Coonalpyn needn’t rest in peace just yet

For the past 10 years, it seems like Coonalpyn has kept taking two steps forward and one step back.

There is plenty to celebrate in the highway town, even beyond Guido van Helten's silo art.

Saturday's Coonalpyn Show was as entertaining a day out as ever, and stands up against any other in country SA, which is a credit to all who organise and attend it.

And Claudia Ait-Touati's roadside waffles, excuse me, are delicious.

The closure of the BP next week will not be a tombstone, as Graeme Pederick's widely-shared Facebook post might suggest, but it will be a milestone in the history of the town.

Servos – like pubs, shops or schools – are institutions in rural communities, and their departure is always a body blow.

This 21st century was advertised to us in the schoolbooks of our past with pictures of spacesuits, supercomputers and electric cars.

More recently, Premier Jay Weatherill has spruiked a similar vision of South Australia's future, replete with battery banks and wind turbines.

But whether or not those images prove fanciful in the long run, they're not real yet.

Petrol and diesel fuel, the sludge from millenia-old rocks dug up in the Middle East, is still the lifeblood of a rural community.

We salute the folks at Cox Rural for keeping an emergency stash on hand, for use beyond next Tuesday.

Now, councils and governments can't intervene to stop a business from making a business decision, as Peregrine Corporation has done in the case of Coonalpyn BP.

It's the golden rule: whoever has the gold makes the rules.

But there's a certain tension between that truth and the idea that everyone has the right to basic services.

How can that right be upheld when it's no longer economical?

We see the same issue at the heart of GST carve-ups, or the NBN roll-out.

So we must ask that our councillors and MPs remember, each day, the right of their constituents to basic services; to advocate for them at all times; and to invest public money wisely where private companies fall short of providing such services.

That is how Coonalpyn, and the countless towns like it, will be kept alive – that, and the shows, and the waffles.

Peri Strathearn

Photo: Peri Strathearn.

Photo: Peri Strathearn.