Archive | September, 2011

Submission for the North Wyong Structure Plan NSW Australia

20 Sep

The North Wyong Structure Plan is one of the most important documents compiled for the Central Coast. It identifies the pattern or template for development in the fastest growing areas of the Central Coast, the areas north of the township of Wyong.

The plan has been produced from the objectives of the Central Coast Strategy 2008, which is the main future looking document for the whole Central Coast.

The relationship of this plan to the Draft Central Coast Regional Transport Strategy (CCRTS)

Recently, the Central Coast has had the opportunity to be presented with the Central Coast Regional Transport Strategy.  This document although still in draft, in our opinion, was not able to satisfactorily identify the future transport needs of the Central Coast. By not using demographic trend data to show the huge needs in transport for the future of the Central Coast it was not able to properly analyze future transport trends and plan projects that relate to these trends. As this plan relies on the CCRTS for transport planning into the future we feel that the transport component of this plan is inadequate.

This document however, while only touching on transport has been able to show the capacity that the Central Coast will be able to contribute to NSW and the growth potential of the area covered by the North Wyong Structure Plan.

Trend from Private to Public Transport

The Plan outlines a potential of up to 10,000 new jobs with the release of developable land over the scope of the Plan. With this increase in employment opportunities there will be an increasing burden on transport infrastructure to move commuters. To increase efficiencies and reduce carbon emissions the Plan should move with the trend away from private forms of transport to public transport. This planned trend will help avoid cost blowouts on roads funding and time wasted by commuters waiting on congested roads.

It is expected that a large proportion of the jobs will be filled by workers from the southern parts of the Central Coast and Newcastle. It would be ideal that everyone living in the region would be able to walk or ride to work, but this would not be practical considering individual life style choices. However, workers will examine the feasibility of how to get to a particular job. This is where transport plans and transport planning must use a forward planning model to help enable large parts of the work force to easily access public transport.

The CCRTS, of which the Plan relies as a blue print to achieve sustainable transport is lacking in vision.  The Plan lacks a vision for transition from the medium term planning to the long term planning. The Plan, for example, relies on the CCRTS to supply the needed road infrastructure for the massive amounts of movement that is planned within the Plan.  This movement must be planned so that workers leave their cars at home and travel by public transport to work, either locally or from the regions. Bus services must become a seamless option for commuters.

Extractive industries planning

As identified in the Plan there are a number of natural constraints both now and into the future.  These include: 1. loss of biodiversity due to urban expansion; 2. pressures on the urban and natural landscape by mine subsidence; and, 3. potentially non developable areas in the short and medium term caused by extractive industries. The latter will become a balancing exercise between the release of land for urban purposes, and land for extractive industries. It is noted that the Plan includes these extractive industries as an asset to the region, given potential jobs creation opportunities.

We believe extractive industries are incompatible with urban areas because of the many negative effects related to these industries (i.e. impact on urban and natural environments).  We thus oppose any extractive industries within the Plan.  North Wyong should be reserved for urban development and low impact industry.

Wetlands and flooding

Other constraints mentioned in the Plan include both flooding and sea level rise. Flooding is an issue in the North Wyong given much of the land is low lying. Many of these low lying areas are designated wetlands. With the extra hard stand areas planned that will form house roofs and road surfaces, ways of moving accumulated water away from the more fragile wetland environments will need to be addressed.

Climate Change Issues

Sea level rise is part of a larger environmental challenge, that of a changing climate throughout the world. As a result the Wyong north area is likely to experience sea level rise

(see report on climate change)

http://www.cen.org.au/images/stories/Issues/Planning/climate_change/planning_for_climate_change_r2a.pdf).

Climate change impacts will increase constraints on developments in low lying areas, and in particular around waterways. In addition, as a result of climate change it is expected that increased precipitation in coastal regions both in volume and intensity will also affect constraints on development.  In summary, climate change issues should be addressed in the Plan.

A Social Impact Strategy Needed

The Plan has not explicitly included the growth of education institutions or mass movement of students to and from school.

The Plan seems to assume that students would get to school as they always have, by bus or walking.  However, unless culture changes, an ever increasing amount of parents will be transporting their children to school, by large family cars. These cars put a large burden on the local road infrastructure.  As a result we suggest that the Plan address the social and transport issues within a social impact strategy on this transport factor for the whole of the Central Coast and in particular North Wyong.

Finally, the Plan should address the ever increasing instances of vandalism and graffiti inWyong Shire. An investigation should address the causes and the social drivers for this behavior and propose some viable solutions.

Bushell’s Ridge growth and a rail and bus interchange at Bluehaven

The Bushells Ridge area is expected to become a commercial and light industrial area, and will be supported by housing in the new Warnervale Town Centre, urban expansion in Wyee, Gwandalan and existing urban areas such as Blue Haven etc.  It is also expected that many job holders will come from Newcastle region and Gosford region. This trend will see long convoluted bus trips from the new Warnervale station to the Bushells Ridge industrial estates. This lack of efficiency will ensure that commuters opt to use their cars to travel to work. Our long standing suggestion is to include both rail yards and a commuter station at Blue Haven. This would reduce the distance to work for the commuters and allow a good bus service from the rail to Bushells Ridge. This would also enable a range of bus services to connect at this interchange from Charlestown, Swansea, Gwandalan, Mannering Park,Norah Head and Lakehaven also providing a good connection to the Lake Macquarie bays and the beach from the rail.

See:http://www.cen.org.au/images/stories/Issues/Planning/wyong/planning%20public%20transport%20structures%20in%20north%20wyong%20the%20%20%20%20%20%20bluehaven%20bus%20and%20train%20interchange%202nd%20ed.%20rev%202%2015.01.2010.pdf

Biodiversity Preservation

We commend the Department of Planning on taking the initiative to not only plan for urban and industrial activities within the Plan but to plan for natural areas that will continue to carry a pre-settlement signature of the biodiversity in the Wyong Shire from the mountains west of Wyong to the Sea.

We also commend the inclusion of the proposed Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water (DECCW) Central Coast Conservation Plan (CCCP) in any analysis of biodiversity within the Plan. This is needed to give scientific rigor and proper priority to natural resource and ecological attributes for future generations. Incorporating the CCCP would highlight the importance of ecology to overall environmental health of North Wyong. By detailing, for example, the conservation values of the landscape within the two major corridor systems planned for the sub region, it will enable planners and ecologists to agree on the most appropriate planning decisions in regard to biobanking.

By the plan identifying the green corridor areas it ensures that future generations will be able to appreciate the aesthetic attributes of the pre-settlement environment.

Biobanking the natural resources of North Wyong

Currently biobanking is written into the legislation (with DECCW outlining some guidelines). Some developers however (often via contracted companies) are attempting to water down these principals and use the legislative opportunity of biobanking for advantage. One advantage that appears to be sought is to reduce costs by not doing various environmental studies as required by the legislation outside of biobanking agreements. We thus recommends that the Plan, in conjunction with the CCCP, close this potential loop-hole by incorporating more stringent requirements on biobanking in North Wyong (e.g. when a plot of land is to be subject to a biobanking agreement). As a result, with a biobanking policy in place, strategic corridor land can be part of the biobanking process. This will ensure the connectivity desired, providing a range of elevations for the preserved land and a diversity of biota from the various elevations. Overall this would ensure a working ecology is preserved.

Green Corridor Planning

As a general comment we are encouraged by the inclusion of green corridors within the Plan. We agree with the Plan’s assessment that the unique biodiversity of the Central Coast should be preserved in a way that allows movement of biota throughout the system. (i.e. due to external environmental changes).  We, however questions whether this plan will properly cater for the expected north south biota migration opportunities that will be needed to accommodate the effects of climate change (noted above). We ask that within the Plan some consideration for biota migration be made, relying on the CCCP analysis of this issue. Finally, it is encouraging to see two clear corridors have been planned, one within the Lake Munmorah area and the other within Wadalba area. The Plan should ensure the pre-settlement floral diversity within these corridors is protected.

We agree with the Plan that the land within these corridor areas should be explicitly zoned for the purpose the land is intended and no other, so as to ensure no encroachment or fragmentation of the land is possible by developers, Wyong Council or the State.

Land Management and Land values of Green corridor Lands

We are concerned about pressure brought to bear on both state and local governments by land owners who have a perception that their green corridor land will be devalued by the Plan. Given this scenario, in the interests of transparency, it would be worthwhile identifying the benefits of these green regions more clearly in the Plan. A user’s guide to biobanking should be considered, identifying clearly the land market produced for green corridor land through the land development process. The guide should show land owners that their land will not lose value but become more valuable under the biobanking opportunity presented through State environmental legislation. Other options for Green Corridor land include Voluntary Conservation Agreements (VCA) and the purchase of these lands by State and local government due to the importance of these lands for the future of the regional landscape. Both the VCAs and the government buyback opportunities will increase the scarcity of land available for biobanking, thus enabling the price of land to be supported at a higher level within the corridor systems.

A plan should be developed within the CCCP detailing the management of these corridor lands. The Plan should reference this issue, and defer to the CCCP. Current management practices of the small amount of designated corridor land at Wadalba have not been managed well to date. (see Attached Document on the History of Wadalba Hill) We suggest that the management of the corridor lands should be overseen by the DECCW. That private contractors and local government land managers are accountable through regulations relating to the management of corridor lands. As part of these regulations, the level of management of biobanked land should be considered and managed accordingly as per the DECCW 13 point Code.

Corridor lands are a valuable environmental assets and the Plan should give major consideration to the value and future management of green corridor lands.

Aboriginal Culture

We commend the Plan on its recognition of the need to preserve the remnants of Aboriginal culture in the sub region. The Plan states that Aboriginal sites identified by artifacts and markings need to be considered as land is developed. However, the Plan is less clear when explaining cultural sites that have little surface evidence related to the cultural setting of Aboriginal history. We believe that the Plan should be more specific about the identification and preservation of places of meeting, as well as culturally significant places that have only the landscape as a remnant of the history associated with past Aboriginal activities. One potential example of this is associated with Wadalba Hill. (Ref. Aboriginal Law Lady Elder Marjorie Woodrow’s application regarding Indigenous Heritage East Dept of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts and under the Commonwealth Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act (ATSIHPA) 1984)

Wadalba East Town Centre

The Plan shows a new town centre to be placed at Wadalba East on the eastern side of Wadalba Hill.  The Plan indicates that this will be a centre that will have a variety of planning zonings including commercial zones and medium and high density residential zones, supported by some industrial zones. How does this new town relate to the existing town centre of Wadalba?  Will the old town centre continue to develop into a sub-regional centre as first planned, with higher density housing and high intensity commercial opportunities? Please provide some commentary within the Plan on the nexus between these towns.

Tertiary Education Opportunities

The Plan identifies that the Shire has more students leaving school earlier compared with the State average. It is most likely that students are not taking up this option who live in the North Wyong area because of the lack of access to University type institutions in the north Wyong area and the Central Coast at large.

Lack of access is likely to be due to two factors:

  1. The availability of suitable transport to an appropriate tertiary institution that a student can and has an interest in attending. Public transport on the Central Coast is used in the main by the young travelers and the elderly. If young travelers cannot access their chosen institution by public transport they cannot attend classes. Access to these institutions must be time effective, both in length of time for the commute and when the commute needs to take place.
  2. The institution must be within an acceptable distance from the student’s place of residence. Currently the only option for students wishing to attend university tertiary education is the Ourimbah Campus of the University of Newcastle. The University’s Callahan campus is not served well by public transport and many Sydney universities require a long commute by train after an extended time on the local bus network.

With the expected growth to the region in population to the year 2036, it is probable that the number of students resident in the North Wyong area will be an additional 20,000 attending both public and high schools.  Out of this there should be a significant number desiring to commence University studies. We thus need a university institution in the North Wyong sub-region, possibly at Warnervale near the new Station.

Affordable housing

Within the Plan there are a number of residential building densities identified (i.e.as high as 15 dwellings per hectare). If these are to be ground level dwellings, what social impact would this density have on the neighborhood?  This subject should be investigated in the Social Impact strategy as outlined above.

In addition, with such high density at a ground level, would this be a model for access to affordable housing in the North Wyong area?  Can affordable housing be established in a different format and density or is affordable housing excluded from the North Wyong area altogether. Affordable housing needs to be clearly identified in the Plan.

Review of Plan objectives

We commend the Plan on referencing the Central Coast Regional Strategy’s (CCRS) objectives and clearly identifying where the Plan sits in the forward planning of the Central Coast. It is important that the Plan fit into a larger planning framework. By referencing this plan as an action of the CCRS, the Plan is elevated to a status it needs.

Conclusion

Overall the strategy has given hope for a bright and prosperous future for the North Wyong sub-region. It identifies the large potential for jobs growth with a growing population. It identifies that even with the growth in population the natural environment is important to preserve for a number of reasons. It proposes green corridor links from the coast to the lands west of the freeway, which will revolutionize the current planning process undertaken by Wyong Shire Council.

We look forward to reading the amended Plan with the above considerations included.

by David Holland

Bachelor of App. Sc. Environmental Planning, 

Grad. Dip. Environmental Management

In co-operation with

Dr. Ray Rauscher

B.E. (Civil Engr), M. Town Planning, PhD. Sustainable Resource Management

Central Coast – NSW – a Regional Growth Area

19 Sep

by Dr. Ray Rauscher

Introduction

To see the full report: PDF format  

Many residents of the NSW Central Coast consider that their lifestyle is adversely impacted by a lack of adequate planning and a lack of timely provision of infrastructure to meet current and future community needs.  Planning is local and lacks co-ordination; infrastructure and services have not kept pace with population increases. The local economy provides insufficient jobs; many families are experiencing social stress resulting from excessive travel time and cost. Finally, almost all indicators show degradation of the local environment of the Central Coast.

Current governance arrangements are clearly not effective – evidenced by delays, frequent disagreement and blame shifting between Federal, State and local government.  Projects funded by the Federal government are delayed by State/local priorities and approvals[i].  The State government has failed to release the draft Regional Strategy, yet requires that Wyong Shire Council planning demonstrate compatibility with unknown requirements.  The previous NSW government ‘called in’ three (3) major local projects in Wyong Shire because of complexities faced by local government and related state significant factors.  Water supply became a crisis, as a result of many years of delayed decisions as well as the drought. The two local councils still do not agree over possible solutions including desalination and recycling of water.   Despite clear indications that the environment is being adversely affected by current development, Gosford City Council in 2006 disbanded its Environment Department Unit and Wyong Shire Council voted not to put its draft Conservation Strategy on public exhibition in 2004 (remains in draft).

Sustainable Communities Research believes that planning needs to recognise the Central Coast as a region of sensitive natural areas; geographically, it is separated from Sydney by national parks and the Hawkesbury River and from Newcastle by national parks and Lake Macquarie.  With a rapidly expanding population, the local community deserves commitments by all levels of governance to planning and infrastructure expenditure – at least equivalent to other developing areas in NSW such as Western Sydney, Illawarra and Newcastle.  Only with such commitments can Central Coast residents continue to enjoy a relaxed lifestyle, with a vibrant local economy, liveable social communities and a sustainable environment. Finally, a growth centre governance structure would operate cooperatively with existing Federal, State and local governments, avoiding party-political bickering which hinders current arrangements.  The growth centre organisation would work within the framework of the NSW State Plan.  It would need to plan using sustainability principles and deliver infrastructure across social, economic and environmental issues.

The paper spells out the major issues facing the Central Coast; planning that will be required to tackle these issues; and a new governance organisation to meet growth and renewal requirements.

1. Issues

Regrettably, the Central Coast, receives scant recognition as a region despite its population of some 325,000 people (bigger than Canberra). For many ‘administrative’ purposes the Central Coast is seen as an addendum or adjunct to either Northern Sydney or the Hunter[ii]– areas which have quite different demographic and planning needs.   Whilst much planning effort has gone into city areas[iii] and regional areas such as the Hunter and Illawarra have regional plans, Central Coast councils and residents still await implementation of most aspects of the Central Coast Regional Strategy…

A further problem is caused by ineffectual relationships between various governance bodies – State government and its various departments and agencies, local councils and various local authorities.  Too often these critical relationships are confrontational and combative – often over relatively trivial, localised issues and egos – rather than and collaborative and mutually supportive in seeking the best outcomes on broader and important issues[iv].  Representation of regional issues by local parliamentary representatives has failed to achieve recognition, appropriate planning or timely or adequate funding / delivery of services demanded by the large increases in population mandated by the NSW government.

Numerous community consultations over at least the last 20 years[v] have delivered no coordinated approach for funding of infrastructure.

Most keenly felt at the present time is the continued need for better water planning.Water restrictions have been in place for many years and have resulted in substantial savings in domestic usage. Despite this, residents receive daily exhortations to ‘save our water’ – an expensive PR exercise, masking inadequate planning and delayed decision-making over many years. Local government officials / water authority personnel scurry headlong into undertaking a range of  temporary / permanent – and usually expensive – ‘fixes’[vi]and Vales Point Power Station continues to use thousands of megalitres of potable water for industrial cooling.

Also keenly debated is the related issue of increasing population.  For many years, the Central Coast was the fastest growing area in NSW.  Within this growth new housing has been either medium density / high-rise redevelopment of existing centres (Gosford town centre, Terrigal, The Entrance) or single / two storey residences on increasingly smaller allotments in new areas (especially Kariong, Kincumber in Gosford City and Warnervale / Wadalba at the northern end of Wyong Shire). The issue of population management and sustainable growth was debated in Wyong Council (9/8/06), with a resolution to call for submissions and hold a Population, Infrastructure and Services Summit (5/10/06). Sustainable Communities Research addressed Council and presented a paper[vii] before the debate. 

Rapid increases in population have not been matched by increases in local employment.  Whilst retailing employment has significantly increased in recent years[viii], manufacturing has substantially declined and construction is cyclical. For career employees, local salaries are generally acknowledged as being 15-20% lower than would be obtained by people doing similar work in Sydney.  For many, travel to / from work is a severe time / cost burden, adversely impacting on their family life, recreation, general health / fitness and community engagement.

For the something like 30,000[ix] people who travel daily to work in Sydney / Newcastle, transport is a critical issue. Anecdotal evidence suggests local bus services do not adequately meet commuter needs, in spite of major improvements over the last two years (i.e. State provision of new buses and integrating routes). Whilst capacity does not appear to be an issue, travel times between residential areas and major railway stations are excessive[x].  Peak hour trains are typically overcrowded, with many commuters standing for up to an hour – trains frequently run late, especially in the afternoons.  Whilst there have been substantial improvements to the freeway over recent years, local roads are well below desirable capacity or standards, resulting in many traffic jams and slow progress – whether to a local job in the main centres or beginning a journey to Sydney / Newcastle.  Many older residential areas have no footpaths or kerb and guttering, making pedestrian access difficult and / or dangerous – especially for the elderly or mothers with young children.  Cycleways do not exist in many areas – even where topography is flat and ideal for such activity[xi].

Both family and social life are adversely impacted by the relative lack of local employment opportunities, lower incomes and relatively long travel times and high home-work travel costs.  There is clear evidence that family services are not coping – there are insufficient childcare places and family counselling/support services are stretched to the limit.   High levels of domestic violence/child abuse are experienced in many families; at the community level there are increasing reports of gangs, violence and vandalism of community facilities.

With some 21% of the local population aged under 14 years[xii], education services are crucial to economic prosperity and gainful employment.  These services include   preschool, primary, high school and post-school ongoing education through TAFE / VET, University and Community Colleges. There are clearly some shortfalls, especially for new schools in some areas where there have been rapid increases in population and adequate maintenance of some older facilities. The community generally however rates education as one area where the government public school sector, together with the private schools, is reasonably satisfactory.

Health services are also in heavy demand, given the proportion of the population regarded as children / youth and a higher than NSW average of the population are aged over 65 years[xiii].  Over the last 10 years, the NSW government has spent heavily on health services, upgrading Gosford Hospital and substantially increasing the facilities available at Wyong Hospital.  Apart from some staffing issues, the community would likely rate hospital services are generally good to excellent.  Access to GP and ancillary health services, including dental, still causes concern for many older people as does the issue of affordability/bulk billing (acknowledged generally as Federal government issues).

A vibrant local economy requires reliable energy / electricity.  Blackouts still occur – indicating that the electricity grid is barely coping.   The announcement of a gas turbine power station at Munmorah may alleviate the generation problem; but an adequate distribution grid is essential.  Responsible corporate citizenship requires that we reduce demand / discretionary usage wherever possible (by requiring better design / BASIX etc) and that we look to reduce our almost total reliance on coal as our prime energy source.  Giver current water shortages and the cost impositions on the community of additional pipelines, groundwater extraction and (temporary) desalination plants, using hundreds of megalitres of potable drinking water daily for industrial cooling in power stations is utterly irresponsible.  The NSW government should immediately install available technology to use recycled sewage for this purpose.

Regional business is also heavily dependent on fast, reasonably priced telecommunications services – fixed telephone, mobile, data and internet services.  Whilst there are some delays in service connections and repairs to fixed line services, mobile services have generally improved with installation of more base stations.  Internet services vary from reasonable, but relatively slow (broadband) access near exchanges to many areas where access via pair gain technology and dial-up is woefully inadequate. Such inefficiencies are a significant impediment to the economic goals of employment/productivity in a regional area where many would be happy to work part-time/from home offices if they had adequate facilities.  Inadequate communication links also hinders community participation by those who spend long hours travelling to / from work.

A casual lifestyle and a relatively unspoiled natural environment are high among the reasons many people choose to live on the Central Coast.   There is clear evidence of family stress on the Central Coast – support agencies are overwhelmed, counselling services stretched and the area has among the highest number of AVOs in NSW.  Critical factors are average lower incomes, stress caused by travel times to / from Sydney and locally, cost of travel, reduced relation time.

The environment attracts many to the Central Coast; many who visit the area are captivated by its charms and choose to live here.  Despite some recent medium – high density developments, the area remains relatively uncrowded and has a sense of space.  The area has unspoiled beaches, waterways and lakes together with hinterland valleys and forests.  Air quality is good, as there is little heavy industry.  Climate is moderate and ideal for a range of recreational outdoors activities, sporting, dining and cultural.

Local councils are required to present State of the Environment reports within their Annual Strategic Plans; regrettably, almost every indicator in the Wyong Shire SoE Report has been down since reporting started about 10 years ago[xiv].  Developing a conservation strategy for Wyong illustrates the stalemate that can develop in governance within a growth area. The draft Wyong Shire Conservation Strategy outlined the importance of balancing conservation and development. Council resolved not to place the draft strategy on public exhibition, not to apply the draft strategy to private lands and to review how the strategy would be applied to public lands. No further report has been received by Council, but it is understood a further report on the application of the strategy to public lands is being worked on.

Financing a growth region has been the foremost shortcoming of planning the Central Coast since the Gosford Wyong Structure Plan (1975 NSW Planning and Environment Commission), the last strategy adopted for the Central Coast.  Wyong Council has struggled for years with inadequate State and Federal funding in all sectors of its financing works / services in coping with growth – environment, social, infrastructure, transport (roads and community transport), community safety, etc. The structure of local governments in financing growth needs an overhaul.  Ratepayers are increasingly burdened by heavy infrastructure commitments (about 50% of the $200m+ budget), leaving less funding available for maintenance / improvements in older, more settled areas.  Additionally, the NSW government takes $7.4m in the Wyong Shire Council (06/07) budget by way of tax or levy

In general Councils do a commendable job in producing strategic financial documents under the annual Management Plan requirement. Sustainable Communities Research has completed four (4) submissions for the Community Environment Network (CEN) (Central Coast) in addressing the Wyong Shire Council Management Plan (2002/03 to 2006/07). The emphasis of each submission was on developing a new approach to local government fiscal policies based on ESD principles. Sadly, the whole process of financing a growth local government area like Wyong is under woefully inadequate governance (noted above). Recent initiatives by Council to address these matters are commendable.

The Wyong Council has struggled with inadequate State and Federal funding in all sectors of its financing works / services in coping with growth – environment, social, infrastructure, transport (roads and community transport), community safety, etc. The structure of local governments in financing growth needs an overhaul.  A disproportionate share of rates in spent subsidising new development. An examination of the roads, guttering, parks, street lighting, youth facilities at night, bus services, affordable housing, unsettled families, etc (covered earlier) suggests a new funding approach is needed by State/Commonwealth. The method of local government completing Strategic Plans needs close monitoring. The Wyong Shire Strategic Plan (2011/15) s generally does not dovetail (as prescribed under the Local Government Act) into other plans, at State (i.e. NSW State of the Environment Report) and Federal levels. The establishment of the Federal level Regional Development Australia Central Coast (RDACC) could address this question. The exhibition of the Wyong Shire Strategic Plan is too late for effective public engagement to have submissions adequately addressed and possibly influence the final Plan’s budget.

2. Planning

Planning on the Central Coast presents some unique challenges – partially due to geographic factors (mountains, Broadwater and 3 major lakes), but also due to the scattered nature of population centres, many of which have been in existence for many years, some of which are more recent.  Recent urban planning in Sydney embodies the principle of regional hubs; similar principles could be applied to the Central Coast.  With approximately 10-12 scattered larger residential areas[xv], it is critical that a network of roads / transport corridors provides access / links between where people live and where they work / shop / obtain essential services.  Regional access corridors are even more critical in that both the freeway and rail service corridor lie almost along the western boundary or the major population centres; people wishing to travel to / from this area must access these from decentralised population centres.  Conflict between local regional and off-the-Coast destination traffic is a frequent source of major congestion.

The NSW government has recognised the need for co-ordinating planning and development on a regional basis under the Greater Metropolitan Region (GMR).  Significant funds have been invested in developing holistic planning in Sydney and some in some regional areas.  The Metro Strategy[xvi]  provides for the release of land for some 220,000 dwellings over the next 25-30 years with some 30-40% of new housing in new release areas and 60-70% in existing areas.  Sustainable Communities Research completed a submission for the CEN putting a case for a Greater Metropolitan Region Strategy Based on ESD Urban Planning Principles (23/11/04) (submission available). We subscribe to the general aims of the Metropolitan Strategy, including:

“Growth is planned to occur in a sustainable way with new infrastructure planned, funded and linked to the properly sequenced release of land. Innovative planning will provide:

–   better public transport – linking bus and rail

–   right mix of houses, jobs, open and recreational space and green spaces

–   major town centres with a full range of shops, recreational facilities and services along with smaller village centres and neighbourhood shops

–   jobs available locally and within the region, reducing the demand for transport services … and cutting travel time

–   streets and suburbs planned so that residents can walk to the shops for their daily needs

–   a wide range of housing choices, including ‘traditional’ houses, smaller, lower maintenance homes, and units and terraces

–   Conservation land … to protect the region’s biodiversity and provide clean air [xvii]

The previous government established the Growth Centres Commission www.gcc.nsw.gov.au

The Growth Centres will eventually provide around 181,000 dwellings and

$7.5 billion in infrastructure for about half a million new residents.

The Commission is responsible for working with infrastructure agencies,

industry, local councils, landowners and the community to make the plans

for the Growth Centres a reality.”

 

The Growth Centres Commission’s functions are:

 

“• preparing plans for the funding and development of regional infrastructure;

  • controlling precinct planning for each precinct (or part of a precinct) within

the North West and South West Growth Centres;

  • recommending new precincts for staged land release to the Minister for

Planning;

  • administration – including collection, holding and management – of the

new Special Infrastructure Contributions to pay for regional infrastructure;

  • implementing regional infrastructure in consultation with State agencies to

support new development; and

  • negotiating with government, landowners and developers to ensure

development is facilitated in a sustainable and timely way.

 

Working with councils and landowners 

The Growth Centres Commission has established two local government

coordination committees, one for the North West and one for the South West. The

committees include elected representatives and senior staff of local councils in the

Growth Centres. 

The Commission will consult with councils and landowners in developing the plans

for each precinct in the Growth Centres. Councils will identify what types of local

infrastructure is required in the precincts, such as parks, community facilities,

drainage and local roads. 

This will result in new zonings and controls for the precincts. Over time these

controls will be incorporated into local plans when councils prepare their new

comprehensive Local Environmental Plans. The Growth Centres Commission will

work with councils to achieve this.” [xviii]

3. New Governance for the Central Coast

It has been demonstrated earlier that current governance arrangements are not delivering appropriate planning or adequate services.  Governments at all levels are becoming  increasingly aware of a general resentment of ‘spin’ and a requirement that governments at all levels deliver infrastructure and services  to meet the needs of the community.

At consultations regarding the ‘NSW State Plan – A New Direction for NSW’, the previous government received feedback from local residents expressing strong dissatisfaction with inadequate planning, lack of infrastructure, transport and basic services such as water.

Sustainable Communities Research (SCR) has completed work recently on aspects of the growth centre of Warnervale / Wadalba and Wyong Shire local government growth area.

We submit three suggestions we would like the government to consider:

1       State government extending the area of responsibility of the CCRDC to the Warnervale / Wadalba growth centre

2       State government designating Wyong Shire as a ‘Local Government Growth Area’

3       State government designating the whole of the Central Coast (Gosford / Wyong) as a Regional Growth Area

Arguments could be advanced for each of these proposals; however, our preferred option would be the latter – designating the whole of the Central Coast (Gosford / Wyong) as a Regional Growth Area. The Central Coast is a discrete region (as accepted in 2010 by the Bureau of Census) defined by national parks / Hawkesbury River in the south, mountains to the west and national parks and lakes to the north.  The region’s population shares similar lifestyle and both Gosford City and Wyong Council share many services – especially water.  It makes sense for the NSW government to plan health, hospitals, emergency services and schools on a regional rather than a LGA basis.

Planning / infrastructure challenges for Gosford City include: increased population – mainly as infill development; consolidation near existing centres/along transport corridors; linking existing residential areas to main town centres/village centres; adequate public transport, including linking bus to rail services and employment centres

Planning / infrastructure challenges for Wyong Shire include: increased population, mainly in new areas to the north (especially Warnervale / Wadalba) but also infill development/ consolidation in areas like Long Jetty/The Entrance, Wyong and possibly Toukley; adequate transport services, most of the residential areas are not along the rail corridor; employment; and, conservation, especially the 3 major lakes which are at the heart of the area.

Common planning / infrastructure challenges for both areas include: local economy as  there is insufficient local employment; over 30,000 locals travel daily to / from work in Sydney causing local morning/evening traffic congestion; unmet need for more and more trains and social disruption; largest employers are retail and construction (spasmodic);  more needs to be done by the State to stimulate and assist local small business; social challenges there is a wide income divide on the Central Coast with relatively well-off retirees contrasting with limited income young families and pensioners; there is increasing evidence of social breakdown shown in divorce, single parents, AVOs, gang violence and nuisance vandalism statistics; conservation, including SoE for both councils indicate continuing deterioration across all areas

We believe that a governance structure, including the CCRDC, would:

–     give recognition to the Central Coast as a significant region in its own right

–     assist overcome the current dysfunctional and ineffectual relationships that currently exist between local, State            and Federal governments

–        bring fresh thinking and additional resources to bear on a developing regional ‘problem’

–     act as a catalyst to a new co-operative effort between governments at all levels to integrate the planning, funding          and delivery of appropriate infrastructure to meet local needs

–     allow effective regional planning of population and essential services / infrastructure such as water, transport,            energy

–     more adequately provide for maintenance of the casual lifestyle and amenity which is so attractive to local                      residents

–     maintain and enhance the natural environment – lakes, beaches, waterways, valleys, mountains etc

–     ensure appropriate balance between consumption / use and preservation of natural resources for future              generations

Undoubtedly some will resist what may be perceived as a ‘takeover’ of local government; they should be reminded that reliance on local planning and funding resources is clearly not working; local residents are voicing their dissatisfaction in increasing numbers.

The previous NSW government responded to the need for regional planning and infrastructure delivery in Sydney (Metro Strategy, Growth Centres Commission); it also initiated regional planning in the Illawarra and Hunter regions.

Sustainable Communities Research believes that the governance structures developed for other areas may provide a useful model for a growth strategy for the Central Coast – a sustainable growth region.

Other Reports noted as available through Sustainable Communities Research.

A. Population Management and Sustainable Communities – Case Study Wyong Shire (2006). Sustainable Communities Research/Rauscher R (2006)

B. Wyong Shire draft Conservation Strategy Paper Extracts. Sustainable Communities Research/Rauscher R (2004).

C. Submission on the NSW Government’s Metropolitan Strategy 2004. Sustainable Communities Research/Rauscher R (2004).

D. Submission to Minister for Transport on Sustainable Transport and ESD Based Urban Planning on the Central Coast. Sustainable Communities Research/ CCCEN/ Rauscher (2004).


[i]   Examples include dredging of Tumbi Creek and recent announcement of AusLink funding to upgrade The Ridgeway and Brush Road – clearly not major / link roads.

[ii]  For example, employment data supplied to the Area Consultative Committee was mixed data including two areas – North Sydney / Central Coast – with quite differing patterns of unemployment; Central Coast Area Health was merged with North Sydney; the Catchment Management Authority is Hunter / Central Rivers; our University is Central Coast Campus of Newcastle University

[iii]  Metro Strategy covering South West (Liverpool / Campbelltown) and North West (Baulkham Hills) growth centres; Growth Centres Commission

[iv]  Examples include previous State government takeover of Gosford Council planning powers in respect of the Spurbest development, Dept of Planning insistence that Wyong strategic planning proposals comply with the then non-existent Regional Strategy Plan, calling in of the Wyong WEZ and Warnervale Town Centre proposals, past joint Gosford Wyong Joint Water Authority disagreements, approvals etc, Tumbi Creek dredging fiasco

[v]   Community consultations commenced as far back as Central Coast Structure Plan 1975, Shaping the Central Coast early 2000s, and Central Coast Action Plan 2003.

[vi]  ‘substitute alternatives include use of recycled water in road-making / construction and irrigation of parks / gardens / some large-scale developments (Magenta Shores), use of bore water for irrigation of playing fields, proposals for permanent / temporary desalination plants and subsidy schemes (generally not wide  take-up) for tank installation, water saving measures, front-loading washing machines etc

[vii]   Population Management and Sustainable Communities – case Study Wyong Shire (extract or full paper available)

[viii]  Initially with establishment of Erina Fair and Westfield, more recently with expansion in these large centres together with Fountain Plaza Lake Haven and also rebuilding of Peninsula Plaza, Market Town

[ix] Wyong Shire Management Plan 2006/07

[x] Peninsula to Woy Woy; The Entrance – Gosford approx 1 hr, similar to Tuggerah, Wyong

[xi]  Recent main roads have generally been widened to include cycleways

[xii] ABS

[xiii] ABS 17.7% for Gosford / Wyong

[xiv] In 1998, Wyong Shire Council reported that the Shire’s environment was declining in all

areas except waste management. Every State of the Environment Report since then has

indicated similar trends so our move towards sustainability is proving very difficult to achieve

despite concerted efforts on many fronts.    Wyong Shire SoE Report 2004-2005

[xv] Peninsula, West Gosford-Kariong, Gosford, Wyoming-Narara, Erina-Terrigal, Avoca-beaches, The Entrance-Long Jetty, Berkeley Vale-Chittaway, Tuggerah-Mardi-Wyong, Toukley, Gorokan-Wadalba-Warnervale, Blue Haven-Budgewoi

[xvi] NSW Government’s Metropolitan Strategy – ‘Managing Sydney’s Growth Centres’ and ‘Preliminary Infrastructure Report’

[xvii] Extracts from Metro Strategy ibid p3

[xviii]  Growth Centres Commission, Information Leaflet No 1