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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

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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 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)