Growth within Victoria is advancing at break-neck speed. Each year Victoria receives more than 100,000 new residents. Most people coming from overseas or interstate head towards the greater Melbourne area to live and work. This is the case especially with young adults and young families. However, a substantial number of people are also moving further out into regional and rural areas. Many are baby boomers who, after spending most of their lives in the city, are now looking to retire and have a sea change or a tree change. Some are younger people or families who have been squeezed out of the city housing and job markets and are looking for opportunities in the regions. Others are simply drawn to the lifestyle that a place like Bass Coast can provide.
In recent times I have heard that many people who have lived on the Mornington Peninsula are now selling up and relocating to areas like Bass Coast. The Mornington Peninsula has long been called Melbourne’s playground. There used to be a clear difference between the suburbs of Melbourne and development on the Peninsula. One was urban and one was not. The pressure on the Peninsula in the last few decades has been immense and development there has become more and more urbanised.
Bass Coast is probably where the Peninsula was many years ago. The state government requires all councils to have at least 15 years’ worth of residential land supply. Bass Coast is not static. Developments are going on here and there. One of the challenges that Council has is to try to guide the type of development we want to see through the Planning Scheme.
The main guiding document for Council is our Council Plan. Within the Plan is an entire section entitled “Our Character, Celebrating the uniqueness of our townships”. It talks about beautified town entrances and the importance of having the history of our towns reflected in our streetscapes.
Whether you class yourself an environmentalist or not, I’m sure that most people living in Bass Coast value our open spaces and our natural landscapes. It is what differentiates us from the city and it is what sets us apart from suburbia.
As our regional centre, Wonthaggi is witnessing strong growth. There seems to be a tipping point when a certain number of residents draw in the big retail players. When I grew up in Wonthaggi there were virtually none of the big retail chains in town. Some like the retail opportunities the big players can offer, but there is also a risk that our towns will seem more and more like the shopping centres and precincts that are ubiquitous in suburbia. While on the one hand it is exciting to see the increased investment in Wonthaggi, I also understand those who feel that there is the potential to lose that small-town feel. It won’t be long until Wonthaggi gets its first traffic lights. In a way, it is hard to believe that it has taken until now to get them given the amount of traffic. These lights stand as a symbol of development but also of how we are becoming more urbanised.
Each township within Bass Coast has its own unique history. Hopefully elements of that history can be incorporated into the way that our towns are presented. This adds to the individual character of each town.
Wonthaggi has an important coal mining history. Part of that history lies adjacent to the entrance of town. Some sharp-eyed visitors may be able to get a sense of that but it certainly does not stand out. More could be done to make the entrance of town stand out. The signage is bland and visitors to the town do not get a strong sense of place and how the town is unique. The entrance to Wonthaggi from Cape Paterson is much the same. The centre of town is much better and some of our history can clearly be seen around Apex Park.
I think it is fair to say of most towns in Bass Coast that visitors do not get a strong sense of place or arrival. The budget for the next financial year has an allocation to redesign the entrance of Phillip Island. I am pleased that this was included in the budget. It is an opportunity to strengthen that sense of place / arrival for visitors and residents alike.
Hopefully it will the first of many such improvements to the entrances of towns around Bass Coast.