Destination NSW has a hard time pleasing locals, much less visitors, writes David Humphries.
AIN'T it the spotlighter's lot? Having discovered Sydneysiders would walk on hot coals rather than extol the virtues of their city, Sandra Chipchase yesterday got a taste of the depth of the culture of complaint she wants to overcome.
''Someone has to tell this woman she is dreaming,'' wrote Disillusioned in a comment posted on the Herald website version of Ms Chipchase's lament as inaugural chief executive of Destination NSW, the state's new tourism peak agency. ''Very difficult to find any positives about Sydney and NSW these days as the greed of Big Corporates has ensured everyone from around the world can no longer afford to live or travel in this place.''
Jay Hash, imploring Ms Chipchase to ''do your homework'', queried: ''What is there to fall in love with? Unfriendly neighbours and people … crappy buses and trains … a road network that was designed during the time of the Romans … shops and restaurants closing early at night … hospitals with terrible staff … and only one airport.'' Oh, dear.
Ms Chipchase's campaign to put a smile on Sydney's face has elicited disdain from the xenophobic - ''Sydney is overburdened by overseas students and immigrants'' - to the travel-weary - ''until transport is sorted out, Sydneysiders won't be positive'' - to the cramped - ''Sydney's crowded enough; who needs tourists standing around gawping?''
You get the flavour; most have lived with it for years, this whirlwind of whinge, this den of the disparaging. No city in the world impresses more in its approach from the air - the harbour, the beaches, the bridge, the Opera House, the mountains. And yet we sell ourselves short. Why did Sydney think, until the last minute, that the Olympics would be a disaster? Why were we so surprised at our own success? And why does success seem to breed only greater pessimism, darker gloominess?
The managing director of the Tourism and Transport Taskforce, John Lee, said Ms Chipchase had hit a raw nerve: ''Sydney is tribal and has sat on its hands since the Olympics'', while ''an earnestness and spirit of co-operation in Victoria has enabled them to outflank Sydney''. The Chipchase remarks about negativity go to the Sydney character, Mr Lee said. ''It's always been a fight for anything in Sydney.''
Yet the odd thing is Sydneysiders are no unhappier than Melburnians and, for the most part, are indistinguishable in the happiness stakes from Australia's largely contented lot.
Dr Anthony Grant, a Sydney University psychologist who led the happily-healthy.com.au study of the attitudes of 75,000 Australians, says the hint of contradiction might be explained by the gap between Sydney's reputation for brashness and ''its quiet pride in the city''.
''We know we're blessed,'' Dr Grant said yesterday. ''Maybe we don't need to trumpet it as much as everyone else.''