It was a comment that made Kiama Mayor Neil Reilly wonder how much the town has missed out on. A few weeks ago, he was talking with a group looking to establish a maritime museum on the South Coast, between Wollongong and the Shoalhaven. "I invited them to come down to Kiama and the comment was 'we'd love to but when we spoke to other councils in that area they all warned us that Kiama was very much anti any kind of development'," Cr Reilly said. The mayor said that came as "a nasty surprise" that developers may think "the gate's closed on Kiama". "I'd always thought that our planning had been exceptional, our accommodation for things that were maybe a little bit unusual was quite healthy," he said. "I was taken aback to think that Kiama may be missing out on some of the things that we really, really need because the perception of our council is that we are reluctant to accept anything, any change whatsoever." The image of Kiama as anti-development ties into what some see as a NIMBY element in the town; that any news of a building higher than two storeys is an abomination. But that's not the image of the town Cr Reilly has. "That's a perception and it's an incorrect perception that people here are NIMBYs and they don't want anything anywhere. That they want to preserve Kiama in aspic - that's not the case. "I want to draw out that people do understand progress must happen [but] we will not have a Gold Coast with high rises. We will not have a soulless canyon of accommodation." As part of a move to correct that negative image of Kiama, Cr Reilly is hoping to update the town's Local Environment Plan (LEP) which governs things like building height, density and where structures can and can't be built. He envisages the discussion on an improved LEP to start by the middle of next year. "The fact is the high volume of planning proposals that we now receive have sent a clear message to councillors and staff that we need to move to establish a much more relevant set of controls," Cr Reilly said. "The comment I received means that we have a poor reputation for blindly refusing any development and we need to engage with the community in a mature manner to ensure that the goals of good development in the right place can be achieved while maintaining the character of the area." Cr Reilly said the aim wasn't to open the door to anything developers wanted to do, just add some flexibility to the rules. "I want Kiama to develop in a controlled and measured way but by the same token I don't want our controls to be so rigid that people don't even bother to consider Kiama," he said. There was also the belief that it would make Kiama was the master of its own destiny, rather than having to watch as the state government decides it needs to intervene and take care of things. "If we sit on our hands and do nothing it will be taken out of our hands and you'll find it will be wall-to-wall houses and Kiama will not look the same and will not have the same feel it does now."