Tweed Shire is in danger of becoming a massive housing estate of dormitory suburbs to service the Gold Coast.
That’s the warning by Greens Cr Katie Milne who says the spiralling cost of infrastructure is forcing council to dig financially deeper to keep up with population growth.
She says the escalating expenditure continues despite five years of hefty rate rises, which are part of the council’s seven-year plan to boost infrastructure.
And the growth in housing is not being matched by any growth in employment, she says.
‘We have all this population growth and a stagnant economy. We are in danger of just becoming a housing ghetto for the Gold Coast,’ Cr Milne said.
‘Some of the most environmentally sensitive areas of the shire are being threatened by this growth. Yet there has been no truly affordable housing being approved.
‘The state government should require more housing be matched with more jobs. The more roads you build the more it costs for maintenance. The more homes that are built the more water will be needed and the more dam infrastructure will be needed. It is becoming increasingly unsustainable.’
Cr Milne said debate was needed to discover what residents want the shire to look like in the future.
She said run-off the massive Area E housing estate at Terranora could eventually cause an environmental disaster in the Terranora Broadwater, yet there had been little done to protect the fragile ecosystem.
‘If we incorporated dual reticulation into these housing estates, a least we could help prevent the need for more massive water-catchment infrastructure like a new dam at Byrrill Creek.’
Cr Milne also pointed to the recent approval of a $22 million extension to Kirkwood Road at South Tweed Heads, which will consume much of the shire’s roadworks budget, as an example of the spiralling infrastructure burden on ratepayers.
‘If we slow the shire’s population we will slow this expenditure. At the moment it is like a cat chasing its tail.’
Mayor Barry Longland said the shire’s investment in infrastructure was mostly paid for by developer contributions.
‘Once these new shire residents buy a home they will be paying rates every year. It’s a one-off capital cost; this increases the rate base and helps council maintain services,’ Cr Longland said.
He suggested that one way to reduce infrastructure costs was by increasing housing density and height limits in older urbanised areas, like central Tweed Heads.
He said allowing more residents to plug into already existing infrastructure would save the council money and help concentrate residents in areas where services and public transport were already available.
‘Higher density housing in urbanised areas means there can be less urban sprawl elsewhere. The alternative is that housing estates spread across the shire.
‘The three-storey height limit used to be considered sacrosanct, but now I think an increase to four or five storeys may help protect our open space and rural lands.