A major land use strategy released by the City of Ballarat is vital to improving residential quality of life as much as releasing land for new development, says mayor Daniel Moloney.
The Employment Lands Strategy is a comprehensive, detailed 180-page study released by council which examines current and historic industrial and commercial land use in Ballarat, using the data to forecast the city's needs for coming decades.
Council has called for public review and comment on the strategy, and residents will be interested in how the study estimates the impact of an increased 150,000 people moving to the Central Highlands in the coming 15 years - with 50,000 of those coming to Ballarat.
Compiled by planning consultants HillPDA, the strategy is heavy going for the layperson, but identifies critical weaknesses and opportunities in zoning, future supply, transition from manufacturing to information technology, the impact of urban growth areas, englobo (undeveloped) land and the need for transport corridors and improved public transport, population growth and residential needs.
Cr Moloney says it's important to protect industrial and commercial frameworks, but also to adapt the city as it grows exponentially to make the best use of land.
"There are some parcels of land that make sense currently in an industrial and commercial framework," he says.
"There are some that have a big question mark over them. And they could go either way. And there are there are also other parcels, where they might often be old or abandoned factories. They could be commercial, or industrial businesses that have outgrown their current site. They might be the ones potentially able to be completely redeveloped into something different, perhaps residential.
"I'm really determined to see us lift our game on infill residential development. I think we've really underperformed as a city on that front for the last 10 years. And if we don't catch up quickly, we'll be we'll regret it in the next 10 years. Because we'll just be a traffic mess of people coming in from outer suburbs."
While the report draws data to 2016, it addresses the reverberations of COVID-19 on Ballarat, assessing downturns in construction and manufacturing while exploring the repercussions of soaring land prices.
"In total over the 10-year period leading to 2016, employed residents within Ballarat increased by 7,176 or 19 per cent, to reach a total of 44,712," the report states.
"The most common industries that employed Ballarat's residents has shifted over the 10-year period to 2016 - education and training has grown while manufacturing has employed 26 per cent fewer people.
"Over the period, the industries that grew the most were mining, health care and social assistance, arts and recreation services, construction, and education and training. Three of the four biggest industries grew larger while retail trade remained static. Manufacturing and wholesale trade shrank by 27 per cent and 21 per cent respectively, representing the transition to a post-industrial economy. These trends are consistent with Australia's changing economic profile."
Other features of the report include:
- Projections of supply and demand and profile of employment lands across the City of Ballarat.
- A review of policy, social, economic and property market factors influencing employment land use and development in the City.
- Classifying land according to the role it performs and in relation to its strategic importance to the Ballarat economy.
- Recommendations for growth and development of business and jobs in Ballarat on strategic employment land resources.
- Identification of land parcels that are not strategic in their current form and could be considered for alternative uses.
Cr Moloney says working with strategies like this is a satisfying part of being a representative.
"From my point of view, it's one of the reasons I'm a councillor in the first place," he says
"You get into this gig because you enjoy helping to shape the future of a city. It is one of those cities that has so much growth potential, so many opportunities. And making it work in a logical way, that benefits the most number of people, is quite professionally satisfying.
"The growth isn't new to us, in a sense, it's not necessarily just a COVID phenomenon. It's something that was there for the five years before the pandemic years; it's just been accelerated. So I think that we're probably jumped five years in our, in our planning and thinking, because of the COVID pandemic.
"It's essentially bringing forward all the plans and all of the thinking and there is a rush to keep up. It's a nice problem to have. You know, it's a challenge. We're going to struggle to keep up but by the same token, I'd rather that than Ballarat be a backwater town no-one wants to live in or invest in.
"I cast my mind back to the early 90s, when I left Ballarat to go to university, there were no real job opportunities, the population was stagnant to falling. The city has really turned around in the 21st Century. It's a great place to live."
The City of Ballarat consultation period is open until Friday 15 October 2021.
Submissions and feedback on the Employment Lands Strategy can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org
For any questions regarding the project please contact Strategic Planning at email@example.com or (03) 5320 5500.