‘Self-interest’ sending the wrong signals

ROB Pollock has slammed “self-interested residents” for blocking two major Eurobodalla developments and sending the “wrong signal” about the shire to major investors.

The Eurobodalla Shire councillor and chairman of Regional Development Australia’s Far South Coast branch says some councillors had “caved in” to a group of Surf Beach residents several years ago.

Ultimately, he said, those actions led to Bunnings abandoning the Surf Beach project in September, despite the site being zoned “for industrial and commercial expansion for about 30 years”.

Cr Pollock said the council now faced court action over an approved Malua Bay development after nearby residents opposed it.

“Council did everything within its power to get the Bunnings development to go ahead,” Cr Pollock said.

He said the site, adjacent to the waste facility, was “economically strategic land” with employment potential.

“That land had been zoned accordingly for industrial and commercial expansion for about 30 years,” he said.

“Self-interested people who did not want that precinct over the road from their residences specifically stopped that going (ahead) and made the whole process difficult. 

“That was beyond the ken of council. Council has been strong in its support. Unfortunately, some elected members chose to buckle to those self-interested groups and deferred to them. It could have been built four or five years ago.”

Cr Pollock said he was referring to the council in power up until 2008.

He said Malua Bay residents who have won the support of the Environment Defenders Office (EDO) to challenge a nearby development were also operating from “self-interest”.

By enlisting the EDO, they were “not putting their hands in their pockets”.

“It is fine for them to live on one side of the road, but it is not fine for people to live on the other,” Cr Pollock said.

He said these two cases were “symptomatic of many issues that face council” and larger investors were watching.

“When you get objections and coordinated demonstrations, it is difficult for people like Wesfarmers, who own the Bunnings organisation, one of the strongest public companies in Australia.

“They take long-term decisions, they are the investors you want and must have. If you make it too hard, there are plenty of other places who will welcome them with open arms.”

However, he said the Surf Beach precinct concept was not dead.

“It represents a major opportunity and we would be derelict not to pursue that.” 

Meanwhile, Cr Pollock welcomed news the Batemans Bay Marina would be refurbished, even if a major redevelopment was on the back burner.

“I am happy to see any action,” he said.

“The site represents a huge opportunity, given our position on the coast. There are few major commercial opportunities or safe harbour for boats south of Wollongong, until you get to Eden. Batemans Bay is strategically in the middle and we need to develop the opportunities for that industry to expand.

“The economic circumstances of the past four years have been the biggest brake on that type of investment. It is very costly, they want a return on their money in the medium term, rather than a longer term. That longer-term investment has been difficult to encourage (around) Australia.”

Cr Pollock said the council was doing a good job balancing development with the Nature Coast’s environment and that  environmental concerns regarding Surf Beach and Malua Bay were “not a valid argument”.

“We have proper controls. We are lucky we did not have developmental pressures 20 and 30 years ago. Inappropriate work occurred elsewhere and I think we are in a perfect position to capitalise on what is a great region.”

He said “some of the overlays from state and federal legislation become self-defeating. If we want to build a link road onto the highway at Batemans Bay, the vegetation offsets are ridiculous. We all need to get traffic out of the CBD and you want to build a bypass, but you have to set aside tens of tens of acres or hectares to offset it. It is crazy.”

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