Welcome to this week’s editorial, It must be hard being The Chief Eurobodalla Town Planner, in charge of the vision of where we call home. Once upon a time the shire was natural bushland and ocean foreshore as far as the eye could see. Our first nation peoples moved from one camp to another as the seasons moved, sourcing food and shelter. The land provided a bounty and was seen by the first European settlers as a place to be plundered. First to go were our forests to meet the demands of Sydney and its rapid growth in housing. Next came the farms to feed that rapid growth. Even our granite was exported to build the edifices of this “new” land. In the Lands office in Sydney cartographers with various coloured pencils drew lines that criss-crossed the region and dissected Eurobodalla into land parcels to be sold and farmed. Next came the design of towns, placed conveniently by rivers and bays to be serviced by ships that could carry the plunder away while bringing new settlers to the area. In time roads were established to fast track the process. And they came. They came with dreams of a new life, a fresh start, of wealth, of families, security and a quality of life that gave them reward and purpose. Only just in front of the groundswell of new arrivals were the surveyors. In days of old they were also the town planners who had the task of finding a suitable place for a town, setting it out and then organising for titles to be registered for sale. The first town in Eurobodalla was Broulee Island. And what a town it was with hotels and brothels cheek by jowl with shops, services, a police station and courthouse.
In time Broulee Island was disbanded as everyone moved to the new town of Moruya that offered so much more. Busily, in back rooms, the surveyors and town planners were desperately trying to keep a few steps ahead of the continual stream of new residents wanting to settle. Rural land boundaries were easy. But planning of towns was so much harder, mainly because it required the use of several coloured pencils instead of just black ink. The colours were essential to denote what might be left as reserves, what might remain in the ownership of the Crown. They established zones of where to build shops and where to place cemeteries. The layout of our towns in the Eurobodalla are not defined by today’s town planners but of the surveyors of yesteryear who were visionaries of what might be in years to come. They set the skeleton of the towns we now call home. They also named the streets, the creeks and the rivers. The town centre was surveyed in 1850 by surveyor Parkinson and the town gazetted in 1851. You might be interested to note the first street names that Parkinson thought of (below)
In the end however, he changed his mind and, as there was a blacksmith on the main track in to the town, it was named Vulcan Street. Campbell Street owed its name to the squatter, Queen Street to patriotism and Church Street to the Catholic Church's presence there. Land sales commenced in 1852. Each of our towns share a similar history in their formation. But there was a problem with all of this. While people might own the new lots they had the audacity to build whatever they wanted on them. Brothels next to churches, hotels next to homes. There were wattle and daub humpies on the main street next door to fine stone houses. Basically there were no rules. It took fifty years but eventually New South Wales introduced the Local Government Act 1906 designed to consider building regulations and building standards. A decade later saw the introduction of the Local Government Act 1919, which was New South Wales’ introduction to the notion of “Town Planning” which saw the restriction of less desirable or undesirable development. From then on the bureaucrats took over with their colour pencils making sure that everyone complied with the many new rules they created. Town Planners became very important. They controlled what could be built, how it was built and where it could be built. That control continues today and the shire that we call home is a testament to the vision of Town Planners gone by who crafted urban expansion and the coastal developments of our smaller seaside villages. Only last week we were reminded of the role of visionaries we have in our town planners when the current Town Planner remined us that 30 years ago 414,000 m2 of Council land at Dalmeny was zoned for residential development. We also recently discovered that Council planned on extending the Broulee Urban Development Zone that would see the destruction of endangered Bangalay forests over 20 years ago, and that the proposed foreshore development of Coila Lake has been in the pipework for 30 years. It is no surprise that the revelations of such substantial urban development comes as a surprise, and even a shock, to those who moved to the region seeking #allkindsofnatural on the #naturecoast. Little did many of our newer residents realise that the quiet little cul-de-sac in the Estuary Estate would become a major thoroughfare to a new estate. Little did newly arrived Broulee residents in the last twenty years realise that a major swathe of trees and natural habitat would be bulldozed to make way for cheek by jowl housing. But the reality is that this council, some thirty years ago, placed a notice in the local paper that said they were changing their zones and invited submissions from the public asking what they thought of earmarking land for development in thirty years time. Based on a likelihood of zero submissions Council’s Town Planners declared they had accrued out public consultation and everyone was happy. They zoned the land and ensured any Council land was classified Operational. Those good folk thirty years ago unknowingly delivered what we have today, an open mandate for Eurobodalla Council to do as it wishes, to clear as it wishes, to expand urban boundaries as it chooses because that gained the sanction of the community thirty years ago.
Buoyed by such authorisation the Council finds it quite annoying that the entire community are not aware of what was agreed to thirty years ago. In recent weeks the Council has had to deal with the Broulee community followed by the Dalmeny community, and soon to face the Tuross Head community asking if the planning that was approved thirty years ago is actually appropriate to a world that is far more environmentally aware, especially in light of climate change and the fires that ripped through so much of our region. Certainly something the community of thirty years ago could never have envisioned. But rather than seek to have a new conversation with the community; rather than to accept that there are so many in the community aware of decisions made thirty years ago our Council instead coldly states: There is no legal requirement to advise the community through public notice or to seek feedback through public exhibition of land dealings concerning operational land. The community has been consulted via past landuse planning and Local Environment Plan processes that have resulted in the land’s current zoning. Of greater concern is that the Chief Town Planner of today are setting in place the future of the shire with their colour pencils, changing lines, altering zones, moving goal posts and we, the present community, might well be endorsing a future for those not yet born by failing to see a Notice in the Paper seeking submissions to a vision held by a man with a handful of pencils. Until next—lei