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July 6, 2022

Cumbalum shopping centre finally happening?

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Proposed Cumbalum shopping centre site, next to playing fields at the corner of Power Drive and Ballina Heights Drive. Photo David Lowe.

Ballina Council’s last meeting saw movement towards the much-delayed commercial centre for Cumbalum.

Cr Jeff Johnson (who is also a resident of the area) said, ‘This is a key issue for the residents of Cumbalum. This is the only part of the shire that doesn’t have even a local shop.’

He said the closest supermarket was Aldi, and that was many kilometres away.

‘I’m really concerned and so are a lot of other residents, to ensure that if we move forward with this, that it actually happens.’

Cr Jeff Johnson. Photo David Lowe.

Cr Johnson said many people who had bought land and built houses in the Ballina Heights community were told as long as ten years ago that there would soon be local shops.

He said it was council’s responsibility to do all it could to remedy the situation. Cr Johnson said he was concerned new rezoning proposals would create further delays.

Mayor Sharon Cadwallader explained that the latest plan was to start building the commercial area before the associated additional residential development, but as it was a voluntary planning agreement, there was little council could do to dictate terms and conditions.

She agreed with Cr Johnson about the need for urgency though, saying, ‘we just need to get this built. I don’t want to see it come back again with more amendments.’

Previously proposed site for shopping centre at Ballina Heights, now perhaps to contain only a smaller shop. Photo David Lowe.

Cr Phil Meehan said that there had been twenty years of discussions about when and where to build the Ballina Heights/Cumbalum shopping area, and he remained concerned at the ‘certainty’ of the latest proposal, which encompasses a shopping precinct and housing down on the flats near the sports grounds, and perhaps an additional smaller shop on the original site, up on the hill.

More attainable housing needed?

Cr Meehan called for an amendment to negotiate with the developers to increase the associated area of land dedicated to attainable housing (currently five houses). He said that in such a ‘huge development’, 1500 square metres for low cost housing was a ‘meagre’ contribution.

‘That’s why I think the developers need to come back to us with something better,’ he said.

Staff member Matt Wood said the current application was designed to establish whether council supported the principle of the development before more time and money was invested by the developer. He said he expected the proponent to return to council with something more concrete in a couple of months.

Flooding at Cumbalum Interchange, north of Ballina, 1 March 2022. Photo David Lowe.

Cr Steve McCarthy asked if any of the new area proposed for the commercial centre went underwater during the last flood. Cr Johnson said he didn’t think so.

Cr Kiri Dicker said she was in support of the motion, on condition that for the proposed residential component, ‘we get a social housing outcome from this, not not just an attainable or an affordable housing outcome, because I think that is where the immediate need is in our community right now.’

In his right of reply, Cr Jeff Johnson said he thought the new site was a ‘far superior outcome’ than the previous proposal for a commercial location, with better opportunities for shops to thrive at the main entrance to the estate, and visible from the highway, than up on the hill.

After the debate, the motion to progress the new plan for the shopping centre to its next stage (hopefully including more ‘attainable’ housing), was passed unanimously.

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