The following letter was sent to the South Gippsland Shire Council around concerns about the proposed development in Leongatha (‘Build it and they will come’, Sentinel-Times, July 16), which was then forwarded onto the Sentinel-Times.
Thank you for notifying us of the development application submitted for Shamrock Springs on the corner of Gibson Street and Old Korumburra Road. I have some concerns about the lack of preparation demonstrated in this proposal.
While I support further development of the town of Leongatha, and hope that opportunities are not missed, the scale of this proposal warrants more careful strategic planning.
Over time, this potentially adds 500 dwellings to Leongatha, which could lead to a population increase of up to 2500 people, or 150 per cent of our current population.
While I am not averse to such an increase in principle, there are quite a few aspects of this growth that are not considered by the proposal, which should be considered before it could be described as a “plan”.
Firstly, there is no practical capacity for Leongatha Primary School to be enlarged without hindering the quality of academic achievement and pastoral care, and since this development proposal is on the opposite side of town, a site for a second primary school, and the enlargement of our secondary college, should be considered.
This should probably be considered regardless of the approval or denial of this development, but the development application certainly should not proceed until the need for a second primary school has been scoped and sites considered.
An increase of this size far exceeds South Gippsland Shire’s birth rate, and that means that the bulk of the increase will have to come from three possible sources: rural families moving into Leongatha, urban families relocating from Melbourne and migrant families arriving in Australia for the first time. The first of these sources is of little concern. Both of the latter present challenges that the proposal has not addressed.
It can be seen clearly with the explosion of greenfield developments in centres unfortunately closer to the fringes of Melbourne that families who relocate from the metropolis do not integrate into the social fabric of Gippsland, and instead retain both employment and social ties in the metropolis.
Thus, Gippsland has sadly lost the towns of Cranbourne, Berwick, Pakenham and Warragul to Melbourne’s unhindered expansion. The families that relocate in this way are frequently of low socio-economic background, and while no development plan should seek to exclude anyone on this basis, their relocation to Leongatha requires consideration of improved council services for youth, people who are homeless and people with a disability.
The Shire is already below standard on providing leadership in these areas. Further consideration should also be given to the additional policing required to prevent our crime rate going the way of the metropolis, as well as expansion of drug and alcohol services through our hospital. Migrants and refugees arriving in Australia should always be welcomed in Gippsland. But although the Shire seems willing to consider a proposal that would provide housing to attract them away from Melbourne, you don’t seem to be doing a lot more to consider their needs.
Provisions for English language training, employment services and assistance to help them find groups that would help them understand their new home should be considered as a part of this development plan.
In the Australian Capital Territory, the Land Development Agency requires all developers to reserve a portion of each greenfield development for affordable housing for low income earners. This requirement should be considered for developments in South Gippsland Shire.
Even without it being a requirement, the Shire can nonetheless, especially given the enormity of this proposal, insist on an affordable housing requirement as a condition for approval.
Also, along with this proposal, strategic planning would consider the need it would create for better transport infrastructure. As residents moving from Melbourne will retain their ties with Melbourne, the duplication of the South Gippsland Highway to the Bass Highway junction is critical, and the restoration of the railway is a high priority.
Before approving this proposal, [the] Shire must have some indication from the Victorian Government that this infrastructure can be brought up to an appropriate standard, and should also have plans in place for sealing Sages and Logans Road to minimise the impact of increased traffic for residents and agricultural enterprises along that route to the South Gippsland Highway.
I note that on the notice sent to residents, there was a reference to potential unit sites in the first stage. I think we should be given some indication of whether a height restriction has been considered for these units.
Surely we’re not talking about high rise apartments, but even three storey units would seem inappropriate for Leongatha. I would like to suggest an absolute height restriction of two storeys across the entire development.
Two minor concerns I have with the proposal are the suggestion of a retail area, and the lack of curves in street alignments. Already the retail centre of Leongatha has many empty retail spaces, and this development, though very large, is not far enough away from the centre to warrant risking the division of our retail activity (the space would be better used for community infrastructure, as suggested above).
And curves are extremely beneficial in street layouts as they slow traffic and minimise the risk of creating the monotonous cookie-cutter housing aesthetic that plagues Melbourne’s horrid fringes.
Lastly, and perhaps most tellingly, it seems a drastic and egregious oversight that the Environmental Site Assessment has failed to even consider the Bunurong heritage of the site.
The research seems to have consulted the Crown, the Melbourne City Council, a couple of street directories and the “internet”, but ignored entirely the elders who carry responsibility for over 100,000 years of Gippsland’s history.
I am not familiar with anyone at the Bunurong Land Council, but a quick internet search brought me to their website, which names Rob Ogden as their Cultural Heritage Manager, and lists his phone number as 0455 559 727 and his email address as heritagemanager@bunuronglc.org.au
I have copied him in to this email to put you in touch. I would hope that no development proposal that relates to Bunurong land should ever get anywhere near approval without at least giving the Bunurong the opportunity to tell council whether there are any sites of long-term significance under consideration: to do so would be morally reprehensible.
I look forward to your reply, and hope that you can shed some light on why these strategic matters have not been considered as part of this development plan.
Trevar Alan Chilver, Leongatha.