Letter to the editor | We must plan well for future development

Bob Hammill, Sale

IF residents of this shire want to be more prosperous, if we want to create more jobs and better jobs, we need to ‘out-think’ our competitors in other shires and tourist destinations like the Great Ocean Road.
To do that I think we need to put more effort into exploring new opportunities and thinking 20 years ahead.
Previously I’ve written letters critical of council for the standards and extent of urban sprawl.
Converting good farmland into housing estates is the easy option but long-term, I feel we’ll regret some of the planning decisions we’re making today.
In such situations I’ve always said, don’t complain unless you can come up with a better idea and so far, I’ve only been able to come up with two options.
Using Sale as an example, I think we should be forcing developers to build in the more run-down areas in town to improve ‘the look’ of Sale and keep the residents (customers) close to the current central business district.
Secondly, I think we should ‘go up rather than go out’.
I believe a progressive council should be preparing to approve 10-storey developments in some areas, and encouraging developers to also consider such possibilities.
Those two options would slow the urban spread, but after that, what do we do?
Go back to selling off large areas of good farmland?
Well the other day, another option came to mind.
In the 1960s a friend Frank and I would catch rabbits down on Desailly’s Flats.
Our best days were during the floods where rabbits were pushed up onto small islands, and on those days we’d struggle to carry 40-odd rabbits home on the bikes.
Desailly’s Flats is certainly subject to flooding.
It’s a very large area — most of it is not considered good farmland — but it is close to town.
In Queensland I’ve seen places more flood prone than the flats — on Bribie Island for example — where developers converted flood land into prime real estate by developing canal estates.
Soil from the canals, linking up the creeks and developing a marina, provided most of the needs to build up house blocks well above flood levels.
My suggestion to council is to think big.
Have engineers look at the options and do a quick feasibility study on areas which could be given canal access to the Thomson River.
If that review was positive, release that for public consideration.
Development may not be an option for next year or even the next 10 years, but at some stage, (and with encouragement from council) big developers would start to ‘land bank’ knowing their time would come.
If it was not an option, then we just look at other ways to make the flats a more productive area.
To ‘out-think’ the opposition and be more competitive, we need to make the best of every asset within this shire — and we’ll only do that by planning well into the future.