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Editorial February 18th 2022

Welcome to this week’s editorial, The Broulee residents are protesting about the next stage of development that will see another swathe of Bangalay forest destroyed to accommodate eighty one new homes. Meanwhile the Dalmeny community wait in trepidation of what will come of the staged developments that are now planned to destroy forest land and provide house blocks for several hundred new homes. We are told people want to come and live here. That is understandable. We have much going as a place to live. Where ‘live’ is the key word. We live here because it is not there. The Eurobodalla IS natural, laid back, open, free, inviting, affordable, evolving, stimulating, convenient to the outside world if need be and almost unspoilt. Families choose to live here for the quality of life they can provide to themselves and their children. There is less traffic, less pollution, less crime and less chaos. So many reasons to want to live here—and because of that they are coming, in droves. But where will these new folks live? And what awaits them in the subdivisions that are planned? If we look at Broulee for example we will find tiny, cleared blocks where trees once stood, ready for two storey ‘homes’ of mundane designs that have four bedrooms, a TV room, a double garage and a handkerchief backyard abutting the neighbours ’dream home’ that looks just the same.

To quote a previous Mayor “we don’t want to look like Canberra”. But that is what we have become. A Canberra satellite that clears trees to make subdivisions so that tikky-tacky houses can stand shoulder to shoulder in which their families can ’live’. But where are the Town Planners. Where are the professionals who studied the visions of how humans might live a quality, aesthetic life within a community that celebrates their needs and recognises that a planned and considered layout offers so much more to a life well lived. The new subdivisions have no green space other than drainage reserves because Council doesn’t want to accept the impost of maintenance. They don’t want trees on those reserves for the same reason. Once they demanded a proportion of public reserve be set aside in any new development for a playground or park. Now they don’t want it and tell residents to drive to a regional playground or field if they want that facility. It is now a rare sight to see kids playing in the street. Lives are changing and where we live is changing as well as our idea of what a home is changes. Over the past few decades land sizes have shrunk. Now the minimum block size in Eurobodalla is 450m2. If you want to buy such a block in Tuross it will cost you $400,000. And that is before you lodge a DA to build a small house that will probably cost you another $500,000. For a young family the entry level for a home the Eurobodalla is now $700,000 plus. Property prices are surging, cost of building and materials is climbing weekly and rentals have become a rarity. “Something must be done” declares everyone but there are no solutions forthcoming. “It’s the Federal Government’s fault!!” some declare while others blame State Government, Local Government and even legal investments that provide accommodation to the driving force of our tourism industry. With no AirBnB’s we have less accommodation options for tourists. Should these be filled with homeless baristas and waitstaff, at discounted rates and at a financial cost to the owners? The reality is that we do have a housing shortage. Where once we had rental many have sold to become the homes of our new arrivals. There are fewer holiday rentals as many of these also made it to the market. This squeezed the rental market even more so and by way of supply and demand the rental costs climbed as rentals became rarer to find. We saw as a consequence families being forced out on to the street as their rentals sold from under them. Others couldn’t afford the increases. Low wage workers had little option and any considering moving to the region found they were unable to, even if they had work, as there was no where to stay. “But Council must do something!!” was the cry. But what can they do? Council said they sold the Dalmeny land to play their part in alleviating the housing crisis. But what will become of it? What will become of the trees, the animals, the birds and the “all kinds of Natural” that first attracted people to the coast. Will it be “just like Canberra”, or worse, just like the new Broulee with its barren earth allotments? Just imagine if we had a proactive council. Imagine if we had Town Planners that thought outside of boxes and applied humanity to their visions. Imagine if we could rethink what a development could look like and make it a place where people wanted to truly live and not just exist. Imagine this…. (and yes, it is controversial and there will be an outcry from NIMBYs) Twenty one years ago the Eurobodalla Council decided it wanted to sell the grazing lots at Tuross Head. These are the paddocks you drive through as you enter the town with Tuross Lake on one side of the ridge and Coila Lake on the other. The sale would have been a marvellous windfall for their coffers. But the community said NO and organised to have the community owned land classified as Cultural heritage. In just a few years the current lease to the local farmer to agist his cows will end. What then will Council do? No doubt they already have plans to once again challenge the classification and might well declare the need for the land for housing. Their idea would be to sell it to a developer and let the developer make of it as they wish. Much like will happen in Dalmeny. But what if… the community said “Yes, you can develop some of the land on the northern side of the ridge on the condition that—Council is the developer and sets out to provide land parcels at greater than 800m2 for an average lot price of $250,000, to be sold ONLY to first home buyers/builders and that every house has a 6kw solar system that feeds to a community owned battery where they can, as shareholders, obtain affordable electricity and have a dividend of any surplus after costs. What if Council stipulated that every house have a 32amp plug for a solar vehicle, that there be suitable street trees planted, that there be common grounds available for local community gardens, that a playground be installed, that roads be designed for pedestrian safety and that houses be separated from each other by at least three metres. Imagine if Council stipulated a shopping and café precinct down by the water where residents could come and eat, promenade along a boardwalk foreshore, launch a kayak or cycle around the lake to meet up with the existing 7km cycleway. Where there could be a piazza that was community space to just sit and relax and enjoy. A place where it was possible to be human and enjoy being human. So many of us have the fondest memories of European cities where the town has a focal point like the little squares and piazzas that provide a point of connectivity. If we look at our current town focal points they don’t stack up. Town squares with vibrancy and life have been replaced with carparks and afterthought. Imagine a village of a few hundred houses, nestled under a ridge away from sight, facing north over a stunning lake with considered roads, considered design and a central square by the foreshore for all to enjoy that doesn’t require the removal of a single tree, yet plants so many more, isn’t a pie in the sky idea. The land is community, the intent is community, it can even be not for profit given there will be taxes and rates forthcoming. But there will be opposition from the “yeah buts” and the critics. And most likely we will return to our clear fell Broulee Model because a ‘town planner’ argued it was too hard to go outside of the box and far too difficult to suggest that where we live, and how we live, could be so much better. Until next lei