Few people come to Gunning, NSW, population 530, for something to read. Before 1993, people came because they couldn’t avoid it. The Hume Highway used to bring 3000 semitrailers a day along the main street. ‘At least you got to read the bumper stickers,’ one resident said when I moved here’. Because it was sure as hell impossible to talk.’
The local real estate agent tells me that, when the bypass was built, farmers were compensated $1,000 an acre for the land that was reclaimed for the new freeway. The figure is so much higher than what land will bring now, it causes rancour. It keeps getting quoted by people who need some yardstick with which to measure their sense of loss. I bought a three-bedroom house for about the cost of a five-year-old family sedan without airbags. The agent told me, with surprising candour, that I might never get my money back.