Infrastructure development and Ku-ring-gai have not been happy bedfellows in the past, with local council directly opposing State Government initiatives. But it seems that more recently things are not quite as stark as one would imagine.
In October 2013, Brad Hazzard the former Minister for Planning and Infrastructure introduced The Planning Bill 2013, which proposes to overhaul the State’s planning laws and return local powers to local communities. This new bill would replace an act introduced back in 1979 which had become too complex and unwieldy to manage and it also promised to significantly reduce red tape. According to an article in the Sydney Morning Herald, Pru Goward the current Planning Minister was “not hopeful” of the bill passing, but did believe certain portions of the bill would get through.
The new bill would encourage sub-regional planning, that is councils working with neighbouring councils to the mutual benefit of both. “Councils, community and State agencies will work together up front to identify key areas that must be protected, thereby providing greater certainty that they will be protected at all levels of strategic planning.” Said Mr Hazzard in his speech to parliament in Oct 2013.
Central to the bill was a new development assessment path known as “code assessment” for straightforward development applications to help reduce red tape and to ensure that developments are assessed using a simpler, quicker and less expensive process. No blanket target for the take-up of code and complying development is imposed by the State Government on local councils. However, councils will be expected to streamline their processes and adopt code and complying development where appropriate.
“The new planning system will deliver more say for local communities in setting the ground rules for future development in their areas. It will deliver straightforward and streamlined planning decisions for families and a system that is easy to understand.” continued Hazzard.
In the Sydney Morning Herald on May 31st, the newspaper alluded to a “stark message” to Sydney’s established garden suburbs. In particular, the article was referring to the North Shore of Sydney and specifically Ku-ring-gai would have to take on its share of population growth, particularly along the rail corridor, presumably through the proposed “code assessment” fast-tracking process.
When we approached the Mayor Jennifer Anderson she said “From the Council’s point of view, we need to ensure that Ku-ring-gai’s special features are protected through planning mechanisms such as our recently adopted heritage conservation areas and environmental zones.” She went on to say “It is essential that infrastructure and facilities to cope with a larger population and increased traffic be a major consideration.”
Planning Minister Pru Goward is quoted as saying “You can’t live in one part of Sydney and demand that you be in a little oasis of a garden suburb and yet demand that there be greater economic growth because you want job opportunities for your children. We all have to share the burden, as well as the benefits of growth”.
Already residents of Ku-ring-gai have experienced the high-rise development around the Village Green in St Ives. At first many people very cautious about the works and the impact that the additional residents would have on the area. “Would I get a car parking space when I went to the shops?” “Will the roads be overflowing with cars?” “How will these units affect property prices in the area?” You know what? The sky didn’t fall down, life still went on and because of the additional residents near the Village Green we can support a raft of new restaurants and specialty shops.
Well, does Ku-ring-gai see itself as an oasis of a garden suburb that should be exempted from change? There are many parts of Ku-ring-gai that are in desperate need of development, such as the old car yards just north of Gordon on the Pacific Highway. We spoke to a North Shore developer and resident of Ku-ring-gai about the proposal to increase the population density of the area: “I would say fair enough, so long as the density is coupled with appropriate government spending in recreation, services, etc. to support the added density”.
No resident wants to see the grand parts of the neighbourhood torn down, but you know what, with a little care and planning, this could be a great opportunity to see funds put in to the area to further develop infrastructure and facilities and keep Ku-ring-gai as a vibrant, diverse and dynamic community.