Honorary editor and founder of Peninsula News, Mark Snell, shares some of his thoughts about life on the Woy Woy Peninsula and the first 21 years of the community newspaper.
Here he answers a selection of questions that have been put to him.
1. Why did you decide to live on the Woy Woy Peninsula?
I was attracted to the natural environment of the area and the friendliness of the people I met when I first came here.
Perhaps most important was the temperate weather compared to the hills outside Melbourne where I previously lived.
The Peninsula doesn’t know real winters and, at least when I first came, it had half the number of hot days that Melbourne had. I found it was much easier to stay healthy and productive here.
2. How has the Peninsula changed over the 21 years you’ve been editing the Peninsula News?
The Peninsula had very few buildings of more than two storeys 21 years ago. There were no traffic lights, only a couple of roundabouts and no multi-level carparks.
The council’s “Financial Strategy” together with other public and private redevelopment saw the face of the Peninsula change.
There were active progress associations representing resident interests, and greater volunteer involvement in community activities. It was common for public meetings to attract more than 100 people.
More of the services of council and other service-providers were based and delivered locally by people we knew and knew us.
The council did not seem very responsive at the time, but it was certainly more responsive and open than it is now. It did not have a media unit nor the requirement to submit questions in writing.
3. 21 years is a very long time to be the honorary editor of a community newspaper. What keeps you going?
It is a skill I have and an effective way for me to contribute to the community. I believe in the value of the work and the way we do it.
It is important that the Peninsula has a newspaper that provides comprehensive coverage of local community life and supports and encourages active community participation in activities and issues.
The community needs information published through the newspaper that enables our residents to be part of a democratic process where they can discuss and determine the quality and shape of our lives on the Peninsula.
4. What is your favourite Peninsula location and why?
Brisbane Water National Park at Warrah Trig has more than 120 different species of flowering native plants. Within one kilometre, you are likely to see 30 of these at any time of year – and that is without leaving the track or even needing to get out of your car. I enjoy spending time there alone or showing visitors its beauty.
5. Locals love our beaches and our bush. What do you think are the greatest threats to the natural beauty of this area?
Climate change is likely to bring increasingly severe and damaging weather, which can be expected to have a lasting effect on the beaches and the bush. Over-crowding will also make the area less appealing to residents and visitors alike, more so if planning is insensitive to those aspects of the area that make it special and people find the most attractive.
6. What do you believe to be the strengths of the Woy Woy Peninsula community?
The Peninsula has natural boundaries – the Spike Milligan Bridge, the Rip Bridge and the national park – which define the community and enable us to have a strong local identity.
Few other places on the Coast would have this strong sense of identity. Peninsula residents generally consider themselves as being “from the Peninsula” and not “Coasties”.
Until recently at least, we have had a good mix of long-time residents and new arrivals, which has enabled continuity and building on our assets with the healthy injection of new ideas.
With around 40,000 residents, the Peninsula is still small enough for residents to know each other, but large enough to have the resources – both financial and human – to be a viable community.
I am often surprised by the depth of hidden talent within our community.
Mark Snell, 6 Aug 2020