The biggest bone of contention at last night’s Lismore Council meeting was item 10.1, the Lismore Growth & Realignment Strategy. Using his casting vote, the Mayor voted against Team Krieg to adopt the strategy.
The current Growth Management Strategy was adopted in 2015. The new strategy and theme is, the built environment and land-use planning that caters for all sectors of the community to ensure that a diverse range of land use and development opportunities are available.
The Executive Summary said that the Growth and Realignment Strategy, the key word being realignment, would replace the current Strategy which was supposed to see Lismore up to 2035. The new strategy identifies land that is potentially suitable for future housing, commercial and industrial purposes by ensuring future growth areas are consistent with the planning priorities identified in the Local Strategic Planning Statement and meet the economic, social, and environmental expectations of the community.
Key Elements of the Strategy included Planned Retreat – the guiding principle of planned or managed retreat is to permanently remove people and assets from harm’s way where the risk cannot be adequately mitigated or managed; Urban Growth Areas (Greenfield sites); Medium Density Precincts; Re-imagining East Lismore; Urban Infill and Fringe Development Sites; Village and Large Lot Residential Land – a strategy that identifies a range of sites to be considered for future village and large lot rural – residential expansion – with additional land identified at Bexhill, Modanville, Tullera and Caniaba; Affordable Housing Contribution Scheme; Employment Lands, and; Infrastructure Requirements.
Community Feedback on the Draft Strategy
Public exhibition and consultation activities for the Draft Growth and Realignment Strategy took place from September 21 to October 31. Council’s Draft Affordable and Diverse Housing Strategy was also exhibited at this time as considerations about the type of housing Council would like to encourage was considered directly relevant to the discussion about where new areas of land could be located for future housing and employment.
Cr Vanessa Ekins opened the debate saying that a lot of work has gone into the growth and realignment strategy. ‘I thought the report was very well written – particularly in the way it talks about the need for relocation of vulnerable people out of our floodplain and it looks at making land available for community for housing and for businesses into the future.
As a report, there are things in there that I’m not really happy about, but overall, I think it covers a wide variety of options, and I’d like to see them all stay in there.
Medium density housing
The one thing I’m a little bit uncomfortable about is allowing medium-density [housing] in established suburbs, particularly around St Vincent’s Hospital. I think it’s a shame to interfere with established neighbourhoods and buildings. I’d rather see us identify land for medium density, which I really think is the future in other locations.
Cr Adam Guise wanted to move an amendment that Council request a workshop with the Reconstruction Corporation to identify land suitable for acquisition as part of its Resilient Lands programme, and the criteria and mechanisms to enable affordable house relocations for flood-impacted residents.
‘I’m moving this amendment because while I agree with many of Councillor Ekins’ sentiments in regard to this strategy, it doesn’t go far enough. It doesn’t actually take a proactive stand on how we as a council influence the Corporation and State Government to deliver the housing that our residents actually need. And it certainly does not demonstrate the mechanisms that are required to enable affordable house relocations. And that’s something that the community is crying out for. The strategy is premised on a high-growth scenario, which in my mind will inevitably lead to higher land prices, making it unaffordable for flood-impacted residents.
Affordable house relocations
‘This is about making sure we’ve got the right mechanisms in place to enable affordable house relocations. Yes, the plan pays lip service to it talking about advocating to the state and federal government for funding to assist with voluntary buybacks and relocations. But the community doesn’t have any confidence that the Corporation has identified the land or identified the mechanisms to actually make that happen on the ground. And that’s why we as a Council need to be in that room. We need to be involved in those negotiations around what might be happening with the identified land parcels that the corporation is doing with its resilient lands project and we ultimately need to make sure that this will be affordable for flood-impacted residents.
‘We as counsellors need a seat at the table in this decision.’
Cr Andrew Gordon spoke against the amendment. ‘We’ve been told all the way along that the Northern Rivers Reconstruction Corporation’s mantra is that it’s voluntary participation. Nowhere have we ever been told about compulsory, sort of ideals. They work from the basis of [it being] voluntary. I’ll never support the compulsory acquisition of anybody’s land.
The original report – I think it’s great. I think it’s really, really good, but I’m going to speak against it, just procedurally, because, I thought we resolved previously, not that long ago, that the Wyrallah Road golf course was to be excluded. I thought we resolved for that to be taken out, yet I see it’s mentioned.
The interim General Manager, John Walker clarified that Council actually resolved that no further work be carried out on that proposal.
Faith in Lismore
Cr Darlene Cook said she had a lot of faith in Lismore. ‘I’ve got a lot of faith in Lismore’s ability to rebuild and reinvent itself. It has done so numerous times before, and it will do it again. I reject suggestions that Lismore will go backwards and continue to lose residents. It will only lose residents and not attract new residents if we don’t plan for future growth, future lands and future housing possibilities for those future residents.
‘This plan ensures we have the lands identified for future growth.
‘I’m also pleased that we have taken on board offers of lands to be included adjacent to villages. I think that all the villages, over time, will consider consolidating the lands, will consider perhaps improving or expanding their commercial zones. And village life is something that many of us aspire to live in rather than the urban centres itself.
‘But, I also recognise, which this strategy also does, that we need master planning for our villages. We don’t need unfettered development against the wishes of the community and perhaps in contrast to the spirit of those communities.
Cr Vanessa Ekins said the points raised were all very relevant, in particular, Councillor Cook’s comments about the plan for the future. ‘That identifies land that’s been brought to our attention by the community. It also meets our criteria in being close to existing infrastructure and facilities, and acceptable to the community.
Start the progress
‘We’re not going to like everything in any plan and you can always consult more, but I think it’s important that we actually start this progress. We’ve been complaining that we’ve been left behind by all the other agencies this year, and this is our opportunity to get some of our documentation in place.
‘I think it’s really important that we progress with this – particularly the medium density that I’m very interested in, and we do have streetscape policies – raises some of the concerns that are out east Lismore that we do actually have policies in place to make sure that roof lines and setbacks and other things like that for medium density are appropriate for the streetscape, which is an important consideration. So let’s just get this out.’
The Mayor took a vote to adopt the policy – Counsillors Bird, Ekins, Cook, Guise and Krieg voted for – Counsillors Gordon, Colby, Jensen, Bing and Rob voted against – with an even split down the middle, the Mayor used his second casting vote to tip the scales and the strategy was approved.