LAST year the council requested authorisation from State Planning Minister Richard Wynne to begin the planning scheme amendment process for a proposed development of some 480 residential blocks on approximately 53 hectares of land in Cape Paterson North.
The Minister recently informed the council that he will defer the process until a Distinctive Area and Landscape review of Bass Coast is “significantly advanced”.
While the delay won’t please the developers, I’m confident that the review will ultimately result in clear guidelines that balance growth in Bass Coast with the protection of what we most value in this very special place we call home.
The review project involves strategic planning work to determine if changes should be made to the settlement boundary of Cape Paterson.
Declaring Bass Coast a Distinctive Area and Landscape was a 2018 pre-election commitment of the Andrews Government to recognise and protect distinctive areas and landscapes in our shire.
The council had advocated for Phillip Island to be declared a distinctive area and landscape before last November’s state election. The State Government agreed but determined it should include the whole shire. Bass Coast is one of four Victorian shires recognised for its distinctive landscapes.
How long the Cape project will be held up is the $64 million question. The State Government promised the Distinctive Area and Landscape statement would be developed within its first year in consultation with the local council and residents who know their community best.
The council is working with the Department of Environment Water Land and Planning to progress the project but we don’t know yet how long the process will take.
It’s a little bit daunting at the moment for developers but I think as time goes on, developers will welcome a clear direction. One thing I hear, with my other hat on as a real estate agent, is that developers are told different things, depending on who they talk to at the council. They can be told a different version of what they can and can’t do.
The distinctive areas landscape process will result in a strategic plan for Bass Coast that sets clear parameters on what developers can achieve in Bass Coast. It’ll help developers know what they can and can’t do before they get here.
The review will provide guidelines on town boundaries, height restrictions on what can be built in certain areas, housing density, inundation levels, and the protection of important areas in Bass Coast.
I’m really quite happy that all this will be explored. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your point of view, more and more people want to come and live in our area. I think we have to be sensitive to our environment and what’s attracted us to live here.
How do we balance development and protection of the environment in a growth area? The layman’s answer is “Carefully”.
I am for development but it has to be done in the context of what we love about Bass Coast Shire. I think the DAL strategic plan will help protect certain areas of the shire. Overwhelmingly the Cape Paterson community wants to restrict growth. Phillip Island people have indicated they want to restrict growth on the island. We have to be careful with our small coastal hubs.
Most of the growth will be in Wonthaggi, which has been earmarked as the regional hub. The north-east precinct alone provides land for about 5000 new homes. The farmland around Wonthaggi means it has the capacity to grow. Now we need to put the infrastructure into place to ensure Wonthaggi can handle the growth.
When I was growing up, we seemed to be stuck on 4000 or 5000 for a long time. I think we could see the town growing to 20,000 in our time, which is really remarkable.
Brett Tessari is Mayor of Bass Coast Shire and a Wonthaggi real estate agent.