Big ideas for Grafton need big numbers
GRAFTON with a population of 35,000 amid a Clarence Valley supporting 100,000 residents is the vision at the centre of a swag of big ideas for the region from the Grafton Chamber of Commerce.
At an invitation-only gathering in Grafton on Thursday, former chamber president Phil Belletty outlined the chamber's proposal in a 15-point plan for Grafton, which he touted as a possible blueprint for regional development in NSW and Australia.
At the beginning of his address, Mr Belletty said for the visions for the city and the region to be sustainable, Grafton and the Valley needed the population to grow but all levels of government would need to work together for this to happen.
The chamber's vision includes some radical changes for the city, including transforming the Clarence Valley Council and State Government building on the waterfront into high-rise residential accommodation.
Mr Belletty also outlined a radical integrated decentralisation plan, which included incentives to work from home and move government departments to regional areas.
He said moving capacity away from the metropolitan areas would ease congestion and the need to boost city infrastructure, freeing funds to develop regional areas like Grafton.
The chamber's plan also included a request for a $350,000 grant to allow for development of a feasibility study for an internodal transport hub.
He said the study should investigate taking advantage of the upgraded Pacific Highway intersecting with the Gwydir Highway and the close proximity of Grafton Regional Airport.
He linked the proposed transport hub with developments in agricultural industries such as blueberries, macadamias and avocados, which could be processed and exported directly from the region.
Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis said the government would be delighted to look at the chamber's ideas.
"It's terrific you've identified all the basic premises behind development for the area: land, water, people, jobs and infrastructure," he said.
But Mr Gulaptis said the idea of trying to attract government departments to Grafton could prove difficult to implement.
"I don't think much of decentralisation," he said.
"There's not much chance the public service would move a department.
"The best way to decentralise is to develop the private sector so the services follow them here."
Mr Gulaptis said the new jail would be an example of growth bringing more public service job to the region.
Clarence Valley Council general manager Ashley Lindsay said it was exciting to see the chamber come up with such an exciting range of ideas.
"We'll be happy to work closely with the chamber to bring as many of these big ideas to fruition as possible," he said.
Chamber president Justin James said the chamber's plan should be seen as a start of discussion and not an end.
GRAFTON OPEN FOR BUSINESS
Short term ideas
FLEXIBLE ZONING - URBAN DEVELOPMENT
A 15km (approx) radius metropolitan area around Grafton should be defined in which flexible zoning will be permitted. These decisions should be made locally, not requiring re-zoning approvals to go to State Planning. This would expedite planning approvals and allow developments in reasonable time frames. Social, affordable and aged accommodation should be integrated into the planning allowing organisations flexibility to develop these integral components of society seamlessly and within priority timelines.
BEAUTIFICATION OF CBD AREAS
Presentation is critical when attracting business and people to the area. There are opportunities to fund beautification works which include applying for Heritage and other Building Better Community's grants to redo gardens, move power, pave roads, review speed limits, refresh building facades, allow for alfresco dining with covered areas creating all-weather public space. Parking will need to be reviewed and multi-storey parking could be considered for both Grafton and South Grafton.
CVC has taken the first critical step in preparing the Waterfront Precinct Plan. We need to lobby government for development funding for the CVC Waterfront Precinct and ensure funding is available so that the land can be purchased to allow walkways and infrastructure to be developed. This will also allow business to establish themselves in the precinct.
Work with the local indigenous people to build their profile and industries with a view to their cultural needs for their youth and their elderly. We need to encourage local indigenous people and organisations to apply for grants and government money so that they can embark on major initiatives like a cultural centre or appropriate aged care in this region.
RELOCATION OF MAJOR GOVERNMENT DEPARTMENT
Promote the relocation of a department to Grafton as part of a decentralising initiative to relieve pressure on Sydney and it's outlying suburbs. This initiative would allow the town to grow and be sustainable for the future. The old government building block in town could be redeveloped/demolished and a new multi storey building to accommodate existing offices, CVC, new Department and even apartments and a shopping precinct considered.
Medium term ideas
The hospital redevelopment is critical to accommodate future growth and ensure that people don't need to travel to major cities for medical treatments. The new jail and increasing ageing population require the redevelopment to occur sooner rather than later. Options for expansion could consider the current jail site when they relocate. Mental health facilities, women and family refuge, plus museum and even a coffee shop in the older area are real possibilities.
24-HOUR MEDICAL CENTRE
Work with local medical community to identify what is required to achieve this goal. This would also take pressure off the hospital and give local people options.
YOUTH IN GRAFTON PCYC - YOUTH CHAMBER
Identify what is needed to keep the youth in the area. We need to do something to keep youth here and form a subsidiary youth chamber or forum to formulate ideas and develop strategies. The promotion of a PCYC and higher educational establishments are the first steps.
Promote development of sporting infrastructure to national and international standards. Identify what is needed to assess all sporting infrastructure; include the motor sport park at Mountain View with a view to other categories than currently on offer. They could include drift circuit, skid pans, driver education etc.
Pool - Aquatic Centre - Water Park: look at an all-weather national/international standard facility with a water park and other recreational facilities.
Explore opportunities to better utilise prime agricultural land by supporting innovative local production at commercial scales which will feed into the distribution modes at the proposed internodal hub.
Opportunities for increased production of blueberries, macadamias, avocados could be fostered and export markets explored. Cooperative infrastructure for sorting and packing plus cooperative farming initiatives could be considered and investigated.
Long term ideas
UNIVERSITY / TAFE/ EDUCATION
To keep the youth in Grafton we need to increase tertiary options by promoting a major university to establish a campus, to support TAFE and ensure that we have the critical mass to have all trades taught locally.
Funding for a feasibility study is required to look at the integration of rail, road and air in Grafton. This would include upgrading the Gwydir Highway, Summerland Way to allow large vehicles year-round access. This Hub would allow goods and produce to flow through Grafton and be distributed along the East coast with linkage to the Port of Brisbane.
Explore options and feasibility as part of the internodal hub. We will also look at bringing private investment into Grafton. Considerations like a flight school, more hanger space, air freight promotion and other initiatives that support jobs and infrastructure.
Flood security'y is an issue which needs to be addressed with measures other than the levee walls being our only mitigation plan. In order to provide a relatively flood free Grafton area we need to reduce the risk of flooding by looking more closely at the height of levee walls; the possibility of diverting flood water and the minimum build height policies.
BETTER USE OF LAND IN AROUND THE CBD AREAS
Maximise land use around the CBD areas. Plan for the relocation of the race circuit and Showgrounds to outer areas and explore the utilisation of the area for medium and high density apartments.