Letters to the editor

Letters to the editor

Royal Willows DA

I welcome the extension of the acceptance period for submissions to be made on the Royal Willows' redevelopment proposal. But a few observations must be made.

It remains hard if not impossible for many residents to view the DA details provided on council's website. Efforts on my own computer browser failed, until on advice, I installed a second browser. Given COVID restrictions, easy online access is critical.

Further, the last Census showed that 36.3 per cent of Pambula's population was over 60 years of age, compared with 21.8 per cent for the state as a whole.

I am in this older age bracket. Most of us have lived here a long time, paid our rates and are vitally interested in the town's future. Yet we are the age group least familiar with new online technologies. We deserve more user-friendly information sources from our council.

The Royal Willows proposal was always going to be contentious. The demolition of one of our earliest hotels challenges our heritage values and efforts made over many years to preserve and protect our village identity. It also defies parts of our council's Development Control Plan 2013 (December 2020) and Local Strategic Planning Statement 2040.

Clearly a well ordered and transparent meeting, run by council was needed. This would have allowed the community to openly learn about the proposal from the applicants, their consultants, council planners and heritage specialists. The issue is of great importance to us.

In the absence of such an open process the initiatives taken by the local business community were very welcome. But the opportunity to meet with the applicants was limited to the chamber's members. I don't believe council planners were present.

I would have loved an opportunity to have asked a question about the scale.

We are nowhere near that size, so why is the retail area proposed for Pambula almost the same?

John Liston, Pambula

Ocean outfall: Open letter to Andrew Constance

I wish to draw your attention to the Merimbula ocean outfall project EIS (State significant infrastructure application no SSI 7614), which has been released for public consultation.

My major focus on this development is the waste of treated water to the ocean rather than redirecting it to help drought proof dairy farmers in our Bega valley, develop high value horticultural initiatives and act as an additional resource for fire emergencies.

I draw your attention to the review of current usage and value to the regional dairy industry and community of the Northern Shoalhaven Reclaimed Water Management Scheme conducted by the respected national dairy consultancy, Scibus.

You will note that this scheme has been in operation for 19 years and directs water to 14 dairy farmers in the North Shoalhaven region.

Scibus has estimated that the annual return from the investment to the farmers and community, averaged for 2017-2019 is $11.3m.

The council's EIS for our ocean outfall states clearly that annual rainfall will decrease and become less predictable, while the incidence of drought will increase. Given that only 1.5 per cent of the world's water is fresh with 70 per cent of this locked up in the Antarctic ice sheet, it simply makes no sense to discharge our treated water into the ocean.

This is now recognised in a press release today by your Minister Melinda Pavey, Minister for Water, Property and Housing entitled "Innovation at Heart of NSW Water Strategy". Included in this is a Brogo-Bermagui Emergency Water Supply Works as part of the state's Critical Drought Initiative in partnership with Bega Valley Shire Council.

I know the cost of piping water inland as an alternative to the development of the ocean outfall will be significant, however it may not greatly exceed the cost of construction of the underwater pipeline. Why not continue to build on your government's critical drought initiative by repurposing our wastewater in line with this initiative?

The major limitation for the sustainability and expansion of our valley's dairy and high value horticultural industries is water. Our population will also grow by 12.3 per cent in the next 20 years, requiring more water.

Please can you work with our council to revise their out-dated strategy?

Peter Wynn Adjunct Professor of Animal Production, Charles Sturt University

Please note the views expressed herein are mine only and do not reflect the views of my University or its staff

Royal Willows redevelopment

Around the time that the bushfires were hurting us and then COVID, our local council conducted a delayed and lengthy consultation process with the people of the Bega Valley.

New directions for commercial land development for the next 20 years were needed. It was all done after council had revised and improved its consultation procedures outlined in its Community Engagement Strategy adopted in November 2019. Business owners and residents participated.

After listening, in April 2020 council published its Commercial Land Strategy 2040. It was full of rich ideas about ways to grow business and jobs and making our towns more interesting and vital.

Much was made of connecting our natural and built features, celebrating our history, linking our shops with community and public facilities, making towns work better for everyone. People also wanted accessible shopping which in Pambula meant a new supermarket.

These responses reminded me of Newcastle's people, when asked what they would like to see rebuilt, in a commercial street worst hit by the city's infamous Boxing Day earthquake in 1989. When the dust settled, people wanted plenty of cafes and small shops of all varieties, some of it off street and in lanes, a relaxed, happy place that attracted people. It all happened with our council's support.

Our supermarket returned too, a modestly sized, low key, walk in straight off the street, open at all hours place, that still runs well even with larger competition a few kilometres away.

This great spirit that comes out of extraordinary disasters and deep tragedy compares rather starkly with that found in the detail regarding the supermarket applications for Pambula's Royal Willows pub site.

Included in its submissions are four pages headed Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design.

In reality that means a high- walled, commercial citadel and enclosed car park that runs a block, surrounded by high fences and security gates.

Terms like Territorial Reinforcement are employed. There will be closed circuit surveillance cameras, while landscaping will be designed to offer passive and active surveillance opportunities.

It all seems such a long way from the friendly town I have known now for 40 years. We are not like this in Pambula and we don't need to be policed by a local shop.

And to my local council, please spare me your invitations to participate in yet another survey or consultancy project, if this is your idea of a good community outcome.

Jack Downey, Newcastle (soon to retire to Pambula)

Chipmill DA approval gets re-instated

Here we go again!

Bega Valley Shire Council held up by political groups pushing their own agenda. No wonder our rates are some of the highest in the country.

As a ratepayer I'm fed up with this ongoing constant disruption.

Council business is seen as political opportunity and as a ratepayer I expect council to be focused on allowing their competent engineering team to do what's necessary and get the job done.

Who's paying for these long holdups and this latest recall of full council?

People are desperate for buildings in the Bega Valley and in this case, employment.

Gayl Cox, Eden

Outfall EIS ignored evidence

Agree with you Mick on your letter re the impacts of the proposed Deep Ocean Outfall.

SWAMP - Sustainable Water Actions for Merimbula and Pambula presented, in December 2020, to the EPA and BVSC two local farmers who are capable of taking all the treated effluent that the Merimbula STP produces each year.

Two agricultural consultants also provided data on the benefits of such with some very impressive figures. The EPA and BVSC representatives agreed to further discussion with these farmers who have a 380ML storage dam and are prepared to finance another storage dam for our wet weather events.

Given that our council boasts their dedication to circular economy principles, why then is there no mention of these farmers who would be instrumental in keeping this valuable resource in the loop and also benefiting the community much like the REMS scheme in Shoalhaven.

Instead, our council plans to spend over $40m to throw away a perfectly good resource with which to mitigate drought, irrigate farms, add moisture to our drying bushland and possibly start a new industry in our community through irrigating crops such as industrial hemp.

Marianne Kambouridis, SWAMP

Timber prices

I note on page three of the September 15, Merimbula News Weekly that the local Greens opposed the DA for the Timber Hub in Eden.

On page four of the same paper there is a story about how the shortages and rising prices of building products are driving up house prices.

The local timber industry is a major supplier for builders in the Bega Valley.

It seems strange that a group who advocate for low cost housing for low income families should also promote policies that would push local building costs higher.

Dr Rob Bain, Merimbula

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