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sleight of hand … concerns in the south

Dear Beagle Editor, We note with interest the periodic power play that our Shires have between towns that feel they have the right to claim they are the Regional Centre. As is your example between Batemans Bay and Moruya it is often a third party who incorrectly bestows that "right". Moruya has long been the Administrative centre of your Shire with Council offices, the primary hospital and the TAFE however it too is taking more and more of a second-tier role to Batemans Bay that has now been attributed as regional with Centrelink, the Hanging Rock Complex, the University of Wollongong annex and now the proposed new Regional Aquatic Centre. Such focused concentration however comes at a cost. Your readers might be interested in our latest media release. sleight of hand …

The Bega Valley Shire Residents & Ratepayers Association (BVSRRA) believes that the recent attempt to relocate the Regional Art Gallery from Bega to Merimbula represents part of a larger effort on the part of some within our community to undermine Bega’s designated status as the regional centre.

The background on this matter goes back to 2006, when Bega Valley Shire Council, having fully consulted the community & with the support of the NSW Department of Planning (DOP), adopted its Commercial Centres Strategy, which established the framework for commercial development within the shire for the next decade or more.

Previously the NSW Department of Planning had consulted with council to determine the location of the regional centre, as part of an integrated approach to planning in the region. Given its central location within the shire, Bega was subsequently recognised as the regional centre under the South Coast Regional Strategy & as such, was designated to become the focal point for regional scale shopping facilities.

This professionally developed strategy was supported by the majority of people within the community & provided the basis for proper planning in each area.

Unfortunately, in recent years, council’s commitment to the strategy has wavered coincidental to the election of a few pro-Merimbula development councillors, which in turn has given rise to support for the rezoning of land at Tura Beach to accommodate a Bunnings Warehouse. This push has come in spite of the fact that it does not comply with the Commercial Centres Strategy or the state government’s own South Coast Regional Strategy.

The planning proposal in support of the Bunnings development has been twice been rejected by the (DOP), as well as the Southern Joint Regional Planning Panel, as it does not comply with the Commercial Centres Strategy.

In rejecting the planning proposal (supported by council), the DOP stated that if council wanted to pursue the development, it must first review its Commercial Centres Strategy & the retail hierarchy for its centres.

Council has repeatedly ignored that DOP direction & the BVSRRA has recently been advised that council will shortly initiate a “narrow scoped review” that will deal only with the Merimbula, Pambula & Tura centres & not include Bega or the rest of the shire.

The BVSRRA believes that council’s continual flagrant disregard of the DOP’s directions acts only to serve the commercial interests of Bunnings, while undermining the commercial viability of Bega as the regional centre.

The problem has been exacerbated even further by council’s push for Aldi to go into Merimbula, rather than Bega, & the most recent proposal to relocate the Regional Gallery from Bega to Merimbula, completely undermining the current Commercial Centres Strategy.

Meanwhile, actions that undermine the current Commercial Centres Strategy at the expense of Bega also undermine the viability of the already struggling Sapphire Marketplace centre, reliant as it is on the successful establishment of other businesses in Bega to underpin its success as a viable regional commercial hub.

If council believes that its current strategy is out of date, as has publicly been claimed by some councillors, then the BVSRRA believes that it is incumbent on council to initiate a full shire wide review of that strategy.

The BVSRRA has this week written to the NSW Department of Planning requesting it to intervene in the matter & direct council to undertake a full review of its Commercial Centres Strategy as an essential precursor to further considering the Bunnings Limited matter.

John Richardson


Bega Valley Shire Residents & Ratepayers Association


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