Is Adelaide the most insecure city in Australia?
In Adelaide we worry a lot. A mall, trams, grandstands, hospitals even roundabouts cause hours of debate. However, nothing winds us up more than someone criticising our city. We’re so defensive.
Sometimes I think we get so outraged because secretly we worry that Adelaide may actually be a backwater.
Often the “solution” that is put forward is to build an iconic building such as a tower or a fantastic or unusual museum. These are all great ideas – we should build more unusual and more controversial buildings. Interesting buildings give a city character. I like buildings that have gardens down the side and on the roof. It would be great to see some of them.
But we shouldn’t build them and expect people to come to see them thus solving all our problems. It won’t work. Let me give you an example. Would you go to Taipei? It’s the home of Taipei 101 the world’s tallest building. It’s a great building in a great city but Taipei’s not an international tourist mecca.
Iconic buildings of themselves are not enough. What lures visitors is other visitors saying, “You have to go there. I loved it. I want to go back.” That means we need to make Adelaide an experience people want rather than a place where there are interesting buildings.
For this to happen, we need to do three things. Firstly, all of us need to make a conscious decision that we want Adelaide to be a place that people want to visit and enjoy being here so much that they want to come back.
Secondly, we need an attitude change. We are too negative and the idea of change really freaks us out. Our attitude needs to be, “What do we have to do to make this work?” It’s time we all changed the way we think and talk.
Lastly, we need to build on our strengths. For instance, we have great food and wine in South Australia we could start there. Eating is so important to humans both for our health as well as socially. So it stands to reason that if we do food really well, it will stand out in the minds of our visitors. But I mean world’s best. Not better or just good.
A couple of years ago, Tina and I were lucky enough to go to France for a 9 years late honeymoon. I have so many great memories of that trip but one of my favourites is a meal we had in a village close to the Villers-Bretonneux War Memorial. It was a small restaurant in a small town. The restaurant had been awarded one Michelin star.
The Michelin star system is a rating system for restaurants that originated in France. The top rating is three stars but it’s hard to get just one. Tina and I still talk about that meal and we want to go back.
We could either adopt the Michelin system here or devise our own but it has to be hard and we need to consider making it compulsory in some way. I think that we should go for Australia’s first Michelin star. We could start with the city centre and work our way out.
Our wine is great too. It’s a different style to the French wines but we are really good at making the wines that we make, especially the Shiraz, so our wine regions need to be part of our plan. We need to raise the quality of our wine to such an extent that South Australian regions become the world wide bench mark for at least a couple of varieties.
Coffee’s another thing. We could become a state of baristas, not just coffee makers. People should be able to get around SA without ever having a bad coffee. For that matter we could take Tea more seriously as well.
To some extent we are already doing these things but this is my idea for the next step and it will help develop an Adelaide experience.
Small regional economies and cities tend to try to do a little bit of everything and end up doing not much really well. We should concentrate on a few things and do them exceptionally.
Adelaide is a great place. Let’s just accept that. Let’s just be Adelaide and try to make it even better. And let’s have the courage to really think it through and carry it out.
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