If I ever think what I've written is even slightly preachy, I will delete it. Being preached at is one of my absolute least favourite things, and, since I'm all for the "what goes around comes around" theory of everything, I make a point of not doing it.
Today though, things are a bit different, I have myself a soapbox, and I'll be hopping up on now.
My name is Sara. 23 years ago I was born in a hospital at the top of a hill. With the exception of probably an accumulated 6 months or so on holidays, I've spent my whole life around that hill.
That hill is Mount Gambier. Obviously, it's only a very small mount. It barely deserves an ain at the end. But the city surrounding this little mountain is home to around 24 thousand people. Another eight thousand or so live in the surrounding towns, making it the largest regional centre in South Australia.
According to wikipedia, the Mount's major industries "are agriculture, forestry, trucking and tourism." Wikipedia is wrong about a lot of stuff, but they're right on this count. We have lots and lots of farms with plants and cows too. Mount Gambier has more truck licenses and truck registrations per capita than anywhere else in Australia. We also have two of the big three trucking companies (K&S and Scott's). Last night it seemed like every second customer I put through was a tourist. And nearly 5000 people's jobs are tied to the local forests, which all on their own make up about 40% of the local economy.
This map doesn't have all the place names that the other one does.
But you see all those dark green bits? They're pine plantations. There's one about a kilometre from my house. You can't really come to the area without passing through them. That's how you know you're home - the asphalt on the road turns from red to blue, it gets colder and there's pine forests everywhere. Hayfever is really bad but pinetrees, growing them, cutting them down, turning them into woodchips, and board, and toilet paper at the local mills and factories, are so very much a part of this area.
The State Government owns these pines through Forestry SA. But they have decided that in order to fund election promises and keep the state's AAA credit rating, they may sell these forests to investors. Currently, Forestry SA has deals in place with the local mills and the toilet paper factory toward Millicent to supply them with wood. Most of what is grown in this area, having been planted some 37 years before by local people, cut down by local people and trucked by local people to local factories is then processed by local people. The value of the local pines themselves is only half their potential value, and that value could be lost if the pines are sold to foreign investors, who then simply take the logs overseas, where they can be processed in their own countries at lower cost for greater profit. With no cheap local logs to source, even more mills would close down, even more jobs would be lost.
A lot of the people I went to school with have moved away to the city. I was going to be one of them. But luckily for me, before I did, I realised, this is my home. I am far too local to leave. I find it sad enough that people who want to move away do so, but the prospect of locals who want to stay having to move away, because the jobs aren't here for them, the money isn't here for them, the services aren't here for them, it breaks my heart a little bit.
I go about my business in the Mount with the most powerful sense of this is where I am supposed to be. This is my town. This is my home.
If the politicians think they can sell it out from under me, they have another thing coming. Because there's another 20 thousand people who feel the same way. My home is not only my favourite thing. It's a favourite thing of most of my family, and so many of my friends.
Cold weather, blue roads and pine trees. I don't know that someone from the outside would even notice them. But that's how I know I'm home.
And there is no feeling nicer than being at home.