Paradise in Fortress Australia - the land of the gated community - is an illusion created by the marriage of property developers and golf course builders. It's a marriage built on PR spin and profit.
This is a story about a place called Wooyung, just north of Byron Bay. It's a sleepy coastal hamlet consisting of a beach, a nature reserve, a few aboriginal bora rings and a caravan park.
It's where generations of Australian families have flocked for cheap summer holidays. Picture children running around on miles of beach with zinc covered noses, crawing seagulls, umbrellas and eskies. That's Wooyung.
In telling Wooyung's story one must also tell the story of rapacious property development on the coastal crescent of Australia and its curious twin, the golf course builder. The relationship between property developer and golf course builder is mutating the social and environmental ecology of the coastal crescent.
The property developer at Wooyung, Samtay Pty Ltd, is at an advanced stage of surveying an American-style gated community about 45 times larger than the MCG, right on the Pacific coast. It's called a “Total Tourist Destination Resort” (TTDR) or in plain language, a gated community, and a key feature is a nine-hole golf course.
There are about 100,000 Australians living in gated communities such as the one planned at Wooyung, ranging from resort style golf course estates to townhouse complexes with streets accessible only to people carrying ID cards and where surveillance cameras scan for trespassers.
Safety is a prime issue in tourist or permanent gated communities yet 20 years after Australia's first gated community opened at Sanctuary Cove on the Gold Coast, research both here and abroad shows that high walls and security guards don't protect residents from serious crime.
As reported in the Sydney Morning Herald (March 3, 2005), Sydney criminologist Dr Murray Lees said living in a gated community was no guarantee against violence because statistically, most serious crime is not between strangers - its with people we know. Not a comforting thought.
There has been a plethora of new estates popping up in Southeast Queensland and on the north coast of New South Wales with names such as Salt or Seaspray - names charged with a healthy maritime atmosphere at a healthy price.
And it's hard to find on the coastal crescent of eastern and southern Australia a tourist based gated community that doesn't have at least one nine-hole golf course or close access to one.
When one drives around the new gated communities, apart from some questionable taste in architecture, the primary difference from the traditional retirement village of the 1970s is that the golf course has come to the player rather than the player going to the golf course.
Golf courses are the expensive added extras created by marketers to satisfy a “lifestyle” rather than a life. In the parlance, they are Unique Selling Points (USPs).
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