AT ITS heart, the story of the Cape Paterson town boundary is about whose power and whose voices are being heard.
It's a story of the power imbalance between those property developers and the community. And of course it’s political – with state and local politicians seeming to ignore the voices of the people who elected them and failing to heed the well considered voices of experts they contract.
That amendment lapsed in June, but until the town boundary is brought back to Seaward Drive we face the possibility of yet another application for rezoning and development.
Over more than a decade, the Cape Paterson community has told successive governments and councils that they want to preserve our small coastal village set in a recognised distinctive landscape with crucial habitat for koalas, kangaroos, wombats and other native wildlife. Any form of development to the north, even on a smaller scale, would permanently scar this unique seaside village and significant landscape. In addition, Cape Paterson has already added to housing supply in Bass Coast with The Cape development, with another 160 or so houses to be completed.
The report of Claire Scott Planning, commissioned as part of the State Planning Policy process, states: “If Cape Paterson were to be developed to the north, the current landscape and township character of the small coastal hamlet, and the character and significance of its landscape setting would change and be potentially negatively impacted …
“Based on the landscape assessment, the townships with the most potential for expansion without impacting landscape character and significance are non-coastal settlements such as Wonthaggi, an already high growth regional centre.”
Why ruin this now rare coastal community when there is so much residential zoned land in Wonthaggi, close to services and infrastructure?
The answer appears to be that the voices of developers are so much more powerful than the voices of community members.
The lapsed development proposal was promoted by the land development consultancy Beveridge Williams. According to their website, “… we understand the planning system and how councils work. Our tenacious and positive approach means we leave no stone unturned … we know which buttons to push to keep your project on track ... We put a comprehensive range of specialists at your fingertips … you can be sure of accelerated processes and a coordinated response to any challenge.”
No wonder locals feel they have little power when faced with an organisation with such power, scope and resource availability. Unfortunately, most of us locals don't know which “buttons to press”.
“You can be sure of accelerated processes and a coordinated response to any challenge.”
Beveridge Williams website
Numerous submissions and approaches have been made in line with due process, but to date these have not been taken up. This year, the current council could have supported bringing the boundary back in its response to the State Planning Policy (SPP) draft. The current State Government could have done this through its Distinctive Areas and Landscape and the SPP processes, or by using ministerial powers. To date, it hasn’t.
There has been no response from the Premier or Planning Minister to the letter signed by over 700 Cape Paterson residents and concerned others requesting action; no advice that the present Sate Government will meet its 2018 pre-election pledge to protect Bass Coast from the “voices of developers”; and no consideration of the many well-considered submissions and arguments provided to government and council over a long period of time.
This is a political issue in this marginal seat. The majority of the Cape Paterson community (and many others in this region and beyond) do not want any form of development to the north. Even a smaller scale development would adversely and permanently impact the unique seaside village.
Only the current government can change it by bringing the northern boundary back to its original position. If they don’t, it really means they are heeding developers, not the community, or the independent advice of the draft State Planning Policy.
Cheryl Padgett is a member of the Save Cape Paterson from Overdevelopment Group.