The future?s bright
By DAN MacDONALD
GRAFTON will need to prepare for a population surge expected to hit the State's Mid North Coast over the next 25 years.
The Iemma Government's Planning Minister, Frank Sartor, has released his draft Mid North Coast Regional Strategy and projects a population increase of 91,000 by 2031 in the region.
There are four major regional centres recognised in the plan, with Grafton identified as a centre capable of increasing the coast's industrial capacity.
But Clarence Valley Councillor Chris Gulaptis said there was a lot of upgrading needed for the area to cope.
"We (the Clarence Valley) are so far behind, we really need to be on our game" Mr Gulaptis said.
"We're struggling to meet our current health demands so there's obviously going to have to be a major upgrade there.
"And we have to upgrade our major roads."
Mr Gulaptis said that infrastructure now deemed to be in a critical state needed to be on the improve.
He believes the plan, which outlines Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie and Taree as the other major centres, focuses less on Grafton.
"We're not the main act. We're always secondary and as a result our services are secondary. The plan really needs to put us on equal footing with the other centres.
"But we need to get vocal now to ensure, if the plan is implemented, that we (Clarence Valley) get our fair share."
Coffs Harbour and Port Macquarie have been predicted to attract a bulk of the population moving to the coast and the Government is planning the development of high rise buildings and new suburbs to cope with the increase.
The document states that the Clarence Valley can also expect to accommodate an extra 7000 dwellings for the population rise to hit the region.
The Department of Planning said it would be conducting studies with the Clarence Valley Council to identify future settlement patterns.
Within Grafton, suburbs like Junction Hill and Clarenza have been earmarked as areas for possible residential growth.
Yamba is highlighted in the study as being a current focus for coastal development, but the State Government has recognised that physical and ecological constraints exist.
The expected residential growth on the Lower Clarence is planned to spill to Gulmarrad, near Maclean.
The strategy has advised an extra 22 hectares of additional industrial land will be needed in the Clarence Valley to cater for anticipated employment growth.
The Department of Planning believes Grafton has the land and infrastructure to accommodate that.
But the study also outlines that jobs in tourism, retail and health care will be big areas of employment growth.