IF THERE is one thing that the community of Bass Coast wanted to see when they elected a new council in October 2012, it was a group that could end the legendary delays, secrecy and anti-business practices of the shire’s planning department.
Whether that involved putting extra resources into this area, a review of alleged practices or calling in projects of significance for action by council, especially where there was the potential for an economic boost; the council was given the imprimatur to act.
Unfortunately, it has taken the council longer than expected to get up to speed with the workings of the shire bureaucracy and we’ve only seen in recent times that it has been prepared to do what’s required to get cultural change, from the top down.
Hopefully, we are about to see a new era in efficiency and clarity from this most important unit of the council because heaven knows, the economy of the district, especially that vitally important driver of prosperity, the building and construction sector, could do with a fillip.
It’s jobs, not just ‘dirty’ profits that are at stake here.
So what we don’t want to see is councillors who are putting up their own obstructions and prejudices to worthy projects.
Certainly we expect them to reinforce the established community view that development should be controlled in the coastal towns like Inverloch and Cowes, and that neighbourhood character should be protected there.
But we don’t want them second guessing the planning process for no good reason, which is what we have seen from the Mayor Cr Neil Rankine on a couple of occasions.
Two such examples include his idea that the shops in Wonthaggi should be returned to their Federation style heritage, including historic-looking verandas and veranda posts, and his recent attempts to second guess a multi-million residential development.
“Why don’t they build it closer to the centre of town. It’s too far out!”
Comments like these are completely unhelpful and ignorant.
For one, the people who want to do the development don’t own land closer in and the cost of it would defeat the aim of ‘affordable housing’.
Secondly, these people don’t hang on to these ideas forever. There’s usually a window of two or three years to take advantage of their enthusiasm and availability of capital and then they are gone.
Wonthaggi has already missed the boat once when the shire failed to have sufficient land available for the housing boom of a few years ago, prior to the desal.
And Leongatha has suffered badly from the decisions of a previous council to tell major retailers where to go.
Cr Rankine and the rest of the councillors should become part of the solution, not part of the problem and be prepared to help, not hinder, investors who come up with positive developments for the area.
Of course, we have all seen times when developers tried to take councils for a ride and no one is ignoring the need for due diligence but with the opportunity to set down reasonable conditions as part of a binding planning overlay, there should be no problems.