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How slow are Australia's slowest cities?

By ERIC SHACKLE, in Sydney, Australia

The Three Sisters, Katoomba

Wooden boat festival, Goolwa
Photo Southern Alexandrina Business Association

The Three Sisters, Katoomba
Photo Scott Sheridan

Goolwa, in South Australia, and Katoomba, in the World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains 110km. (68 miles) west of Sydney, are Australia's two slowest cities... and that's official! They're the first two towns outside Europe to have joined the fast-growing Cittaslow movement, an international network of cities and towns that promote their citizens' quality of life.

"The Cittaslow delegation visiting from Italy made the surprise announcement at a cocktail reception on Monday night," Amie Brokenshire reported in Goolwa's newspaper, the Victor Harbor Times.

"Even though there were language barriers, words weren't needed when Cittaslow president Roberto Angelucci presented a flag to Alexandrina Mayor Kym McHugh and convenor Lyn Clark, symbolising Goolwa's accreditation as a Cittaslow."

McHugh said, "We are very excited and the whole community is excited that we will be the first Cittaslow town outside of Europe and the UK. It will be another attraction for Goolwa and it will tell people that Goolwa is a place of quality lifestyle, food, wine and service, it will definitely attract people to come here and visit." The delegation, headed by Cittaslow president Roberto Angelucci, vice president Stefano Mocio and manager Pier Giorgio Olivetti, spent three days in Goolwa before travelling east to Katoomba.

We asked Goolwa's Cittaslow convenor Lyn Clark if her home town really was the slowest place in Australia. She replied, "If you were here last weekend with the 13,000 people who were messing about in wooden boats, you'd know that it isn't the slowest town in Australia - but it is certainly the best place to slow down!

[A festival is held every two years on the century-old wharf at Goolwa, perhaps the only place in the world where both steam powered boats and steam trains still operate side by side. Paddle steamers, yachts, cruisers and even built-on-the-spot canoes and rafts - all made from wood - take part.]

"For some news straight off the press - today Katoomba became the second town in Australia to be declared Cittaslow."

Thousands of Sydneysiders and tourists from all over the world who have enjoyed visiting the picturesque Blue Mountains resort will be astonished to learn that Katoomba can ever be considered slow. It's been the scene of many wild parties over the years.

The Italian delegates visited the Blue Mountains on March 16, and were shown the region’s magnificent natural environment, diverse cafés and restaurants, artisan bakeries and other small businesses, vibrant arts community and unique domestic architecture.

The visit capped a feverish few months' work by a dedicated Blue Mountains group to gain support from local government and tourism authorities and prepare a massive submission for Italy’s Cittaslow HQ emphasising the region’s eligibility.

Katoomba's admission to the Cittaslow group was announced at a civic recption and luncheon at the historic Carrington Hotel. The menu featured local food, including Oberon bio-dynamic lamb, hominy sourdough bread, in-season chestnuts from Mount Irvine, cheeses, gourmet cakes and chocolates, and Bathurst wines.

On the opposite side of the globe, the Scottish city of Perth has also joined Cittaslow.

Jill Farrell, operations director at Scottish Enterprise (SE) Tayside, said, "I hope that Perth will now act as a catalyst for other Scottish towns to join Cittaslow. Scotland is renowned for its environment and the fine quality food and drink that it produces. A network of Scottish Cittaslow towns would really show the world how much we have to be proud of across our country."

Strangely, America has not yet embraced the Slow City movement. No one could imagine that New York, with its hustle and bustle, would ever qualify for membership.

Yet, last October, the NYPIRG [New York Public Interest Research Group] Straphangers Campaign and Transportation Alternatives awarded their fifth-annual “Pokeys” for the slowest local bus routes in New York City.

Overall winner of the 2006 Pokey Award (a golden snail on a pedestal) was the M14A, which averaged 3.9 miles per hour at 12 noon - "not much faster than the average speed of a pedestrian."

This story has also been published by the South Korean citizen reporters' journal OhmyNewsInternational.

Story first posted April 2007

Copyright © 2007

Eric Shackle

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