By Michael Giles

OPENING up an additional 800 blocks of land for housing at Cape Paterson could be a good idea; good for the people who want to live there, good for the economy and great for the developers.
But news last Friday, November 1 that the Bass Coast Shire Council, with the approval of the Minister for Planning Richard Wynne no less, would be going ahead to rezone the 53 hectares of land within the settlement boundary for Cape Paterson from Farming Zone to General Residential Zone Schedule 1 comes as a complete surprise.
It was only a week earlier that the Minister and local MP Jordan Crugnale declared the entire Bass Coast Shire as a ‘Distinctive Area and Landscape’ (DAL) “to protect its environment, landscape and lifestyle”.
At the time they said the DAL would protect “our rugged coastline, beaches, prime farming land and iconic tourist spots including Philip Island, Cape Paterson and the Bunurong coastline” leading you to think that such expansion of our coastal settlements would not be encouraged.
They also said the Labor Government would “now work closely with Bass Coast Shire Council, Traditional Owners and the local community to develop a Statement of Planning Policy”.
The Statement, they said, would outline a 50-year vision for the area, to protect and enhance significant attributes and specify long-term settlement boundaries for key townships to protect rural and environmental values.
So, coming out with an announcement a week later that they want to open up 53 hectares for housing in Cape Paterson, effectively making the town half as big again, reeks of ad hoc planning.
They also say there’s no such thing as a coincidence in politics or planning.
So, yes, maybe it’s a good idea to open up more housing in Cape Paterson, mindful that there’s no infrastructure in the town, but how does that fit into the overall development of Bass Coast?
The other question we would ask is “does the Bass Coast Shire even have the expertise and the capacity to bring major residential development projects to fruition?”
If you take the Wonthaggi experience for example, where it’s been absolutely crucial that housing pressure be accommodated, you’d have to say the shire has failed dismally to bring developers and other agencies together in a timely manner.
The town has missed two boom cycles as a result. Inverloch, Phillip Island, Dalyston and even Leongatha have been the beneficiaries when Wonthaggi is much better placed for housing growth.
These delays are continuing to dog the town’s growth potential.
The shire and the state government also had to work harder to make Wonthaggi more attractive to newcomers by adding a new aquatic centre, more public amenities, a medium density housing and recreation project around the golf course and coastal boardwalks on the edge of town.
A carefully planned lifestyle block development between Wonthaggi and Cape Paterson could further add to the town’s attractiveness.
It’s all very well to announce these grand plans but to paraphrase Clint Eastwood in Magnum Force, a shire’s got to know its limitations.