The development of a sustainable growth management strategy for the Sunshine Coast was a major issue in the recent elections, and I am delighted to report that Sunshine Coast Regional councillors have agreed as a matter of priority to review the Local Growth Management Strategies (LGMS) developed separately by the three former councils of Caloundra, Maroochy and Noosa.
In addition, councillors have agreed to ask the state government will be asked to defer any consideration of the current LGMSs during this review takes place.
Very early in the election I nailed my colours squarely to the mast regarding my views about the projected population growth for the Sunshine Coast.
The planned levels for 2026 would have had the Sunshine Coast at almost the levels of the Gold Coast right now. Yet I am told regularly by Sunshine Coast residents that they don’t want to be like the Gold Coast!
At the same time, you often hear the statement that “you can’t stop people coming here”.
So, how do we go about resolving these conflicting values? The answer is by developing land use planning that will deliver development targets that will protect and enhance the special qualities of Sunshine Coast lifestyle.
The term population cap is a useful shorthand for this outcome, and we’ve heard about it with regard to the former Noosa Council planning scheme.
But every town plan has a population cap embedded in it - planners just don’t admit it.
For example, the population in a street of family homes will be less than a street of high rise buildings on the same land footprint. So when planners say that certain streets should be family homes, and not units or high rise, they have immediately introduced a population cap.
In effect, normal zoning is a form of population capping. The issue then is not whether there should be a population target, but how much, where and how people can be reasonably accommodated, and still protect our coastal lifestyle.
Fundamental to these population density decisions are values about what kind of a lifestyle the community wants.
There is a world of difference between an inner-city Fortitude Valley kind of community compared to a relaxed coastal village such as Coolum or the special heritage and rural character of Eumundi.
Protecting these different characters calls for highly skilled town planning skills together with the commonsense and values of existing residents.
Planning, then, should be a partnership between the council and individual communities, working with them on their aspirations for their region.
I am looking forward to working in partnership with the very individual communities across the Sunshine Coast on this, one of the most important tasks for the incoming council.
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