Either it’s a nefarious blueprint for ‘Agenda 21’, where governments cede to unelected global bureaucrats pushing for depopulation and ‘The Great Reset’, or it’s an obligatory document to guide north coast councils (and developers) over the next 20 years.
Well, let’s find out!
The North Coast Regional Plan 2041 is open for public feedback until August 24, and follows on from a previous plan from five years ago. It’s described by the State government as a plan to ‘set the framework, vision and direction for strategic planning and land use, planning for future needs for housing, jobs, infrastructure, a healthy environment and connected communities’.
The plan applies to the Local Government Areas from Bellingen and Port Macquarie-Hastings in the south, up to Tweed in the north, and west to Kyogle.
Like all government documents aimed at selling to the public how growth will be managed, there are plenty of colourful, full page pictures and words like ‘encourage sustainable and resilient building design’ and ‘creating a circular economy’.
And over its 144 pages, there are some informative factoids, like ‘NSW produces a lower percentage of its electricity from renewables than any other state or territory, despite significant investments’ (page 40). Another (page 44), is that ‘Berries are the most significant industry on the North Coast, with 98 per cent of the State’s berries grown in the region’.
Yet like the original document five years ago, it’s a colourful catalogue of contradictions and lofty assumptions that you would only expect from a worn-out government that has been in power for nearly a decade.
For example, on page 70 it reads, ‘The region’s coastal areas and disused railway infrastructure present opportunities to upgrade tracks and trails and make areas newly accessible to the public. The Northern Rivers Rail Trail will eventually connect Murwillumbah, Byron Bay, Bangalow, Lismore and Casino’.
Given the age of climate change and increasing fuel costs, it’s such a wasted opportunity for the region to not reinstate a once reliable rail network.
In some ways, The North Coast Regional Plan 2041 presents itself as a brochure to attract more residents and visitors to the region, and on the other hand, it will be relied upon by councils so they can justify their decision-making.
The task for the reader is to separate the meaningless feel-good spin with how this document will interact with legislation, and other forward planning documents.
So what’s in store for Byron Shire? It’s on page 107, where the Shire is benignly described as ‘One of Australia’s most desirable LGA’s to live and visit’.
The map on page 109 shows Mullum CBD land expanded as an ‘urban growth area’, covering what we know to be flood-prone Lot 22 and areas east of the railway line. Clearly, the 2022 floods were not considered too closely when formulating this document.
When increasing the north coast population, one hopes there are the water resources to support them.
It’s not particularly clear how that would work, yet on page 50 the document outlines the challenges and ends with its own solution – the NSW Government’s Risk-Based Framework for Considering Waterway Health Outcomes in Strategic Land-use Planning Decisions (2017).
The document also says, ‘Recent population and rental vacancy data indicate that demand for additional housing may be higher than previously projected’.
So if the bureaucrats got it wrong about Airbnb, what else did they miss?
To read the draft plan and make a submission, visit: www.dpe.mysocialpinpoint.com.au/north-coast-2041.
Hans Lovejoy, editor