Newcastle Now


23 August 2017

Opinion: Move your mind to help prop up trees of business

“If a tree falls in a forest, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”

On such a question, one might ruminate after a red wine too many in one of those wandering conversations that seem so meaningful late at night. Although, it does appear that this one may have some science about it based on whether there is anyone or anything around with ears to perceive the vibrations in the air.

Business people in the city centre are starting to feel like that tree in a forest. No matter how hard they vibrate with anger or even if they fall, it seems there is no one around to hear.

For some businesses, the two or three months before the celebratory season would usually deliver 50 per cent of their annual income. Yes, that’s right - 50 per cent.

Moreover, it is not just a single sale that’s lost. Often it might be a long-term customer or client or important contact or supplier. All of us who regularly shop or use services in the city may choose an easier option during that busy period when, come the week before Christmas, four major sections of Hunter St between Worth Place and Telford St will be under construction.

Having solved our immediate problem, we may never come back – new habits and all that.

Yet, much of the ‘consultation’ going on about the city centre changes seem to consist of fiddling with the detail and one-way pronouncements thast what will be will be – a bit of the old que sera, sera.

“Suck it up, Sunshine and sort yourself out”, seems to be the message.

So, while there is excitement in the air about our changing city (despite the debate about some of the big issues) some business people want to know just how they are going to survive financially this year with the coming disruption in the months of lead up to Christmas.

There are real people tangled up in this transformation and it isn’t good enough to just lend them a sympathetic ear. Their businesses, which for some people represent a life-time of investment, time, creativity and heartache not to mention their family incomes and their superannuation, is fundamental to their lives.

Being like a fallen tree and lying around on a forest floor unheard did not figure large in their planning.

Quoting from that well-known expert – Dr. Wiki Pedia, we find the story of Hui-neng’s flag. It seems that two monks were arguing about the temple flag waving in the wind. One said ‘the flag moves’. The other said, ‘the wind moves.’ They argued back and forth but could not agree.

The Sixth Ancestor (not sure who that is) said, ‘Gentlemen. It is not the wind that moves; it is not the flag that moves; it is your mind that moves.’ The two monks, we are told, were struck with awe.

To all those people out there who are making decisions that affect people’s livelihoods, what are you going to do in the months of October to December that will keep this city alive?

What are you going to do to attract people into the city centre during business hours to make the city hum with fun? What are you going to do to hide the ugliness of construction or add some interest?

Please strike us with awe like the monks. Please listen to what our business people are telling you. Please move your minds so you can see what they can see.

What do people have to do to get heard before they fall?

Edward Duc is chairman of Newcastle Now

This Opinion Editorial appeared in the Newcastle Herald on Wednesday 23rd August 2017.


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