Friday, February 26, 2016

THE PROBLEMS OF PRIVATE PUBLIC SPACE


It must be occurring everywhere: corporations are taking over, or are wanting to take over, public space, and governments can only see dollars and the passing over of responsibility to others. It is what governments see in their sly jargon as a 'win-win' situation: governments get money, give away onerous tasks and all responsibility, and the public space is still there for all to use! It is usually argued that the area will be 'improved'! Now, one might ask, "What is wrong with that?"




As with security and incarceration, governments are keen to pass day to day responsibilities over to corporations, to do away with all problems and concerns by the signing of contracts that let governments 'pass the buck.' In Australia, large corporations like Serco take on what governments see as difficult tasks, under very lucrative, lump sum contracts. Immigration centres across Australia and on Christmas Island are managed by Serco; detention centres in Papua New Guinea and Nauru are run by G4S and Transfield: see - http://www.crikey.com.au/2014/02/25/meet-the-companies-that-run-our-immigration-detention-camps/ In the UK, the same company, Serco, runs the ferries to the remote Scottish islands. Companies exist just to take on these roles, whatever they might be, tasks that governments are keen to readily hand over for large sums of money just to see the problem 'attended to.'






We are seeing the same situation in the certification of building work in Australia. Governments have passed this responsibility on to private individuals and companies so that governments remain in control, but at arm's length, free from all immediate criticism and the responsibility that certification involves. One has to ask why we have governments if all they do is to pass on their responsibilities to others. Is this how taxes should be spent? Is this how pubic matters should be managed?



The casino proposal for Brisbane


A promotional image of the casino

Now public space seems to have become subjected to a similar strategy of 'fund-raising avoidance.' Who could believe that the Queensland government would want to give a large riverfront portion of the CBD of Brisbane to a foreign company to develop for a casino, shops and hotels? - but it is so, and few are screaming out against this idea that is promoted vigorously by the the developer with slick graphics, smart words and grand promises: see - http://voussoirs.blogspot.com.au/2015/11/new-brisbane-casino-reviewed.html There will, of course, never be any problems, only benefits for all! The 'What if?' question is mocked by the promotional euphoria.


Casino shopping


The Guardian has recently published two articles on this problem in Britain: see - http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/feb/13/will-self-mass-trespass-london-protest and http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2012/jun/11/granary-square-privately-owned-public-space Joshua Saunders has called for the co-operation of the public in the drawing up of a map of Britain that would show just how much land is under corporate control. Australia needs to do likewise, but governments are reluctant; they constantly see 'investment' as an easy way to get income, even if this means selling property to anyone, anywhere, from anywhere. It has to do with 'the economy' and 'the country,' or so we are told. Where might the public come into this equation – its sense of place and experience of quality open space? Streets and dedicated open spaces are all that we have: see - http://voussoirs.blogspot.com.au/2015/02/the-importance-of-street.html . . . but for how long? Even the streets have been included in the casino precinct proposed for Brisbane's CBD.




Springbrook National Park

Even National Parks are not free from this attack. Governments are keen to lease off areas of our pristine regions to developers. The commitment seems to be only to increasing income and enjoying an easy life. The old idea of 'living off the sheep's back' seems never to have been relinquished, even when sheep numbers have dwindled and wool prices are so variable. Mining has taken over and has boomed for a while, but no longer. Now it seems that we only have land to hand over; and governments are just too keen to participate in these transactions that keep easy dollars rolling in to maintain the lazy life.



It is a serious issue. The notion of public space being managed by a corporation or a private company changes the whole sense of place. This has been commented upon in The Victor Gruen Vision: see - http://voussoirs.blogspot.com.au/2016/01/the-victor-gruen-vision-false-hopes-and.html  It is alarming to hear a landscape architect spruik on about open sporting fields being quality open space – Plummer at Bond seminar Catalysts, Connections and Interventions in Landscape: see - http://voussoirs.blogspot.com.au/2016/02/catalysts-connections-and-interventions.html  These spaces that are usually leased zones excised from public parkland, have the same problems as private public space.


So it is that the full texts of the two Guardian articles are reproduced here. This issue needs much more attention. A recent report in BBC news told of growing problems with children's play spaces with the development of areas where children have to pay to play! Alas, even childhood recreational space is not immune from the possibility of profit and the passing off of responsibility: see -


THE ARTICLES













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