REFLECTIVE: Clarence Valley mayor Jim Simmons has questioned the balance in a draft planning statement by council.
REFLECTIVE: Clarence Valley mayor Jim Simmons has questioned the balance in a draft planning statement by council.

‘HIT ME IN THE FACE’: Mayor questions Grafton-centric plan

CLARENCE Valley Council's local strategic planning statement will form the basis of council's direction with regard to their plans over the coming years.

It is a large document that has received submissions over the past months from community groups, government organisations and ratepayers having their say about how it should be approached.

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As the draft of the plan came before this week's Environment, Planning and Community committee, Mayor Jim Simmons took the opportunity to question the balance of where the priorities lie.

Mr Simmons said he supported the focus on returning Grafton to regional city status, and the emphasis on the strategic importance of Grafton, the surrounding infrastructure and industry.

However, he was concerned the draft was too Grafton-centric.

"When I read this document, the first thing that hit my head … is the emphasis placed on expenditure in Grafton and the surrounding areas," Cr Simmons said.

"I would like the rest of the information in the report to also hit me in the face, and get a little bit excited over what it means for areas outside Grafton.

"I'd like to see the same thing hitting me in the face for the Lower Clarence - in fact the whole Clarence Valley."

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It is a sentiment reflected in comments made on the draft planning statement. The report to council notes there were a number of well articulated concerns raised about the focus placed on Grafton and the apparent emphasis, and therefore council spending, in and around Grafton.

"This included requests for no more spending on a number of areas, including the airport, a possible freight hub, efforts to grow the population and promoting Grafton as a Regional City," it states.

"Some submissions stated that Grafton is not an attractor for residents of the Lower Clarence, who are more likely to use Ballina and Lismore for shopping, medical, air travel and other needs."

Clarence Valley Council mayor Jim Simmons and director corporate Ashley Lindsay discuss the agenda before a council meeting.
Clarence Valley Council mayor Jim Simmons and director corporate Ashley Lindsay discuss the agenda before a council meeting.

The report states that despite these submissions, it was recommended that council continue to support the promotion of Grafton as a Regional City, to provide for the community and grow the economy and provide job prospects and social opportunities.

"There are significant opportunities to improve the community in and around Grafton - from health and education, tourism, agriculture, industry and manufacturing, hospitality, creative industries, government sectors and many others," it states.

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"It is considered that a growing economy and additional social and economic opportunities in Grafton is fundamentally important to the people of the Clarence Valley.

"A declining Grafton would be a further burden on ratepayers and pull resources from State Government for economic development, training, housing, income support, mental health, crime and other services, whereas a thriving Grafton as a regional city will provide myriad benefits, including for ratepayers and State Government."

Clarence Valley Mayor Jim Simmons.
Clarence Valley Mayor Jim Simmons.

The report states that changes had been made to the draft plan to further acknowledge the importance of Maclean, Yamba and Iluka, along with all riverside villages, and coastal and hinterland settlements and growth areas.

"Substantial council focus is already placed on managing growth and development in the lower river," the report states.

"We expect that further more substantive engagement with residents will continue as actions are implemented."

The draft report was unanimously recommended to the full council meeting this Tuesday despite Cr Simmons' statement.

FUTURE CLARENCE VALLEY

Twelve months ago The Daily Examiner led the Future Clarence Valley campaign (#futurecv) supported by Australia's leading demographer Bernard Salt, putting forward visionary ideas for the future.

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