What's best for Castlemaine?

Martine Murray, Castlemaine

I write re the proposal to build a very large supermarket opposite the primary school, on the edge of Forest Creek and at the gateway to this historic town.
Apart from the obvious reasons such as the increased traffic and the enormous trucks turning on a small road outside a primary school, the stormwater run off into the adjacent creek which is currently being assiduously regenerated by landcare, the ugliness, the vastness, the inappropriateness, the waste – which I hope others will also speak up about – I would like to add to the long list of reasons not to add another supermarket to a town.
Since, as far as the necessities go, this town is already amply serviced, the main argument for allowing such a development is for development’s sake alone and the promise of cheaper food.
At this stage in our history of escalating ecological crisis, largely driven by monopolies of power and industry, we should be forewarned that the size alone of this supermarket speaks fundamentally of monopoly and as such, threatens the diversity and complexity that life depends on and that a small town thrives on.
A large chain supermarket is a corporation whose sole purpose is to produce private profit and to send that profit out of the town.
There are no parameters in place, in local or state governance, that require a supermarket to consider the welfare of the people it “services.” The fact the only benefit to Castlemaine is cheaper food is problematic.
Who bears the cost of this cheap food? The farmers who have had to produce monocrops to supply the supermarkets and whose farms have become dependent on expensive fertilisers and equipment because the lack of bio diversity has destroyed the health of the soils? Or the animals whose lives are lived in factory farms so as to become the cheap sausages we feel entitled to? Or is it food security in general, because global supply chains out compete the local ones.
What will be the cost to the local businesses that may have to close and what is the cost to the people of Castlemaine whose town centre has lost its vitality?
The supermarket does not care about Castlemaine and Castlemaine should return the sentiment by not welcoming it to town.
The butchers, the grocers, the bakers, the family who ran the now defunct video store also out-competed by online monolithic platforms, do care about the health and wealth of this community, as they live in it, they bring their kids up in it. Castlemaine should be returning that care by supporting those businesses. Anything that is cheap is cheap because someone else’s labour has been financially undervalued and or exploited, or someone’s land has been depleted.
It’s not that food is expensive, but that wages are low and housing is unaffordable. Instead of calling for cheap food, we could be demanding higher wages and affordable housing. We could be paying more farmers and food growers a living wage so that they farm smaller plots and regenerate their soils and eco systems, by increasing bio diversity and growing a variety of seasonal produce.
As both a community and a council, we could be imagining a future in which Castlemaine moves towards the exact opposite of this scenario, a future in which we value the mutual flourishing of all beings and our interdependence with them and with our environment by actively developing more advanced forms of symbiosis and turning away from commerce and development that is extractive, industrial, global and monopolizing. We could be aiming to create a bio region that is resilient to the breakdown of global supply chains by building local food supply chains, by increasing complexity, diversity and adaptability in our farming, in our food networks and in our thinking, education and cultural sensibilities, rather than simplifying and totalising with the tractor and concrete philosophy of industrial sized farming and shopping.
How this would look is worth trying to imagine and beginning to inhabit, rather than unimaginatively succumbing to yet another monolith, whose presence here is not hard to envisage because we have seen it before and seen it everywhere.
What we need now is transformation, not growth. If council planners can’t also be pressed to feel that their responsibility to the shire when considering the built environment should be undergirded by an ethical and informed vision of the future, not just an outdated economic instrumentality, then this also is another old and encumbered system which is failing us. I urge you to write to council and voice your objection, as I have been assured, these objections do count.

Lisa Dennis
Editor of the Castlemaine Mail newspaper and senior journalist on our sister paper the Midland Express. Over the last 24 years Lisa been proudly reporting news in the Mount Alexander and Macedon Ranges communities.