Is Bellingen Shire prepared for Change?

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How a new Growth Management Strategy could Help.

Ask any resident if they think Bellingen Shire has changed over the last 5-10 years, and the answer will likely be an emphatic “Yes!”

Although parts of our Shire now look and feel different, the total number of people living here has not increased by much. Between 2011 and2016 the population only grew by 151 people and just 133 new houses were built.

Sustained low growth or population decrease could have negative consequences for our Shire. Some of these impacts are already evident. For example, wealthy households are buying or renting much of the available housing stock. This means many low-middle income earners now have to leave for more affordable housing. This places our Shire at risk of losing its valued diversity.

Also, rising costs and expectations around the maintenance of infrastructure may mean that the burden of these costs becomes shared between a relatively small population. Low growth or population decrease means residents may need to pay more for infrastructure into the future, or accept a lower level of service. On a positive note, a low growth future could mean greater self-sufficiency and reduced development pressure on the natural environment.

High or rapid population growth also presents significant challenges. Negative impacts of rapid growth can include: land clearing; loss of farmland and overloading of infrastructure. Benefits could include more local business patronage and more housing choice. Population growth could also be a catalyst for new or improved infrastructure.

Given the many challenges we face, what is the best way to grow? How do we get a fair deal for residents? Good strategic planning can help us prepare for change. Bellingen Shire Council is updating its Growth Management Strategy (GMS) to help guide future growth.

Council needs your local knowledge to best foresee and manage the impacts of change. How and where do you want growth to occur? This is an important conversation we need to be having as a community. We don’t need to accept rampant growth, but we do need to be realistic about change in order to proactively plan for our future.  Council will use feedback from this process to prepare a new Growth Management Strategy for the Shire.

To get involved visit the “Homes for Our Future” webpage at: create.bellingen.nsw.gov.au/homes-for-our-future.