PLANNER: Byron Shire Councillor Alan Hunter.
PLANNER: Byron Shire Councillor Alan Hunter. Francis Cloake

Plan without vision a plan to fail

THE council is currently entering the planning season for the next financial year, which means almost everything is being assessed against community expectation and the reality of what can be financed to try to end up with a budget that is balanced and can be funded.

However it is becoming increasingly more difficult to do this for a variety of reasons, but all based on the fact the council hasn't yet worked out a way to finance the dream that is the "Green Dream”.

Let's start with the council's Vision Statement: "Culturally rich and thriving communities living in harmony, responding positively to the challenges of our world and leading by example”.

Our Mission Statement is even less inspirational: "Byron Shire working for a better future”.

While not many would disagree with the sentiment, how could anyone be guided in their planning by such a lot of vague waffle?

Population pressure has the biggest single impact on our current, and future, quality of life experiences and we need to focus on that first.

There's no doubt about the pressure we face in the shire and it's highly unlikely that pressure will subside any time soon, in fact it is reasonable to expect the population will continue to increase whether we like it or not.

The State Government has projected we will need another 3200 dwellings by 2036 to match a projected increased population of 5500 across the shire.

These figures are based on the NSW Planning and Environment annual average growth rate for every five-year period from 2001 to 2031.

Projections are the number of dwellings needed to provide private housing for all projected households. The projections assume that one household occupies one dwelling and an additional adjustment has been made to account for those dwellings that may be unoccupied.

The dwelling projections are not targets, nor are they a projection of future dwelling construction and they include no assumption about the type of dwelling the projected household will live in.

The critical issue here is not so much the actual numbers but the fact the pressures we are currently experiencing living in the shire will remain in the years ahead until we put into plan either a significant increase in the rate at which we increase housing supply or restrict population growth.

The thought that our tourist population continues (to rise) at the same rate could see us have to host 3.3million tourists (per year), meaning we will be providing another 1370 bed nights.

The issue is not whether we agree with the figures, rather whether we have a plan of where we might best place new accommodation facilities, houses and associated infrastructure such as carparks, roads, water, power, public spaces, rubbish, sewerage and water.

To dismiss West Byron as the plan of the devil - as a good few who in an earlier council were quick to send it to the State Government for approval did and now are so vocal in their opposition to it - confirms the distrust the general public have for local government.

Interestingly it seems to be Greens supporters, who moved here in droves, who decry new developments like West Byron at the cost of decent, hard-working businesspeople and families who just want a place to call home.

West Byron could be a big step forward in meeting the challenges outlined above.

Without suitable planning, we end up with unplanned, unfunded and unorganised granny flats and secondary dwellings in all areas of our shire with associated conflicts between neighbours over noise, car spaces, access, minimising the setbacks and lack of public space.

The traffic issues on Ewingsdale Road are a result of poor infrastructure design that needs fixing now. To use this as a reason not to approve West Byron is ridiculous because it is already not working as it should.

West Byron could be our chance to get at least 25per cent of this population projection covered in a well planned and designed way.

Council needs to start focusing on numbers in all aspects of the tasks ahead, starting with our vision, which needs to include a population estimation, not a target but an agreed number on which the community, including businesses, can plan ahead.

I believe our Vision Statement should read: "Culturally rich and thriving communities of 40,000 permanent residents living in harmony, responding positively to the challenges of our world in a balanced and progressive way by 2036”.


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