GREAT news for South Gippsland Shire has come as a result of the meetings on Tuesday May 31 between the Mayor Cr Warren Raabe (accompanied by Chief Executive Officer Tim Tamlin), and the State Minister for Planning Matthew Guy and then subsequently with Deputy Premier and Member for Gippsland South, Peter Ryan.
Wins in support, funding and direction from the State have been received in the areas of rural land use planning and Council’s seven identified priorities [listed below] as well as for other important matters such as Port Anthony’s development, developer contributions and more.
Council’s current seven priorities are:
- Development of the Prom Gate eco-tourism resort at Yanakie.
- Leongatha Heavy Vehicle by-pass alternative route.
- Resolution of the Port Welshpool Masterplan and marina development
- Progressive completion of the Great Southern Rail Trail between Foster and Yarram.
- Strzelecki Highway – overtaking lane between Mirboo North and Morwell.
- Korumburra Children’s Hub development.
- Broadband connection.
Mr. Tamlin said that Council has an eighth priority that is not publicly stated at present due commercial-in-confidence reasons.
“It was fantastic – we came out ecstatic and feeling like we were floating on air,” Cr Raabe grinned.
“We have tried to spread the benefits across the Shire, and when we briefed the other councillors they were bouncing off the walls.”
Mr. Tamlin summed up, “The outcomes are a credit to Council for the work it has done in the last year looking at high priority needs for the community and putting it into a format that Government can do something with.”
He added, “Last year we tried putting our priority list to a combined meeting of politicians and this year we decided to opt for one-on-one meetings starting with the Premier and the Planning Minister.
Now Council will go on to meet with its Federal Member for McMillan Russell Broadbent to make an approach to Minister Stephen Conroy about the broadband issue, as well as other State politicians on other matters.”
Top of the list from the meeting with Minister Guy is the Minister’s request that Council temporarily hold off progress on its Rural Land Use Strategy because the State will be releasing new guidelines about interpretation of the suite of rural zones in the next few weeks.
“We don’t know the guideline contents or exactly when they will be announced, but the direction is more flexible and it is all about dwellings,” Cr Raabe reported.
He cautioned that the Minister emphasised “the rider that valuable agricultural land still had to be protected” but indicated that Councils would have more free rein to decide “what areas should be protected, what areas could be opened up more and how many more residents should be able to live in the Shire.”
The Mayor continued, “Council still has to proceed with its [RLUS] public exhibition and feedback consideration process so it has a clearer idea and more evidence of where the community wants to go.”
The Mayor also definitely sees it as advantageous that the Minister has directed Council to work directly with the Minister’s advisor rather than Department of Planning and Community Development regional officers.
Coastal Promontory Ward’s Cr Mohya Davies described this news as “very exciting and having really enormous implications, with hopefully a better result that finds the balance between preserving farmland and providing for the lifestylers who are vital to our community.”
However she was also keen to see details confirmed in writing of what exactly was to happen.
Her colleague Cr Jeanette Harding concurred, “It all appears to be for the better, making it a brighter future for people waiting to develop the smaller rural lots and I hope it is all made legal soon.”
She carefully reminded the community that there may still be a delay for landowners of titles in old Crown townships such as the Grip Road area.
Tarwin Valley Ward Councillor Jim Fawcett was quietly optimistic about the rural planning aspect.
“I’m cautious because we have done the hard yards with eight years of agony in rural planning, so I don’t want to raise expectations in the community in case the fine print that comes out about the controls and provisions is restrictive,” he stated.
“The Minister has indicated that there will be a softening of some definitions about developable smaller lots and making the provisions more understandable and less complex.”
“So it is possible that more lots could be developed than what Amendment C51 has allowed.”
In an added note of prudence, Cr Fawcett concluded, “As with any new government, it is early days yet for the State Ministers and there is not a lot of money there, so they may find that there is not the amount of funding they anticipated for matters they propose to support.”
PROM GATE DEVELOPMENT
The Mayor is particularly pleased about the Minister’s support for moving forward on the rezoning of land near the entrance to Wilsons Promontory National Park from farming to a Special Use Zone.
“Parks Victoria and Tourism Victoria are both very supportive of this project so Council has been told to move it along by just putting the amendment details together and it will go through as a Ministerial amendment within a month of the paperwork reaching the Minister!” Cr Raabe exclaimed.
“This means that the developer (Tom Tootel) can sell bits off to bring in smaller investors for development of facilities within the context of the site’s master plan and Council’s Rural Tourism Development Strategy.”
THE Port Welshpool Masterplan, which after a lot of community consultation and work fell in a hole for about five years after it went to the regional office of the Department of Planning, is to be revived and completed.
In particular, Cr Raabe was delighted that a feasibility study could go ahead to explore development of a marina where the Council-owned ferry terminal car park currently exists.
“By locating it there, we negate any problems about impacting on existing environmental habitat,” he stated.
“However the feasibility study results may also help bring Long Jetty’s future to a head,” he warned.
[Peter Ryan has promised $3 million towards restoration, however although its not “comparing apples with apples”, as a rough measure, the funding will not be enough going by most similar example of the 2009 refurbishment of Busselton Jetty in Western Australia, which cost $27.1 million of which $24 was contributed by State Government.]
Cr Harding said, “The Port Welshpool Masterplan would be great but it is early days yet.”
She described Long Jetty’s restoration as “very strongly government-driven” and noted that the Long jetty Project Management Group [which has had one meeting so far and includes community members Paul Macphail of the Welshpool and District Advisory Group and Cr Jeanette Harding] has not yet seen the results of the completed Gippsland Ports survey.
“The survey report will tell us what needs to be done and what the costs of different alternatives are estimated to be,” Cr Harding said.
BYPASS AND HIGHWAYS
“Peter Ryan will be directing VicRoads to gee-up on the design for an alternative heavy vehicle route to by-pass Leongatha’s CBD so that (the detailed engineering design) should be done in about a year,” Mayor Raabe said.
“The by-pass design is the number one priority project for VicRoads Eastern Region and this gives us hope that it will be organised and moving forward to implementation.”
The Shire representatives also had a good reception for their request that the South Gippsland Highway to be upgraded to allow heavy vehicles to more easily negotiate the turns at the top of the Korumburra Hill.
“It’s a chicken-and-egg situation because as one section is improved, it leads to more pressure for the next section wherever the works start,” Cr. Raabe opined.
Another tick on Council’s list is State Government funding for an overtaking lane on a hill section of the Strzelecki Highway between Mirboo North and Morwell, which is important for vehicles travelling between South Gippsland and the Latrobe Valley.
On the other hand, Cr Raabe does not anticipate the highway by-pass of the Koonwarra bends at Black Spur to be undertaken any time soon.
“It’s estimated to cost $40 million so it is not going to happen,” he predicted.
GREAT SOUTHERN RAIL TRAIL
However in good news for the Great Southern Rail Trail Committee of Management, which has begun investigations of a low level (near the Tarwin River) track to connect the Leongatha section of the rail trail with the longer south-eastern section, Cr Raabe advised that Mr. Ryan is predisposed to allocate $500,000 in the short-term for a connecting section of trail, which Cr Raabe believes should be sufficient for the purpose.
While regretting that Wellington Shire Council does not have the Great Southern Rail Trail listed as one of its priorities, CR Raabe was buoyed by Mr. Ryan’s supportive attitude to annual funding for sections of the rail trail heading east from Foster.
“We’ve got to get the sections to a shovel-ready stage because Mr. Ryan has said there are piles of money for that type of project and I’m really positive we’ll obtain funding for it for each of the next few years,” he said.
KORUMBURRA COMMUNITY HUB
Korumburra is following in the footsteps of Corner Inlet and Leongatha in desiring a children’s service hub including greater child care and ‘early years’ capacity.
The Planning Minister favours Council consolidating the many Council-owned facilities in the commercial precinct into a single location rather than having a separate children’s hub, library, access centre, senior citizens centre, community house and the like.
“A full-blown, you-beaut new community centre in the centre of Korumburra amalgamating the six or seven different facilities would be great though we won’t know the result of studies for early years needs until the end of 2011,” the Mayor said.
Mayor Raabe said that Council is talking currently and regularly with Shanghai Power and other Chinese firms about use of Port Anthony for transport of coal from both unallocated coal reserves in the Latrobe Valley and from the Gelliondale coalfield
“That’s why the highway upgrades to the area are so important, and Peter Ryan has committed $3 million to development of Port Anthony.”
He added, “The Chinese are very forward in clean coal technology and carbon pricing issues and the Latrobe Valley coal tenders are ready to go.”
SEA LEVEL LITIGATION
According to the Mayor, Minister Guy was amenable to the idea of introducing legislation to protect Councils from being sued in the future as a result of considered, though not negligent, development decisions in coastal areas which may become impacted by sea level rise from global warming.
“We don’t want ton be sued in the future and New South Wales has already got legislation to protect its coastal Councils,” the Mayor said.
Council’s next target is to meet with Member for McMillan Russell Broadbent about Broadband service to South Gippsland as that is a Federal Government issue.
Although a broadband ‘spine’ has been laid from where to where, Council is seeking both a prompt connection to it and greater accessibility to it, so that properties along the spine can connect and all smaller settlements in its vicinity can connect.
Additional broadband service connection is also sought to locations such as Mirboo North that are not located along the spine.
South Gippsland can make a saving on funding it had intended for the development project of a Development Contributions Plan following the announcement on May 30 by Minister Guy that the State would reform developer contributions so that a set of standards applied across Victoria.
“A demand for the State to establish uniform developer contribution requirements was one of only four unanimous resolutions passed at the Municipal Association of Victoria’s recent State Conference, which shows the widespread concern on this issue,” Mayor Raabe noted.
“We took a calculated risk not to include the more than $200,000 funding for a Development Contribution Plan in our proposed 2011/12 budget, so the Minister’s announcement has given us a huge gain.”
[Development contributions are payments or works provided by land developers towards infrastructure such as roads, storm water run-off management systems, open space and community facilities required to meet the future needs.]