While reading the local newspaper back in November 2009, I had a rather nauseating experience. The paper was gushing about the opening of stage one of a new shopping centre at Top Ryde. I was led to write the following letter to the local paper….
"Like most I am delighted to see a replacement for the old Top Ryde shops. However reading last week's Northern District Times, I wondered what was actually being opened in Top Ryde. The over the top praise, the obsequious gushing and the ads and editorials from the local politicians, left me wondering what all the fuss was actually about! Is it a bunch of nice shops or is it something more?
In a society that seems to have lost its moral and spiritual conscience, shopping is our new religion, with shopping centres our new temples of worship. Arguably the whole Global Financial Crisis is ultimately the result of a Western World that believes spending is its greatest virtue. Reading the words of adulation and thanksgiving made me think we were opening something really useful like a hospital, a school, or a true place of spiritual enlightenment.
A little perspective please – it’s just a glitzy market!"
I must admit I had always been a bit of a critic of this development. Word was that the developer and owner, a man named John Breville, was developing this huge new shopping centre with the aid of almost entirely borrowed money. The figure that was talked about locally was a cost of about $1 billion – and most of it was borrowed. We are not exactly short of shops or shopping centres around here and the investment skeptic in me wondered how it could possibly work.
Well, now less than a year since its final stage opening by none other than the Prime Minister of Australia, the centre is on the market at the insistence of Mr Breville’s bankers. As first tier creditors they are most likely to get paid, but at an advertised price now of $700 million the second tier lenders, Valad Property Group, reportedly seem unlikely to recover anything.
The gods of this age appear so impressive – but they are not God, and every so often their nakedness is exposed.
Do not make any gods to be alongside me; do not make for yourselves gods of silver or gods of gold. Exodus 20: 23