundation story of the nation.

 

Cooks Garage in Argyle Street Camden the route of the Hume Highway c.1936 (Camden Images)
Cooks Garage in Argyle Street Camden the route of the Hume Highway c.1936 (Camden Images)

So we come back to the starting point. There needs to be a simple and easily accessible list of heritage sites in the local area. It is unfortunate that Camden Council seems to think that this is not important, while surrounding councils find the time and effort to supply easily accessible links to similar information. Camden Council can do better than this.

camden_003
For those who do not want to go through the stress of finding these links here they are.
Camden council’s heritage inventory located in Schedule 5 of the 2010 DCP or for the uninitiated – which is most of us – Development Control Plan. Click here
For those who are interested the Campbelltown Heritage Inventory click here and the for the Wollondilly Heritage List click here

Camden

Do or Die! Heritage and urban planning in the burbs

Yamba Cottage, KIrkham c. 1913 (Camden Images)
Yamba Cottage, KIrkham c. 1913 (Camden Images)

‘You are the problem’ railed Michael Pascoe in a recent op-ed about the current imposition of heritage listings by local government authorities.

It prompted me to think about a piece I wrote in 2010 about the loss of Edwardian farming heritage on the urban-rural interface on Sydney’s edge. In that I expressed dismay at the loss of early 20th craftsmanship that was seen by decision makers as redundant and out of date. To be replaced by ubiquitous uninteresting modern boxes.

It is interesting that those who think outside the box can take a simple Edwardian cottage, with flair and patience, turn it into a modern family without devaluing the original craftsmanship that built it.

There is a distinct lack appreciation amongst many contemporaries of simple robust country farm cottages that, with imagination and patience, can be up-dated with contemporary fit-outs that suit the needs of the current homeowner.

Despite Pascoe’s outcries others have a different take on the story.

In 2010 Jonathon Chancellor noted (‘Fight to save Tilba underlines heritage neglect’, SMH 22/3/10) that many councils had ‘neglectful heritage lists’.

Even more damming, ‘heritage listing at the local level does not provide much protection at all’, wrote Graeme Aplin, from Macquarie University, in Australian Quarterly (May-June 2009).

‘What we have witnessed over the last five years is the systematic dismantling of heritage protection’, stated Sylvia Hale, Greens spokesperson on planning (‘Heritage at risk’, National Trust Magazine, Feb-Apr 2010).

In 2010 Camden Council approved the demolition (Camden Council, 23/3/10) of a simple 1890 Federation farm cottage known as Carinya at Harrington Park. The owner, Nepean Pastoral Company, sought to develop a 97 residential lot subdivision on the farm site.

Carinya Cottage c1890 (Camden Historical Society)
Carinya Cottage c1890 (Camden Historical Society)

The Harrington Park housing estate is now fully occupied by newly arrived families from the burbs who are probably completely unaware of the history of Carinya. They come with the own hopes, just as the Cross and Paxton families, who lived in Carinya cottage, did in an earlier generation.

The story of Carinya cottage fits within the Australian Historic Themes identified by the Australian Government (Australian Heritage Commission 2001). These are common national standards for identification and conservation of heritage places. Yet this did not save it from the demolisher’s hammer.

Australian’s have a genuine interest in their past and the story of their ‘historic’ homes. Witness ABCTV’s ‘Who’s Been Sleeping in My House’ and the efforts of what Adam Ford calls housetorians. He is able to ‘unlock the mysteries of the past’ and tell a good yarn about houses across Australia.

One homeowner Dorothy felt that Ford’s investigations increased her sense of attachment to place and her home. She stated

‘I feel like it has been a place that has nurtured and cared for a lot of people over the years. It’s cosseted us and cared for us’.

Dorothy’s husband Mark felt a sense of responsibility to the future occupants of the house. He stated

‘The house will be here long after I’ve gone and I’m just privileged enough to be living here for a period of time.’

These homeowners have a creative appreciation of the worth of the story embedded in their homes. They understand that they are participants in an unfolding history, by providing a new layer in the story.

For Pascoe this is part of the ‘creeping heritage disease [that] is making its way up through the decades’.  This is an unfortunate view of the world, but not uncommon is a world driven by post-modernist individualism. A world where communities have lost their soul and inclusiveness. The dollar reigns supreme and does little to nurture the landscape.

In 2010 the developers of the Carinya sub-division were selling a dream. For some the dream is realised for others the new estates create a bland homogenised suburban streetscape with little charm or character.

Carinya Cottage c.1890 (Camden Historical Society)
Carinya Cottage c.1890 (Camden Historical Society)

The Carinya sub-division was part Sydney’s urbanization that, like an octopus, devours all in its path. Including ethical standards, community identity, sense of place and apparently local heritage and history.

The destruction of a simple charming 19th century farming cottages was unnecessary. Old and new can blend and add to the vibrancy and interest of emerging urban landscapes.

This is clearly illustrated in current fuss over the Camden Town Centre Strategy where there have been noisy disagreements between the Camden Community Alliance, Camden Chamber of Commerce and Camden Council. The complete lack of imagination and creativity in the council’s plans for the historic town centre have created a loud back-lash from resident and business owners alike.

The council seems to be blind to the possibilities that a creative use of history and heritage has in the urban landscape for tourism, business and the wider community. The pleadings of the Chamber of Commerce for a ‘prosperous’ business sector have fallen on deaf ears at council. Likewise the pleadings of the community for positive and deep engagement in the urban planning process in one of Sydney’s most sensitive and historic town centres.

Heritage values and good urban planning are not mutually exclusive as some commentators obviously think. But they do require patience, creativity, flair and community engagement from all stakeholders.

For the story of Yamba Cottage at Kirkham read the Kirkham article at the Dictionary of Sydney

Read more about the Town Centre Strategy decked car park proposal.

Read more about new subdivisions on the rural-urban fringe.

Read more about Camden’s Edwardian Cottages

Uncategorized

Trust deficit opens up on town centre strategy

Camden Town Centre Enhancement Strategy
Camden Town Centre Enhancement Strategy

Preliminary Findings

Camden Town Strategy Community Consultative Process

A trust deficit has opened up between Camden Council and stakeholders in the Camden Town Centre Enhancement Strategy. It threatens to re-shape Camden’s sense of place and community identity, according to preliminary research conducted by UOW academic Dr Ian Willis.

Stakeholder cynicism has developed for some around the community consultation process. Suspicion has taken hold around an apparent lack of transparency. Some in the community do not feel that they have an effective seat at the table or ownership of changes.

The community consultation process does not line up with the Grattan Institute’s international research for community engagement on urban planning issues. Its 2010 report ‘Cities: Who Decides?’, which looked at the governance of eight overseas cities, found that residents must be involved in decisions. The cities that made, and implemented, tough choices, had early and deep public engagement.

The Grattan Institute findings have been incorporated in new NSW planning legislation that is currently before parliament.

It is unfortunate that the community engagement process effectively commenced with a story in the Camden press about a decked car park in May 2014. The decked car park is a particularly problematic urban planning issue in Camden. It has had a vexed history that raged for over a decade fromthe mid-1990s.

Camden Council might have been better advised to have engaged the community in planning charrettes in the early 2013 strategy discussion.

Early and deep community engagement by council might have better built community confidence. An open up-front community engagement process from the initial formulation of the town centre strategy in 2013 may have been a more positive approach.

******************

University of Wollongong historian Dr Ian Willis has summarised the 2006 decked car park proposal in a paper called ‘Democracy in action in local government, Camden NSW’. The paper is @ https://www.academia.edu/6315782/Democracy_in_Action_in_Local_Government_Camden_NSW

Dr Willis has also prepared a draft discussion paper on the community consultative process around the Camden Town Centre Enhancement Strategy. Interested parties can request a pdf copy by contacting Dr Willis on chn(at)live.com.au

 

Uncategorized

The Camden decked carpark that will not die

Camden Advertiser 12 July 2006 p.1
Camden Advertiser 12 July 2006 p.1

Camden decked carpark proposal

Camden Council recently resolved to investigate and design a decked carpark in Oxley Street as part of the Camden Town Centre Enhancement Strategy (2014).

This is not the first time that the council has considered a decked carpark. The first investigation of a decked carpark dates from 1996.  A later proposal in 2006 was eventually defeated. Over the decade a number of proposals were considered, meanwhile during this process the council developed over 360 additional car parking spaces in the town centre.

The following is an extract from an article that summarised the 2007 proposal:

Camden decked carpark proposal (2007)

The background to the 2006 carpark proposal can be found in the demographic shifts within the Local Government Area (LGA) caused by urbanisation. The importance of central Camden as the commercial hub of the LGA had gradually been eroded by population shifts to the north.

Camden traders faced increased competition from developments in the Narellan area, particularly the opening in 1995 of the Narellan Town Centre with 36 retail outlets and 1200 car parking spaces. Some Camden businesses felt that their viability was being threatened by these changes and approached Camden Council to provide a decked carpark in central Camden to attract shoppers.

In 1996 Camden’s deputy mayor, Eva Campbell, requested that council investigate a decked carpark at the site of an existing ground level parking area, between John and Murray Streets. This was one of three proposed sites in central Camden that were considered for a decked carpark over the next 10 years.

In the late 1990s at least one retail complex undertook a major re-development on the basis that the council would approve the construction of a decked carpark on the John/Murray Street site.

Apart from the John and Murray Streets site, the other two sites were also located at existing ground level carparks in central Camden, one in Larkin Place and the other between John and Hill Streets. The sites adjacent to John Street were on the elevated southern side of Argyle Street, while Larkin Place was located on the floodplain, on the northern side Argyle Street.

The major stakeholder was Camden Council. It was to be the owner, operator, financier, planner, and consent authority for the proposal. The council initially commissioned independent consultants to conduct a feasibility study (2002) and then approved the John/Murray Street site (2003), which was the site favoured by the Chamber of Commerce. The council needed loan funds beyond its budget and had to seek ministerial approval. The Department of Local Government demanded further community consultation in 2003 and a public exhibition period.

The results of the community survey indicated that local citizens felt the construction of a decked carpark was only a low to medium priority for council. Council elections were held in 2004, and the new council wanted further information and deliberation on the proposal. The sticking point was a comparison of the costings for Larkin Place and the John/Murray Street sites. The Larkin Place site yielded more carparking spaces at a lower cost per space, but the total cost for the John/Murray Street site was cheaper and it was still the favoured location of the Chamber of Commerce.

The council engaged a firm of architects to design the carpark in 2005 on the John/Murray Street site and held a stakeholders workshop shortly afterwards.

By mid-2005 public debate had intensified.and a number of parties expressed reservations about the proposal, supported by council’s heritage architects. In July council rejected the proposal. The Federal Member of Parliament entered the debate at this point and suggested an underground carpark.

Council wanted further consideration of the matter in late 2005 and approved the carpark in early 2006 on the John/Murray Street site.

The development of a decked carpark on the elevated southern sites compromised the vista of the St John’s Church from the Nepean River floodplain. The church was located on the hill behind the proposed John Street sites. This vista was part of the iconic imagery of Camden that has been an important part of the town’s cultural landscape and identity from colonial times.

The iconic nature of Camden’s sense of place was not contested by stakeholders. Although some stakeholders did feel that the final design of the decked carpark did compromise these values, including the council’s commissioned heritage architect. The architects felt that the proposal compromised the integrity of the ‘most intact country town on the Cumberland Plain’.

These opinions and others were carried by the Camden press including a diversity of letters from local residents. Public debate on the issue intensified in 2005 and the press reported the progress of the proposal with headlines, like: ‘Don’t dare do it?’, ‘Parking war not over yet’, ‘Fury over backflip’ and ‘Expensive “white elephant”’. The letter pages were scattered with colourful comment under headings like: ‘How to wreck the cultural landscape of Camden’, ‘Deceitful and devious on car park issue’ and ‘Car park cops a serve…or two’.

One issue that complicated the political process surrounding the progress of the proposal through council was the matter of councillor’s pecuniary interests. A number of councillors on the pre-2004 council and the 2006 council had business interests that were adjacent to one of the proposed sites. This raised the matter of a conflict of interest.

Councillors regularly excluded themselves from debate on the proposed carpark because of their declared interests, and one councillor felt she needed to justify her actions in the press. Despite this a complaint was made to the Department of Local Government about four counsellors and their perceived conflict of interest in mid-2006. All were cleared of any wrong doing, although one councillor appeared on the front page of the Camden Advertiser to explain his position.

The council made efforts to develop additional parking spaces and between 1999 and 2003 provided 367 extra parking spaces.

In addition 46 extra car parking spaces for shoppers were provided by ejecting council staff from a carpark adjacent to the council chambers. Where once council office staff had enjoyed free all day parking there was now a three hour time limit. One councillor suggested that it would not hurt council staff to walk an additional 100 metres to work.

More reading

Read the full article Ian Willis, Democracy in action in local government: Camden NSW (2007)

Read more here

Read about the Camden Town Centre Enhancement Strategy here on the Camden Council website

Further research

A summary of the 2014 Camden Town Centre Enhancement Strategy process over recent months is being compiled by the author of Camden History Notes.  The summary will be posted on this blog at the end of January 2015 for comment by interested parties. These will then be used to draft a submission for a conference presentation on the issues in early 2015. It is hoped to publish a journal article at a later date.

Uncategorized

Democracy, Place and Local Government

council_building
Camden Council Head Office, Macaria, Camden.

Local Politics

Local politics is a special beast. It is particular, local, small fare and accessible. It is parish pump politics at its best.

Local politics is where active citizenship at a local level makes for more effective democracies and better government.  Local government is small scale, specific  and administrative in nature, for example, pot-holes, dog-bites and long grass.

Parochialism and localism are common characteristics of local government politics that can have positive and negative effects.

In this context parochialism refers to the over-emphasis on the particular at a local scale and prioritises the local to the exclusion of the wider community. Localism, which can re-enforce parochialism, is anti-centralist, and in rural areas looks back to the rustic traditions and values of the pre-industrial viliages, it shares many of the elements of rural ideology.

In Ian Willis’s article ‘Democracy in Place’, he examines the role of parochialism and localism played out in the 2008 New South Wales local government elections in the Camden Local Government Area. In his article ‘Democracy in Action’ he undertakes an historical analysis of the influence of parochialism and the competing role of rural gentry and townsmen.

Willis maintains that there is a strong anti-party sentiment in local politics and that this related to parochialism. Resident action groups are perhaps an exception as they have successfully harnessed parochialism to foster their form of local activism.

Local government politicians are known by people at a local level.

Local politicians are often local identities who are well known to the community and are highly accessible to members of the local community. Local patriotism is often the mark of success of a council politician, and national party affiliation or membership is seen with suspicion. Often local councillors are small businessmen who are self-made, self-sufficient, independent, hard working and conservative. Successfull local councillors have local networks of power based on business connections, membership of local clubs, and family and interpersonal networks and hierarchies.

In the Camden community rurality and the area’s bucolic nature have been part of mantra of local politics for a number of decades. This situation is typical of rural communities of Sydney’s metropolitan fringe that are under pressure from the city’s  urban growth. Willis details how parochialism silenced council candidates around controversial issues.

Willis’s analysis of the various stakeholders in the local political process including the country press (civic journalism) and  community organisations (active citizenship) illustrates the important place of parochialism in these small closed communities.

Read more on these issues:

Ian Willis: Democracy in Action in Local Government, Camden, NSW

Ian Willis: Democracy in Place, Parochial Politics and the 2008 Local Government Elections

Results of the 2008 NSW Local Government Elections

Camden Council