I recently was able to attend a meeting of the Minnamurra Progress Association where I talked about the need to do some long-term planning for our municipality. By this I mean 20 years, not five or 10.
The NSW Government estimates that we’ll have 60,000 more people living in the Illawarra by 2036 needing at least 35,000 new homes. It would be naive to think our municipality can remain untouched by this. How we manage the change is the tricky bit.
The NSW Government’s regional plan for the Illawarra/Shoalhaven says we should increase housing density around existing centres that offer jobs and transport and are already appealing to residents.
This sounds a lot like Kiama and Gerringong, and to a lesser extent Jamberoo. It makes sense if we are to preserve the landscape that is so precious to us. However, it does raise other problems.
One is that the move to building up urban areas comes up against the very strong feelings people have about “over-development” and the aesthetics of new developments being out of whack with the existing look and feel of our towns and villages.
Another is that building up our urban areas means not just more houses, but more cars. We already have traffic flow problems in Kiama and car parking is also struggling to keep up with demand.
Lastly: jobs. The data shows that we will experience a big jump in the 65 plus age group, while the number of people in their 20’s will go backwards. What are we going to do to make Kiama a place where young people can afford to live and work?
Every problem has a solution. These problems are no different. What isn’t a solution is to simply say “I want things to stay as they are” or “I don’t want any development”.
We live in a beautiful part of the world. But it is right next to the biggest city in Australia and that city is only going to get bigger.
The best thing we can do is manage that changes coming our way in a way that preserves what is really important to us, but be open-minded about the other stuff.
Council has the planners and the planning tools to help the community realise the future it wants. But that also requires the community to understand those tools, how they work and to be genuinely engaged in working with Council in ensuring Kiama in 2036 is a place we want ourselves, our children and our grandchildren to be.
- Cr Mark Honey