Published 7 February 2015, The Courier, Ballarat
We live in a great city. Ballaratians are proud of our great lifestyle, our beautiful environment and our caring and connected regional community.
Change is ahead. And change is hard, especially when it involves something that is so well loved. But it also offers great opportunities.
Attracted by our enviable lifestyle, more and more people want to live here.
According to an independent study by Australian consultancy firm AEC Group there could be a shortfall of almost 40,000 dwellings in Ballarat by 2040 and the most recent figures by Victoria in Future show that Ballarat’s population is set to grow from 93,501 to 160,000 in the same period.
So how can we make sure that Ballarat is a city that embraces positive change? And how can we do so while protecting our heritage and all the things we love best?
The Preliminary Ballarat Strategy released by City of Ballarat for public consultation in November 2014 outlines a strong vision of how Ballarat can positively manage growth over the next 30 years.
The Ballarat Imagine ‘conversation’ and subsequent consultation process has allowed the community to contribute to the development of this strategy and share their views, hopes, aspirations and concerns for the future.
It is not surprising that as part of this feedback the community said we strongly value the quality of life in Ballarat as well as the things that make our city unique. We also said that we strongly support growth as long as it is managed carefully.
The strategy provides a framework to ensure the things that our community values are enhanced and protected.
At the same time it sends a strong message that Council is committed to managing growth and making decisions about land use to meet the needs of our growing population and allow Ballarat to develop as a thriving and progressive city.
It outlines opportunities for creating diverse and affordable housing options with a strong emphasis on activating under-utilised land that will bring people and life into the heart of the city and prevent continued urban sprawl.
It provides clear guidelines for developers to work within that will give them confidence to invest in Ballarat.
And it gives Council and its officers clear guidelines so that they have the power to make decisions around planning and investment that are timely, effective and consistent.
The strategy paints a vision of a city with socially connected neighbourhoods that are highly liveable and where it’s easy to get around. Based on the urban design principle of a ’10-minute city’ the community would be supported by well-designed public transport links and bicycle friendly corridors that encourage a healthy and active lifestyle for residents.
It highlights the importance of putting in place structures that will attract investment, nurture productivity and create jobs.
It promotes the establishment of ‘regional capital precincts’ – clusters of services, recreation, businesses, innovation or institutions – that will develop as vibrant precincts and stimulate investment and growth.
And it outlines how we can make sure we preserve our city’s unique historic, cultural and natural assets.
Committee for Ballarat believes that the vision and strategy outlined in the Ballarat Strategy are ‘right’ and we commend Council on the document.
We strongly advocate planned, sustainable, responsible and dynamic development that meets the needs of present and future residents.
The Ballarat West Growth Zone is a critical investment in future land use planning and has taken the immediate urgency out of rezoning residential land to meet the demands of our rapidly expanding population. However, we strongly believe that we shouldn't just keep building new houses on the edge of the city's boundaries and we must encourage activation of current under-utilised or vacant land within the city boundaries.
We fully support the strategy’s vision to revitalise the CBD, create world-class health and education facilities and deliver major events and culture. This vision supports Committee’s current work championing a number of projects: to bring more activity and life to our CBD; to develop job-creating opportunities on the current Civic Hall site; to develop a major sport and entertainment precinct at North Ballarat (Eureka); and to continue the planned development of the health and education precinct in Mair Street.
We now call on Council to show strong leadership by adopting the strategy in July this year and embedding the principles within the Ballarat Planning Scheme and Municipal Strategic Statement in late 2015 to make sure it is implemented.
Let’s build a city for the future and leave a legacy that our grandchildren will thank us for.