Above: Mr Peter Merity, a Pitt Town resident, photographed by the Hawkesbury Gazette in May, 2007, as he stands by a sign on his roadside property.
Declared by the Hawkesbury Council as a ‘prohibited advertising structure’, the sign, advocating ‘Pitt Town not Pitt Street’, became a symbol of protest in its own right. The Hawkesbury Council threatened Mr Merity with a maximum penalty of $1,100,000 if he did not remove the sign despite its tolerance of other similar structures in the Council area. Invoking an earlier Council resolution to allow protest signs to be displayed until disputes were resolved, Mr Merity held his ground and Council relented.
The sign was erected in 2005 as part of a long running campaign by the Pitt Town Resident’s Action Group against intensive real estate development in Pitt Town by developer Mr Keith Johnston.The development would double the size of the Pitt Town community.
Action Group members, Mr Mark Ripper and Mr Ross Wilbow, constructed the sign. Mr Merity says that he possibly invented the slogan – his memory is hazy on the matter of authorship.
The campaign against Johnson’s development effectively ended when NSW State Minister Frank Sartor gave Mr Johnson the green light to proceed with the development. There were no avenues for appeal. Mr Merity decommissioned the sign with spray paint in 2007.
Above: The decommissioned sign on Mr Peter Merity’s property, March, 2010
The developer itself put up a number of much larger signs in the area supporting the development, which it now uses to advertise the development. Mr Merity has made a number of enquiries of Council about its continuing tolerance of these signs after the dispute was resolved but has received no response.
Above: One of several developer ‘advertising structures’ in Pitt Town, May, 2010. Given the matter has been raised, is the playing field indeed level?
During the dispute over the Johnson residential development, which centred on capabilities for resident evacuation in the event of flooding, the historic sign indicating 1867 flood level in Pitt Town (at 19 metres) mysteriously went missing.
NSW State Emergency Services warns that the 1867 once-in-a-hundred-year flood is overdue. The Pitt Town electricity grid, water supply and sewage system fail at 13 metres.
Now Mr Merity’s sign is missing from its supporting posts too. See the sign’s articulate surfaces (Below) up-close and personal in the Field Study exhibition at the See Street Gallery, Meadowbank TAFE, Sydney, opening in August this year.
John Reid 4.5.10