By now you may be aware that the premier has announced that she is fast tracking the review of the SEQ Regional Plan, with an increased focus on climate change, affordable housing and integrated transport. Increased housing density is also clearly on the agenda.
Part of the reasons given for the fast tracking is that it is claimed that original population projections for 2026 vastly underestimated the number of people required to be accommodated by that time. Instead of the original 3.96 million, that number has now been increased by 600,000 to 4.3 million.
The state government is planning to have the draft of the new SEQ Regional Plan out by December this year, with the new plan finalised by mid-2009.
This timetable places enormous challenges on south-east Queensland councils, most of whom are also grappling with the challenges of amalgamation.
However, it is absolutely vital that the Sunshine Coast council has its planning for our region in place and solidly justified. Our two-day Local Growth Management Strategy workshop last week has ensured that we are on the front foot in responding to this challenge, and we have a clear direction with a focus on real sustainability, and that planning staff can now begin putting the flesh on the bones.
I believe there are three key issues the Sunshine Coast Council must get right over the next four years if we are to overcome the challenges facing us. These are sustainable growth management, protection of our biodiversity, and transport planning which reduces our dependence on the private car.
Council has just adopted a new committee structure, and I am honoured to report that I have been nominated as Chair of the Strategy and Planning Committee.
This committee will be dealing with the three issues above, together with social development. I am very fortunate to have a committed and articulate group of councillors working with me on this committee.
Under the new portfolio system, councillor Russell Green will have regional planning, councillor Keryn Jones will have environment, councillor. Anna Grosskreutz will have social development, and I will have responsibility for integrated transport planning.
The concept of a “portfolio responsibility” means that individual councillors become the champions, the drivers, for their particular portfolio area.
With petrol prices going through the roof, and the phenomenon of peak oil now becoming mainstream, the provision of alternative transport modes must be tackled with urgency, and with my portfolio responsibility of integrated transport, I intend to drive (no pun intended!) this issue very hard in the new council.
I have also been nominated by council to be its representative on the SEQ Council of Mayors Regional Planning and Growth Management committee.
The council is also currently working on its 08-09 budget, and I have been working very hard to get some good outcomes for Coolum in the Capital Works program. This is still early days but I should be able to report outcomes in my next column.
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