Maleny: Social Capital and the Development Paradox

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CACOM Working Paper Series
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This paper explores the ways in which one community has developed strong social capital in the light of several development challenges. Using a case study approach data was collected from a small community in the Queensland hinterland. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with twenty-three community members and a survey designed to measure the level of social capital, attitudes towards environmental sustainability and general perceptions of the town were collected from 137 anonymous community members. Responses from both sources are indicative of a population with high social capital and an appreciation of the natural environment. Linkages between the environmental commitment and social capital are significant indicators of sustainability. Survey data revealed that Maleny recorded the highest social capital factor across seven different urban and rural communities (Onyx and Bullen, 2000). Additionally, the large majority of respondents recorded a positive response towards the significance of issues related to environmental sustainability. Commitments to sustainability combined with high levels of social capital are cornerstones of the unique characteristics of the community and contribute to the success of the community to bond together in times of crisis.
Organisation for resistance against several major developments has characterised the community. Cooperation between diverse groups within the community has attributed to the capacity of the town to oppose such large-scale commercial developments. However, these crisis points have also highlighted some underlying disconnects between sections of the community and frame community perceptions of the major issues within the town. This raises questions regarding these development issues, introducing the paradox of development, whereby communities rich in social capital in beautiful environmental settings may be the product of their own demise.