In the Beginning
The inaugural meeting of the Meadowbank Progress Association (MPA) was held on 19 Feb 1971 at the Presbyterian Church Hall, Bowden Street, Ryde.
The first President was David Russell. There were 2 Vice Presidents, Ron Masman and Alan Grant. The first Treasurer was Geoff Wellings and the Secretary was Norm Bainbridge. Patron of the MPA was Lerryn Mutton, State MP for Yaralla.
Impetus for forming the MPA came from the ‘Hoover Affair’. This was a proposal to demolish the heritage residence ‘Glendower’ on the corner of Belmore Street and Constitution Road and to construct a factory building for Hoover.
David Russell had the following to say about the ‘Hoover Affair’ in his first President’s Report:
“How many of us have traditionally limited our interest in neighbourhood and environmental matters to the yearly grumble on receipt of the Rate Notice …..
In our personal case this attitude certainly existed until one evening when a neighbour called to ask us to sign a small petition. From that visit came the realization that an industrial complex, thought to be safely contained in an accepted industrial area nearby, could flex it’s muscles and expand it’s boundaries to within a streets width of one’s home, to the very fence line of the school attended by ones children. Finally, the bitterest pill, having to admit to oneself that the rezoning of the residential land in question was legally transacted, however quietly, some six years earlier without one’s knowledge. An indictment of one’s personal interest and alertness? An indictment of Council’s communications to residents? Both of course, but also the sudden awareness of the need for at least some early warning system to prevent a recurrence.
Active involvement in a Progress Association seemed a solution at the time. We were not disappointed for we found ourselves, in company with many friends and neighbours, helping to form this Association whose first year’s objectives were to be Communications and Vigilance.”
So, as is the case with many community organizations, the MPA coalesced around an ‘issue’. However, the MPA, later to become the MWRPA, has stood the test of time. It has continued faithful to its origins and has worked to keep residents informed and to represent their concerns for over 40 years.
This longevity is a tribute to the community spirit of many people who have been involved with the Association over the years. Many of the founders of the MPA were indeed members of even earlier Resident Associations.
Before the Beginning
Documents carefully preserved by Milton Bartlett, our long serving Distribution Officer, show that in the 1950’s there were many Progress Associations in Ryde.
At the Council Elections held on 1st Dec 1956 the General Committee of Ryde Progress Associations put forward for election a team of Progress Association Candidates. There were 12 Progress Associations operating in Ryde at the time. Progress Associations provided a means whereby people could actively participate in Local Government and shape their community.
There was a Meadowbank Progress Association operating in the 1950’s and also a West Ryde Improvement Association. Unfortunately, we do not know when these early organisations commenced nor when they ceased to operate.
However, there was some continuity between these associations of the 1950’s and the Meadowbank Progress Association formed in 1971, through the involvement of community stalwarts such as Ron Masman.
Ron’s name appears often in the documents we have from the 1950’s. He was involved in fundraising for the Combined Progress Associations and purchased a Westinghouse steam iron for £6/11/9 on 26 October 1956. The iron was subsequently raffled and £15/4/9 was raised to cover costs of the 1956 Council Election!
From November 1981 to March 1982 a series of joint meetings were held between the members of the Meadowbank Progress Association and the West Ryde Progress Association with a view to arranging a merger of the two organisations.
At the March 1982 meeting the members of both bodies voted in favour of a merger and the unified organisation became known as the Meadowbank West Ryde Progress Association.
The MWRPA’s1st newsletter in April 1982 reported Office Bearers had been elected, at the March meeting, as follows:
One thing that has been constant over the years has been the long term commitment that people have made to the Association and in turn to their community. With regard to the first committee of the MWRPA: Norm Bainbridge served as Secretary for 18 years, President for 5 years and Public Relations Officer (PRO) for one year. Norm’s wife Mary also served as PRO. They moved to Tasmania in 1995. Fred Paul was Treasurer for almost 24 full years until he and wife Jean moved to the Central Coast. Jean served as a Committee Member and Minutes Secretary. Sadly, Jean Paul passed away in January 2011 aged 90. Fred is still going strong and is now around 100.
Mary Devine, a past Distribution Officer and President, and her husband Michael worked tirelessly for the MWRPA for many years until moving out of the area. Rosemary Hadaway was also Secretary for many years and is still a member of the MWRPA.
Note also must be made of the support the Association has received from several Ryde Councillors over the years. Former Councillor and Mayor Edna Wilde and former Councillor Connie Netterfield have been a regular attendees of our meetings for many years. Former Councillor and Mayor Jim Hull was a regular attendee at MWRPA meetings. Current Councillor and former Mayor Ivan Petch has also attended meetings over many years. We are always grateful to Councillors who give their time to attend community meetings and try to understand things from the residents’ point of view.
Finally, where would we be without the tireless efforts of our many Newsletter Distributors. They have always been our quiet achievers and allow us to communicate with 4,500 residences every time a newsletter is published.
The Issues — Communication and Consultation
Ever since the ‘Hoover Affair’ continuing issues for the Association have been Council’s Communication and Consultation with Residents.
Has the situation improved over the past 40 years?
At first glance you might say yes, because Council operates a website that residents can access to obtain all sorts of information. However, access to information is not the same as communication. Communication is a two way process in which information is shared. Communicating normally involves acknowledgment that information has been received. Without acknowledgement you cannot assume your information has been received and that you have communicated.
The MWRPA had cause to write to Council on 22 November 2010 to protest a lack of response to ‘objections’ lodged in early 2008 regarding a draft Development Control Plan for Meadowbank. These objections had been re-submitted in September 2010. Council subsequently advised in December 2010 that, “…..responses to your comments may be found on Council’s website in the Agenda for 2 November Item 4 City of Ryde Local Planning Strategy”. Is it communication to provide a response that no one knows exists?
This experience reminds me of Douglas Adams’ book, “The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy”, in which the hero Arthur Dent discovers Council plans to demolish his house have been on display for 9 months without his knowledge.
Arthur protests, “I had to go down to the cellar to find them”. “With a torch.” “It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying Beware of the Leopard.” If improperly used, websites can become the locked filing cabinets and leopards of the 21st Century.
The MWRPA protested this sorry state of affairs to Councillors and only 2, Terry Perram and Roy Maggio, bothered to reply!
What progress has been made with regard to Consultation? The consultation process for the development of the Ryde 2030 Community Strategic Plan showed Council can be very good at the first two parts of the Macquarie Dictionary definition of Consultation, i.e. passing on information and asking for advice. The difficulty seems to arise when we get to the third part of the definition, i.e. to have regard for (a person’s interest, convenience, etc) in making plans. As an organisation whose primary concern is to represent the views of residents we find we are often focused on issues of amenity, that is seeking to preserve the quality of the urban environment in which existing residents live. It seems that issues of amenity are given very little weight by Council in its decision-making and commercial interests are routinely given greater weight than resident interests. To be fair, however, Council often has no choice in development matters with a State Government that over-rides Councils through the application of Part 3A of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act.
Indeed the general state of Planning in NSW is so poor that a recent report of the Environmental Defenders Office http://www.edo.org.au/edonsw/site/publications.php#stateofplanning concluded the planning system in NSW:
- has been compromised by amendment after amendment to planning legislation,
- is in conflict with the objectives of other legislation,
- completely ignores the need for environmentally sustainable development,
- fails to prevent significant environmental impacts,
- fails to consider cumulative impacts, particularly in relation to Climate Change,
- pays lip service to consultation and has alienated communities across the State.
The Environmental Defenders Office has recommended a completely new Planning Act be developed.
After 40 years work the job isn’t done. Far from it. The need for organisations such as the MWRPA to represent the concerns of residents and to fight to preserve the quality of the urban environment is greater than ever. To make local democracy work for residents, we all need to actively engage in the democratic process. One way in which residents can do this is through their local Progress Association.
Anything to add?
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Want to know more?
For a general history of Meadowbank, go to - http://www.dictionaryofsydney.org/entry/meadowbank
For a general history of West Ryde, to to -