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the planning game

Dear Beagle readers, No doubt those in the Eurobodalla are equally interested in the recent announcements and discussions that are happening around the South East and Tablelands Regional Plan 2036 which looks to establish a borderless region "in Australia’s most geographically diverse natural environment with the nation’s capital at its heart". The intentions of the Plan are to set four goals for the region: A connected and prosperous economy A diverse environment interconnected by biodiversity corridors Healthy and connected communities Environmentally sustainable housing choices You can read the plan here: the planning game …

The Bega Valley Shire Residents & Ratepayers Association (BVSRRA) refers to the South East and Tablelands Regional Plan 2036 & the confirmation by Bega Valley Shire Council Mayor, Cr Kristy McBain, that she had held discussions with the NSW Minister for Lands & Forestry, the Hon Paul Toole, about the need for the state government to release crown land to cater to the forecast population growth in the Bega Valley Shire.

The BVSRRA questions the authority of Cr McBain to enter into such discussions with the Minister, or anyone else, without the matter being formally considered & approved by council, let alone without the issues having been canvassed through normal planning processes, including consulting with the community.

The BVSRRA believes that the latest regional plan, unveiled with yet another big announcement by the Member for Bega, the Minister for Planning & Cr McBain, is just another grab bag of empty pretensions, so far as the Bega Valley is concerned.

Stripping away all the hyperbole, including the re-announcement of the South East Regional Hospital (SERH) & Eden Port projects, the new regional plan is primarily concerned with the development of the region outside the Bega Valley, but in particular focused on Canberra & Queanbeyan.

In spruiking the development opportunities highlighted in the plan, our politicians have had a great deal to say about the anticipated growth opportunities expect to arise in the region over the next 20 years although, from the perspective of the BVSRRA, there is a great deal more talk than there is substance.

For her part, Cr McBain has made much of the growth opportunities in the Bega Valley, predicating the basis of her discussions with the Minister for Lands & Forestry on her claim that the state government needs to release crown land to satisfy the alleged looming housing boom.

Of course, as anyone who has listened to our politicians at all levels will understand that these ostentatious pronouncements are primarily intended to convey the impression that they are actually ‘doing things’ to enhance the future of the region, when in actual fact, what the community really wants is for basic services to be addressed to ensure that we & visitors to the area can enjoy quality clean water, that our sewerage is managed in an environmentally effective manner & that we have reasonable roads to access our community.

As a case in point, the NSW Department of Planning report confirms that the permanent population of the valley will grow by a tiny 2,650 people over the next 20 years (an average of 140 people a year or 0.004%).

At the same time, the report makes the absurd claim that this increase in population will give rise to a need for an additional 2,350 dwellings over the same period. This figure simply does not withstand even the most basic scrutiny as it suggests that each new dwelling will be occupied by 1.1 new residents, when even the department’s own numbers acknowledge a resident to dwelling ratio of 2.13, suggesting that the number of new dwellings required will be no more than 1,340 or 67 per annum over the next 20 years.

The association believes that there is more than adequate stock of housing land available to meet foreseeable community needs & that the push to access crown land for new housing is based on unjustified speculation and would only serve the interests of a few developers at the expense of the larger community.

Certainly Cr McBain has offered no evidence in support of her claim that the government should be releasing crown land to meet forecast housing demand.

Nevertheless, as the report makes clear, releasing crown land is not the best way to address development needs, but rather that:

  • Focusing growth in existing centres rather than isolated land releases is a sustainable option because it takes advantage of existing job markets, commercial & retail opportunities, & infrastructure such as public transport (p51).

More specifically for the Bega Valley, the report states that housing needs should:

  • Ensure residential growth in the coastal zone does not impact Bega’s natural advantage.

  • Consolidate rural residential growth in high demand catchments near existing developments & infrastructure.

  • Implement long-term development plans for the Shire’s villages (p59).

Regardless of the accuracy of the claims being made about the development of the region over the next 20 years, the fact remains that government, including local councils, have a responsibility to address planning needs in a disciplined, professional fashion & in accordance with planning regulations, including consulting with the community on land use strategies, so as to ensure that its real needs are addressed.

John Richardson


Bega Valley Shire Residents & Ratepayers Association

Above: looking over the fence: Are Mayor Innes and the Eurobodalla Planners considering the Plan and its projections - where is their Rural Lands Strategy up to ?