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Risks and impacts on governments and the community when planning coal mining projects in urban growth areas

25 Nov

Wallarah 2 Coal Project Rev 2 March 2014Planning for population growth is one of the challenges Australia has to face to ensure a good socio-economic future. This means that mismanagement and errors due to bad planning will affect our prosperity both individually and as a nation.

Currently Australia is going through an increase in applications for mining operations. Some of the recent policy of State governments has been to embrace mining and exports to improve royalty revenues. In the face of climate change, Australian states are continuing to give approvals for mining operations to take advantage of carbon-based resources.

This paper will investigate how a population growth area and a coal mining application are in conflict on the Central Coast of New South Wales (NSW). It identifies a range of planning principals for urban growth areas and superimposes a real life proposal for a mining operation within the locality of the growth area on the Central Coast of New South Wales.

The paper looks at planning processes, the potential impacts related to the mine’s coal loader and indicates how the risk of these impacts can affect socio-economic factors during construction, operation and after the mining operation has ceased.

The paper attempts to describe through some planning theory how the incompatibilities of urban development and a mining operation plays out. It shows by using as its argument a real life mining proposal within close proximity to proposed urban development in the form of a new green fields city planned for the Central Coast, a plan that has been documented since the publication of the 1975 Central Coast strategic plan.

Within this paper is the case study based on the application for a long wall mining operation by Kores Australia (a company owned by Korean and Japanese investors). It investigates impacts related to a proposed coal loader planned to be located near the intersection of the M1 motorway and the Link Road to Doyalson. The case study gives some analysis to the proposed mine head’s proximity to other existing and proposed urban developments, and natural environments in the North Wyong area.

The paper suggests that the externalities associated with the coal loader and transport of the coal to the coal loader at the Port of Newcastle create risks. If these risks are realised through the construction and operation of the mine head works it could create socio-economic repercussions for the local council, the state government and individuals.

The paper attempts to be objective showing an understanding of the economics of mining operations and need to accommodate population growth, but in the final analysis, risks and evidence seems to be weighted towards an incompatibility between mining and urban developments in the same locality.

Follow the link below to see the entire paper:

Paper in PDF format

Planning NSW New Planning System 2012 paper by David Holland

22 Sep

Submission to NSW State Government on Green Paper

For some time myself and colleges in the planning discipline have felt that a more strategic approach to planning would be a better course. We have watched the integrated approach produce a variety of unintended developments over the years.

Following are some links to some of the work we have done with this philosophy of strategic planning in mind.

Central Coast Regional Growth Area by Dr. Ray Rauscher and Kevin Armstrong

Submission for the North Wyong Structure Plan NSW Australia

Submission on discussion paper on long-term transport planning for NSW: Paper

Submission on discussion paper on long-term transport planning for NSW: Article

Wyong Transport precinct, a proposal for renewal

Blue Haven Train and Bus Interchange 2012 

While subscribing to the move towards a more strategic approach to planning environments, I have concerns that proper consideration of natural environments could be sidelined in favor of economic consideration. My concerns stem from the stated overarching objectives of the new planning system as stated below:

  1. Promote economic development and competitiveness
  2. Connect people and places
  3. Protect the environment
  4. Improve people’s quality of life
  5. Resolve land use trade-offs based on social, economic and environmental factors
  6. Effectively manage growth and change.

Perhaps a cynical view, but with one chance to get the strategic plan in place, often real public participation is limited to a few interested persons until the final reality of a project going ahead. A typical human trait is to let others do the work until it affects themselves. So as a result big business, who are able to pay consultants to be engaged in this strategic phase are likely to sway the public participation component away from natural environmental considerations in favor of economic advantages.

Very few of the public have both the expertise and the time to be intimately involved in the strategic phase for planning.

Let us remember the strategic approach made some 10 or so years ago by the Department of Planning in NSW and the public participation on the Central Coast of the “Shaping the Central Coast “ strategic planning project.

Two observations are worth mentioning.

  1. Not many people participated in this planning phase
  2. No follow-up or resultant plan was produced connected to the project.

Possibly some of this data collected in around the year 2000 during the project was used in the 2006 Central Coast Strategic plan, however this plan, having its own public participation phase did not gain a lot of public participation in the broader community either.

Following is a paper using a model example in the Wyong Shire for public participation:

Local Government precinct committees and ecologically sustainable development, ESD based urban planning by Dr. Ray Rauscher

Concerns related to the Green paper proposal for New Planning Scheme objectives

I have some concerns and issues with the language of the objectives of the new plan.

The objectives are as follow as from the green paper.

Objectives

The new planning system will need to be:

  •  Simple – reduce complexity and remove red tape
  • Certain – provide predictability and certainty about how decisions are made for both investors and the community
  • Transparent – base decisions on strong community participation and evidence
  • Efficient – achieve time frames for completion of planning processes through increased 
accountability for efficient decision-making
  • Integrated – promote greater cooperation and partnerships between all levels of government, and 
balance environmental protection with economic growth
  • Responsive – provide flexibility to respond to change and ensure markets are competitive 


These form the objectives of the new Act.

The achievement of sustainable development will remain the main objective of the Act.

Commentary on the language of the Objectives

“The Removal of Red Tape”

Language like “the removal of red tape”, both lack professionalism and is an emotive term. It suggests that the current system of checks and proper assessment has no value except to bind up the process. These checks are in a system of integrated development, where objectives are codified.  As stated in the green paper these codes may not seem to be relevant in the assessment process, but one should remember that they were put in place to achieve an objective often not in the interests of a developer. These checks, while in my opinion often inadequate to preserve the integrity of natural systems, are an attempt to consider non-economic relationships in the landscape.

Another concerning phrase is “balance environmental protection with economic growth”.

The word balance can be interpreted in at least two different ways that can result in inappropriate developments occurring.

These meaning are:

  1. Balanced with the idea of equality. This would mean that an equal amount of loss of the environment must be the required balance for an equal amount of provision for economic growth. As equality is difficult to measure between these notional ideas, it is most likely that developer sponsored consultants will argue for a significant loss of unquantifiable environmental values as a trade-off for economic growth arguments.
  2. Balanced in the sense of reasonability. The argument would be on the part of the development proponents consultant, that it is reasonable to destroy a specified amount of environmental values to achieve a ‘reasonable amount of economic growth.

This term ‘balanced’ in this context is a word that becomes very subjective. In other words, its application depends on the views of the user. In this case the proponents consultant and the proponent of a development that has clear economic values attached to it. Having been a consultant for a range of developers I am aware of such arguments.

As a result, developments will be far from what others might consider “balanced”.

Another term used is ‘flexibility’

Flexibility seems a progressive term, but in reality could dilute the intentions of a planning instrument. Under the current scheme State Environment Planning policy Number one (S.E.P.P. 1) provided up to a 10% variation to the planning Codes and instruments. This variation was sort by proponents and assessed by local council planners. However, all applications with such a provision under the current system went through a public exhibition stage.

Flexibility in the context of the objectives is more nebulas than just applying it to variations of standards or of a strategic plan, it seems to be weighted towards providing unplanned for economic values to a development to assist developers to get bigger profits. I hope that I am too cynical in saying this. If this were the case and provision was built into the planning legislation to maximize profits of a development, then properly considered and public participation endorsed strategic plans and their defining planning instruments will be heavily eroded through an unfettered flexibility approach.

Concern and recommendations:

  • The new planning system must have ecologically sustainable development (ESD) as its overarching objective. A genuine commitment to ESD requires legislative mechanisms that mandate consideration of environmental matters and set minimum environmental standards. The new planning act must enshrine ESD including the use of the precautionary principle and intergenerational equity.
  • Proposed planning instrument regime: NSW Planning Policies, Regional Growth Plans, Sub-regional Plans, Local Land Use Plans must ensure that existing environment protections are maintained in the new planning system (including those set out in existing State Environmental Planning Policies). Natural Resource Management (NRM) targets should be included in strategic and sub-regional plans.
  • Although I subscribe to more initial strategic planning, codes may still be used for assessment of individual developments under the new integrated development model, recognizing that this component in the new planning scheme will be smaller than the present scheme. However it is recommended that the use of a code assessment process be used for genuinely known impact developments. That is developments that comply with the strategically formulated planning instrument. (Assuming the instrument has gone through scientific rigger and gone though a public participation process.)

The Government’s proposal to substantially expand code complying development will limit public participation opportunities, reduce accountability and weaken environmental protection unless the strategic planning implement or instruments are strong and prescriptive. (This statement opens the opportunity for a class of sub instruments similar to Development control plans (DCPs) providing finer detail for development compliance. These instruments should be reviewed regularly as planning opportunities change.)

  • The new Planning system must prescribe mechanisms for managing climate change impacts and mitigation. Climate change adaption and mitigation must be considered during strategic planning processes.                                  See link: Planning for Climate Change in the coastal regions of NSW .
  • Ensure that merit appeal rights are available for all state significant development and infrastructure.
  • Under the strategic planning instrument making phase, requirements for the carrying out of environmental studies, consideration of environmental criteria, and processes for effective community engagement must be included.
  • That regular 5 year reviews be undertaken for the plan making instruments both at the state and local/regional government levels to enable continued public participation on the evolving directions of the strategic plan over time.
  • Existing methods of public participation (for example notification procedures and exhibition periods) should be retained in the new planning system for individual proposals under the planning instruments. This is to ensure that the variety of potential controls that apply to the development within an instrument for a particular location is appropriate and acceptable to the community. And that any conditions set by the planning authority is acceptable to the community.
  • The Government’s proposal to require consideration of cumulative impacts during the strategic planning phase is a step in the right direction. The new planning system needs to provide a clear process for this to occur.
  • Flexibility for development applications The proposal to allow developers to make applications that do not comply with development controls will tend to undermine strategic planning efforts, goal and intentions.  In these circumstances, a full and comprehensive public consultation process should be engaged in. In the case of major land use change proposals, proponents should be required to wait until the 5 year review of the planning instrument to get approval. In some circumstances it may be appropriate to conduct a mini review at a 2 and a half year interval. However all public participation requirements must be met. As with plan making under the present scheme, merit appeals may have to be assessed by a regional planning panel or land and environment court. The only flexibility that should be allowable in this strategic new planning model should be the review process related to the planning instruments.
  • Public priority infrastructure applications – These must be assessed at the times of the planning instrument reviews. Government agencies should be able to work on plans well in advance so that these infrastructure priorities can be considered in the same way as a zoning change under the planning instrument, unless it is a complying development.
  • Merit Assessment The new planning system must mandate that environmental impacts must be considered during the development assessment phase of a development application. Recommendations 71, 72 and 73 of the Planning Review outline matters for consideration including Aboriginal heritage, air quality, biodiversity, climate change projections, human health and livability, soil, water and the water cycle, and the public interest.  These are important considerations and should be enacted in a similar way to present legislation which in part relies on other acts such as the Threatened Species Act etc.
  • Removal of concurrences There are insufficient reasons for departing from the recommendations of the Independent Panel for an improved concurrence process. It is not enough to require agency input at the strategic planning phase. Proper assessment of a development by concurrence agencies is required once all the impacts of a proposed development are known and to test its compliance with the planning instrument through a review process.  This insures that all related agency interests and stakeholders are consulted through the processes of the development application.
  • Accreditation of consultants .The new planning system should strengthen penalties for proponents who deliberately provide false and misleading information in the course of seeking an approval or permit under the new planning system. This advice or information should be able to be challenged by credited professionals and be available to the public on request to the regional planning Authority.
  • Corridor Planning – In this new planning proposal the government has proposed a strategic approach to planning a landscape or region. This means that a range of land use components will be considered and planned for in the plan. This should include natural areas connected by natural area corridors suitably wide to enable connectivity for biodiversity transfer and the provisions for habitat for a wide variety of naturally occurring organisms. This green paper must be applauded for including this component of the landscape. The attached link may be helpful in planning these natural spaces, as it is the intension of the new planning scheme to wind back the provisions of voluntary conservation agreements (VCAs).

See link:

Submission on the Review of the Biobanking scheme in NSW

I agree with the statement below from chapter 23, headed “Planning Culture” in the green paper.

“There needs to be a shift of culture and 
resources to focus more on strategy, outcomes and innovation, and move away from statutory planning, repetitive processes and bureaucratic procedures. In particular, resources need to move toward a next generation of planners who can lead the integration of infrastructure and land use, and better understand land economics and growth management.”

As a development control planner in the 1990s, I found the job less that stimulating, churning out similar development approvals all day. Since becoming independent, I have found a freedom to contribute to planning in NSW by offering ideas and submissions on a much more strategic level.  Hopefully, some of the papers available in the links above may contribute to this innovative approach hoped for in the ‘new planning scheme’.

Conclusion

Overall the strategy has given hope for a bright and prosperous future for the NSW planning. It is encouraging to have planning move towards a more holistic approach. The green paper flags that even with the growth in population the natural environment is important to preserve. It proposes green corridor links and will revolutionize the current planning scheme making the strategic a larger part of planning policy than the integrated planning approaches of the past.

We look forward to reading the White Paper with the above considerations included.

by

David Holland

Bachelor of App. Sc. Environmental Planning,

Grad. Dip. Environmental Management

Transport for NSW – Submission by David Holland regarding the Discussion paper on Long Term Transport Planning for NSW

15 May

As an advocate for both adaptive thinking and the Environment the Habitat Association for Arts and Environment has included the latest publication by one of its members, David Holland, on transport planning for New South Wales.

For those who are surfing the web from outside of Australia, New South Wales is arguably the most populous State in Australia and has a large economy in Australian terms.

This means that transport planning in New South Wales (NSW) is pivotal to the future success of that economy and the well being of the residents and workers of the State.

We may even go as far as to say that without a solid strategy for the future and new co-operation between the various transport agencies, NSW is poised to produce more transport bottlenecks which will affect the states future prosperity. The submission outline three themes that Mr. Holland feels are important for the way forward. They are sustainability, security and reliability.

The submission not only looks at very practical aspects of providing a sustainable public transport system, but also sustainable ways to operate transport systems into the future. This is highlighted in the approach related to handling freight. The submission proposes a logical but revolutional way to handle freight service between regions and between other Australian States.

The use of renewable energy in the rail system is touched on as a way for the State to meet renewable energy targets.

The Central Coast of NSW is referred to in much of the submission. David believes that regional Australia is often left out of detailed transport planning processes because of the assumption that all commuting, as has been traditionally the case, is flowing to and from the Sydney metropolitan areas. With the slow but steady improvement of job opportunities in the regions, more and more commuting is being done intra-regionally. This means that public transport services should not only accommodate this trend but transport planning should drive this trend, providing appropriate infrastructure to give greater opportunity for regional investment in the growing regional economic powerhouses of the Illawarra, the Central Coast, the far west of Sydney around Penrith and the Blue Mountains, and the south west of Sydney around Campbelltown.

To Read More follow this link>:

Wyong Transport Precinct, a proposal for Renewal

11 Feb

Submission to the Transport Roads and Maritime Services on the Proposed 4 lane Pacific Highway Roadway through the Township of Wyong.

Written by David Holland

BAS Env. Planning, Grad. Dip Env. Management

Written for the Wyong Planning Committee of the Community Environment Network’s (CEN)

The Wyong Planning Committee has grave concerns about this currently proposed design for a four lane highway the RMS proposes to build through the township of Wyong.

Wyong has been the hub of activity for the region up until recent times. However, as the population has started to explode, the town’s economy has started to come under threat from adjacent commercial centers. Wyong Council, through its planning department, has attempted to head off this trend by providing a framework for business and commercial development within the town.

As part of this, recently Wyong Council released a rezoning plan and amendments to the Wyong Township’s Development Control Plan No. 7 with the intention of encouraging a revitalization of the town. Council had recognized that over recent years the town has found itself relatively unattractive for private development. This is why council has moved to modify some building controls within the township precinct.

Although the town is moving slowly forward through public development most prominently the proposed Cultural Centre, the likelihood of significant private investment in the Baker Street Master Plan, The River Foreshore Master Plan and the revitalization of the Heritage Town Buildings by business interests throughout DCP 7 is unlikely unless significant public investment is made in the Transport Precinct of the town. This transport precinct is the most frequented part of the town. Many people travel through this precinct to other places, but few linger in the town.

We believe that unless large public infrastructure is invested within the township’s transport precinct, all the above efforts will not be enough to turn the town around and enable it to compete in a marketplace of private development dollars amongst places like Tuggerah precinct and the new Warnervale township, both of which have similar business attracting assets as Wyong. This includes a railway station and a bus interchange.

In addition, the North Wyong Structure Plan proposes another competitor of the private development dollar to the north of Wyong, the Wadalba East Town Centre.

We believe this investment away from the township will intensify due to the attractiveness of the Tuggerah Precinct, and the proposed New Warnervale Precinct where a large amount of the State government’s funding is poised to be poured into the precinct to initiate development inertia.

Now the new town of Warnervale has started to be built, less people from the area around Lakehaven will come to Wyong preferring to go to the new Warnervale Station to travel by train. Also as the old Warnervale station is revitalized, more people from the areas north of Wyong will use this station.

Council has proposed three master plans for the town precincts under its planning controls.  The Cultural areas of DCP 7 which is part of the existing town’s older buildings around the proposed Cultural Centre, Baker Street Master Plan and the Foreshore Master Plan. None of these will be attractive to developers unless the transport precinct is properly planned and developed.

To help encourage private investment on the east of the Wyong Station, the town will need to establish a good pedestrian link across the railway station. With this connection, the Baker Street Master Plan will become more attractive to any likely investor in the Baker Street plan.

Currently the town has the luxury of having a vibrant transport interchange. Much of this activity generates a sense of business in the town, cars passing through and buses, trains and taxis ferrying people in and out of the town. But how much of this activity is settling in the town? It seems that people only use the town as a place to move through.

The town needs to develop a heart, a heart where the people passing through feel enticed to stay. There is the negative prospect of people being drawn away from Wyong, given:

(a)   a new interchange at Warnervale Township, where buses and people from Lakehaven, Blue Haven and other localities in the north of Wyong will come more frequently, and

(b)  the magnetic influence of Tuggerah Westfield, intensified by the additional expected developments to the west of the current complex called the Gateway development, Wyong will become literally a dead Centre.

Many people who are asked how they feel about Wyong Township say that it is not a nice place to stay and they tend to do what they need to do in the town and leave.

With the advent of a four lane Pacific Highway about to be pushed through the town by the RTA, traffic flow may be better, but people will still not feel comfortable to stay in the town.

Both business and high-density developments will require good public and private transport links. These links must be planned within the State Government owned transport precinct.  The town must develop a heart. This too must be developed in the current transport precinct.

The position of the precinct is important. The current transport precinct is between the old town and the planned new developments in the Baker Street area.  A properly planned heart within the transport precinct would connect the two halves of the town.

The heart of the town must provide within the transport precinct the following:

(a) A passageway for the Pacific Highway;

(b) The immovable railway line;

(c) A bus interchange;

(c) Taxi ranks;

(d) Commuter car parking for rail users;

(e) Car parking for shoppers, and

(f) A commercial area consisting of small shops to encourage that sense of place so necessary for a heart of a town.

The planning of additional community space is also important. All this must be accommodated within this precinct to ensure the survival of the town as a viable and vibrant business center for the region.

How can all these service be supplied in such a seemingly small area of land? That would be the challenge of a consultative architect and a properly thought out plan.

We suggest a re-evaluation of the RTA proposed design of a 4 lane highway through the township and we would implore the RTA to involve Infrastructure NSW to find funds and partnerships with other state agencies and instrumentalities, to prevent further severing the town and provide a plausible plan for the future revitalization of the town.

We believe that the catalyst and real potential for development a publicly/privately funded infrastructure complex containing the transport precinct of Wyong Township.

This above approach would have advantages for solving the traffic problem of Wyong township; allowing for a freight line to the North Coast; and increasing the capacity of the capacity of the current rail line.

This approach would also solve the east west pedestrian connection. The existing pedestrian problems may be exacerbated by the current RTA plans within the Wyong Township, where the town will be cut off from the bus interchange and any developments to the east of the town by this new RTA Pacific Highway proposal.

We believe that the Regional Development Australia Central Coast (RDACC) should be involved in the co-ordination of the process to gain federal funding through Infrastructure Australia.

Infrastructure Australia was set up by the Australian Government to help solve traffic bottlenecks. Properly designed infrastructure like an interchange at Wyong would solve the bottlenecks related to both future development of the town and transport issues related to vehicular traffic and passenger and freight rail transport through the town.

We would also be proposing that the Central Coast Regional Development Corporation (CCRDC) be involved in the initiative as they may be able to encourage private business investment in the project, thus making the infrastructure plan more attractive to Infrastructure Australia.

We also ask that the RMS present the project to Infrastructure NSW.

We believe Infrastructure NSW should be able to make a case for the project and present it to the State government as an important infrastructure project. We believe that Infrastructure NSW will be able to help facilitate state agencies, such as RTA, State Rail, and Transport NSW to co-operate to create a plan for the transport precinct. In addition Infrastructure NSW can help put a case to the Federal infrastructure funding body, Infrastructure Australia, to contribute funds to this new transport precinct incorporating the passage of the Pacific Highway through the town of Wyong.

It is envisaged that funding will be sought from several sources including;

  • the State from existing capital works budgets;
  • the Federal government through Infrastructure Australia; and
  • private investment.

We would like to be a little careful in being specific in the formulation of any design for a new Wyong township transport precinct because any specifics of a design can be heavily criticized as impractical by the RTA engineers who have looked at a great deal of options for the site.

We believe that given the appropriate funding, a clever design team could conceptualize a solution to the problem needed to save the economic future of the town of Wyong, and provide a practical solution for a vibrant transport precinct around the current station’s location.

There may be an opportunity for a multi level design that allows the Pacific Highway to be lowered through the town to the same level as the road bridge as it traverses the Wyong River. Potentially a similar design opportunity may allow sufficient height to build over the roadway a plaza and a bus interchange at a similar height to the current rail overpass bridge to Howath Street, still allowing the current main street to interact with the plaza level.

When incorporating provision for a new freight line into the station complex perhaps on the east side of the railway, a multi level commuter car park could be built taking advantage of the difference in level between the current rail line, the level of the overpass to Howath Street and the level of Howath Street.

It would be envisaged that the current level of the Pacific Highway would remain as access to the town in front of the shops, and be used as access to the proposed Baker Street developments and to the bus interchange.

It would be expected that the Plaza would incorporate a range of new commercial premises. This would give commuters and town workers extra opportunities to shop, providing the potential for a vibrant center to the town and a convenient linkage to the Baker Street proposals and the Foreshores master plan proposals.

These linkages are important to encourage business, residential and commercial development on the eastern side of the township.

The planning as it proceeds needs to involve a range of other players as outlined above to solve a number of transport and urban design challenges facing Wyong Township.

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

Submission on the draft Central Coast Transport Strategy 2006 – 31

19 Aug

This submission on the draft Central Coast Transport Strategy (herein referred to as the dCCTS or the Strategy) is laid out under the following headings:

  1. Structure of the dCCTS
  2. Issues, Concerns and Questions
  3. Connections between Statistical Data and Works
  4. A Complete Strategy for the Central Coast
  5. A Proposed Structure for the Strategy

1.0 Structure of the dCCTS

The dCCTS is divided into three time frames.

  1. Current to 2012
  2. Medium term 2012 to 2020
  3. Long Term 2020 to 2036

Each timeframe addresses: Rail, Road, Buses, Bicycles, Walking, Freight, Transport Interchanges, Car Parking and Governance.

The dCCTS lists projects in order of:

1. Recently completed or soon to be commenced;

2. Long term.

There is some reader confusion between these two project categories. For example, the $300 million roads funding is noted as a future project, though these funds are mostly already expended on the nominated projects. Also, the new bus routes as announced by the State were finalised with the commencement of new schedules on 8 Nov 2010.

2.0 Issues, Concerns and Questions

There are a number of issues, concerns and questions that must be raised.

2.1  Central Coast Bus Review

I see the dCCTS as needing to compliment the recent Central Coast Bus Review (under the Outer Metropolitan Bus Review) process. I draw attention to the submission on bus transport needs compiled by myself on behalf of the CEN.

Ref. (Bus review Central Coast 2009)

This submission highlighted the bus needs of the North Wyong District. The dCCTS heralds the result of the outer metropolitan bus review, but many of the North Wyong services (i.e. Lakehaven) as requested in the submission have not been incorporated within the new bus timetables (8 Nov 2010). The dCCTS states that a North Wyong Bus Servicing Strategy is to be prepared between 2012 and 2020. This seems to be yet another delay for the North Wyong area to get a comprehensive plan established. (dCCTS ref p32, 47).

Additional issues associated with the new expanded services for North Wyong extolled in the Strategy, are in contradiction to the new timetable which run the last services generally earlier in the evening than the old timetable to certain destinations north of Lakehaven and in particularly on the weekends. Finally, new peak hour services are ending their runs later at Morisset and Wyee stations than from Lakehaven, thus disadvantaging workers returning home from Tuggerah in comparison to these afore-mentioned locations.

2.2 More Services Needed for North Wyong

The claim in the strategy is that more services run past the Wyong Hospital. This is true except on Sundays where there are now fewer services to the hospital and services finish several hours earlier. Saturday services are not much better even though services between Tuggerah and Lakehaven have increased dramatically on Weekends (ref. p. 29 dCCTS).

2.3 Contributions from Key Stakeholders

I express concern in the comment that Transport NSW will allow contributions from key stakeholders when assessing the needs of the community for additional services. Can the State define ‘key stakeholders’ (dCCTS ref. p31)?

2.4 Bus Corridors

No Strategic Bus Corridors were identified in the North Wyong Area. There is a need, however, for these services, as follows (not exhaustive):

  • Lakehaven to Gosford via Bateau Bay
  • Lakehaven to Charlestown via Swansea
  • Lakehaven to Gosford Via Tuggerah
  • Tuggerah to The North Entrance via Mingara

2.5 Metro Bus

The Metro Bus is a Sydney program and would thus need more explanation of its introduction to the Central Coast (ref p31 dCCRTS). The Strategy suggests that it should be expanded to the Central Coast. If Metro Bus is to become the dedicated bus transit ways on the Central Coast, I suggest The Entrance and the Tuggerah transport interchanges should come under any Metro Bus program and other Central Coast interchanges should be investigated (dCCTS ref p32).

2.6 Fast Rail and Freight Services

The strategy mentions long-term planning for a fast rail and plans for a loop rail for freight services though there are no references to any improvements to the current level of access to the rail. The one exception here is, the addition of the Warnervale township station. The fast train and freight loop installations on the Central Coast will take pressure off the existing rail line, thus allowing an expanded system to meet the Central Coast’s growing population (ref p33, 38). CEN has submitted proposals to the State for two new stations, one at Blue Haven and the other at the southern end of the Coast’s rail line west of Woy Woy Station. This will give quicker access to rail for about 20,000 people by the year 2036.

Web Reference:

Planning Public Transport Structures in North Wyong: A Proposal for a Blue Haven Bus and Train Interchange

2.7 Parking Trains

The outer metropolitan rail carriages (called Oscars), currently park in Wyong. With the advent of the proposed Warnervale township station, the dCCTS proposes that these cars be parked at Warnervale. Comments are made that this arrangement will service the new township in morning peaks and again in the evening peak period. I suggest caution in parking trains in expanding urban areas (ref recent noise problems at Gosford station). This occurrence could be avoided by accommodating rail carriages parking areas at the proposed Blue Haven station. ( See Above Web Reference). A Blue Haven station could subsequently be provided as the population in this district grew (ref p29).

2.8 Local Government Transport Plans

The dCCTS suggests that local government (LG) should be involved in preparing local transport plans, but recognises that currently no legislative mechanism allows councils to do this. In earlier submissions to the State, CEN has stated the importance of LG completing transport plans as part of councils’ overall infrastructure planning. The dCCTS suggests a time frame for this type of planning post 2020; however the need exists at present (ref p49).

2.8 Minor Towns not Addressed in Strategy

Although many of the destination towns are considered in the strategy, smaller towns with some potential for population growth have been ignored.  These towns have the potential to accommodate green fields development in some cases, but more pertinent to the strategy they will be able to accommodate redevelopment at a higher density than present, thus creating an opportunity for more efficient public transport systems.

Higher Density potential urban areas:

Ourimbah, Toukley, The Entrance, Long Jetty, Bateau Bay, Budgewoi etc.

Greenfield potential development areas:

Wyee, Gwandalan, Chain Valley Bay, Nords Wharf, Catherine Hill Bay, Warnervale, Woongarrah, Wadalba, Doyalson etc.

2.9 Secure Bike Parking (Page 14)

It is questionable whether secure bike parking in all areas has been achieved. It is evident that bus interchanges in many shopping centres have not installed this kind of equipment for bus travellers. See Wyong Council’s On Road Bicycle and shared pathway Strategy.

2.10 Wyong town Centre (Page 24)

Wyong Town Centre and interchange has been identified as a growth centre.  This means that the integrity of the town’s function must be protected. I believes that without special and combined effort from a range of government agencies, the town will stagnate. As part of the $300 million flagged in this strategy, a road is planned to be renewed through the town. It is our assertion that if the road is pushed through the town, it will split the town from the transport precinct. We believe that the town will be left behind by developments at Warnervale and Tuggerah. We feel that the interchange and transport precinct at Wyong is the key to revitalise the town by providing both function and a sense of place in the town. The interchange should provide a nexus for the CBD and the Baker Street master plan developments.

2.11 Commitment to Provide Alternatives to Private Transport in North Wyong (page 24/25)

It is imperative to fulfil the commitment to provide alternatives to private transport on the Central Coast, especially North Wyong as a State growth focus.  As the population in North Wyong grows, private transport congestion will increase.  Outlying places like Gwandalan, Chain Valley Bay, Mannering Park and Nords Wharf must be provided with a bus service that will discourage residents from purchasing that second car and encouraging them to travel on public transport exclusively. These residents will increasingly be a major contributor to traffic on the Pacific Highway at Charmhaven for example.

2.12 Changing Demographic due to Climate Change

As outlined on page 28 of the Strategy the government’s key projects will (with population as a driver for more accessibility improvements to the transport network), improve productivity and economic competitiveness, and integrate with the existing transport network to contribute to environmental sustainability. However, has the Strategy considered the effects of climate change to demographic patterns beyond 2030?

2.13 North Wyong Public Transport Links to Newcastle

I would encourage the preparation of a North Wyong bus Servicing Strategy and would like to contribute to this process in its initial stages through my involvement in the CEN. One of the priorities for this connection would be a bus service to Charlestown Square, providing both commuting and shopping opportunities.

2.14 Promoting Public transport use

One of the Strategy aims is to reduce the population’s reliance on the car and encourage the use of public transport. However the Strategy does not show a process by which this could be achieved. The announcement of a separate study and program to achieve this would help the Transport Strategy show that it had addressed this issue. (dCCTS p.5)

3.0 Connections Between Statistical Data and works

3.1 The dCCTS quotes a range of statistical data.

Facts like:

Travel Patterns (p.16):

1.9% decrease in trips during weekdays;

9.5% increase in trips during weekend days and

Bus travel remains the same in 2008-10 while car travel has increased 3%

3.2 What assumptions could be made from the nexus of these facts?

One hypothesis is that there may be a lack of buses on the road and this is increasingly so on weekend.

Other examples of the nexus follow.

a. Central Coast residents drove 30 km more per day than 5 years ago (p16).

Why is this? Could it be due to the urbanisation of the Central Coast over a larger area, thereby requiring residents to travel further to work and shop etc? What transport conclusion could this present? One suggestion from this data could be that the Central Coast needs better connectivity or transport, via road, rail and bus between the north and south of the Central Coast.

b. Journeys to work via public transport have dropped by 1% over the last 7 years (p17); and 86% travel by train while only 14% by bus.

What could be gleaned from this data? It seems that cars are used to commute to stations in most cases. To reduce the number of cars on the road, the drivers of these cars should be targeted to catch the bus. What strategies could be implemented?

c. Fewer people travel outside the Central Coast for work (down 1.6% since 2001).

This data shows that more people are finding work on the Central Coast and that the inter-Central Coast transport trend is increasing.  This adds more weight to the need for more connectivity of transport within the Central Coast. If the government wishes to reduce individual carbon footprints and reduce congestion on the road then increased investment in public transport is essential.

d. The population is aging (p.24/25). The strategy suggests more home and community care programs. In addition easier access to bus transport must also become a priority.  This will mean low floor buses, kerb heights appropriate at every bus stop; shelters at every bus stop; proper lighting. Roads surfaces on bus routes maintained to ensure smooth travel and smooth stopping at bus stops.

4.0 A Complete Strategy for the Central Coast

The Strategy announces a range of initiatives by the State government to enhance the Central Coasts transport systems.  However the local councils have not been considered in this strategy, only to say that local councils must get involved after 2020 in transport planning.

Councils, although not commissioned to provide bus and train services are by far the biggest provider of roads infrastructure on the Central Coast. As such they are charged with the maintenance of many roads that buses traverse. They provide infrastructure for the bus services in the form of bus shelters and are to maintain the streets free of obstacles such as overgrown trees etc.

Council has been working on planning documents that show plans for future development and future population growth nodes. Although much of the data within this Strategy document has come through the Bureau of Statistics, more precise information should have been sought to accurately assess public transport needs particularly in the North Wyong Area (e.g. Toukley Master Plan and Council population projections).

The Strategy should consider all aspects and involvements relating to transport, not just projects that the State agencies have provided or will provide. Money that has or could be provided to councils and community transport to provide components of better transport should be considered in the strategy. For example, road funding to Councils to provide and maintain road surfaces for heavy vehicles where bus routes exist should be considered.

5.0 A Proposed Structure for the Strategy

The strategy presents a vision and it outlines aims in the first few pages.  These aims are in the form of a narrative and could be put in point form to highlight the direction of the strategy.

Data is presented, however, as mentioned in point 3 this data is not clearly connected to decisions and nominated projects.

Projects are listed over three time frames, leaving the last time frame a little nebulas from 2020 to 2036. This time frame should be more detailed given the expectations of the residents of the Central Coast.  The Strategy needs to be more than a works program. It needs to be a vision for the future of the Central Coast residents and a forward planning document for successive governments’ budgets.

The Strategy rightly considers the preparing of a subsequent more detailed strategy called the ‘North Wyong Bus Servicing Strategy’. This is one of a number of outcomes of the Strategy. The strategy should be an empowering document and it should herald a number of outcomes.

Finally, under the section of governance, the Strategy announces that the strategy will be reviewed in a five year period. I would encourage the government to continue to monitor the factors relating to the Strategy within this 5 year period and incorporate new information into the next revision of the plan.

Submission By

David Holland

B.A.S. Environmental Planning

Grad. Dip. Environmental Management

Member of the Sustainable Transport Committee of CEN

Member of the Community Environment Network (CEN)