In an ideal world Paul Terry would still be with us and one of his gifts, the Esplanade Hotel, would still be standing. But he isn’t and it isn’t.
Ok, so let’s imagine another world.
In this world the hotel has been demolished following its purchase by a group keen not to offend the locals. The group builds a magnificent hotel that not only utilises the scenic setting but also takes full advantage of the potential for green energy. It features north facing windows, solar panels, wind turbines and aspiring young hospitality students from the Great Southern Institute of Technology (GSIT) are employed part-time earning credits for their diplomas.
The new building attracts visitors from all over the world, who take advantage of the abundance of activities programmed by students from the Adventure Seekers training course, also offered by GSIT. And let’s not forget the succulent menus presented by Australia’s up and coming GSIT trained chiefs, who train here because of our excellent wines and fine food. Right, too late for that.
Ok, so the site is bought by greedy property developers who have no respect for local customs and company executives decide to build a ten story block of holiday apartments. The City, desperate for something on the site, approves the plan, the building is built, despite widespread local offence, and when complete no locals are employed and the apartments are serviced by illegal immigrants.
Well, clearly, that’s an impossibility. It would never happen. No way. Not here, not anywhere in this beautiful state of ours. Let’s have another go.
The site is bought by a property developer who has every intention of doing the right thing, culturally, environmental, socially, economically, but, unfortunately, due to the Global Financial Crisis, the developer runs out of money. The site lies vacant for six months and the developer acknowledges publicly that it is not in a financial position to build its promised hotel and holiday resort.
In a move revealing the cultural and emotional intelligence of the company’s executives, they call for community consultation in an effort to determine what to do with the site while it lies vacant and dormant.
The community is enlivened, engaged, many meetings are held and most parties agree that the best solution would include a small bar and cafe, with the rest of the land to be landscaped and opened for public use.
Everyone is happy. The mayor is re-elected. The developer wins the National Community Project of the Year Award for 2012. All right, stop your sniggering. It could have happened.
One last crack and then I’m out of here.
You know the story up to now: the developer buys the site, knocks over an impressive building, cancelling a legacy, offending many locals, promises to build a space-age replacement, exciting many locals, nothing happens, many locals hang socks, developer tolerates the sock protest and, finally, the socks are removed by order of the city’s mayor, citing a very strong desire to sell the site and cultural offence caused to an unnamed culture.
Well, excuse me, but neither the City, nor the mayor, is in the real estate business and many people I know are offended by the removal of a cultural icon, have felt insulted by inaction on a site once full of celebration, and by the dismissal of their desire to make their views known in a creative, fun and non-violent form of protest.