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Response to draft Employment Land Strategy 2017-2037

 

27th September 2016

 

Warwick Bennett

General Manager

Goulburn Mulwaree Council

Goulburn, NSW, 2580

 

Dear Warwick

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the draft Employment Land Strategy 2017-2037. It has the potential to make an important contribution to long term planning for regional development.

There are aspects of the ELS strategy that The Goulburn Group (TGG) supports and areas we would like to see strengthened. However our main concern is that the ELS lacks a coherent twenty first century vision for the future. It is significantly silent on how Goulburn will position itself to respond to and take advantage of the energy transition that Australia will make in line with its trading partners and global community during the life of the Strategy.

The ELS states that it will “identify emerging industries and trends” and “provide(s) a comprehensive overview of the statutory and strategic context (p58). From the perspective of TGG there has been scant attention to the strategic opportunities emerging for renewable energy and related industry cluster growth. Consultation with the South East Region Renewable Energy Excellence (SERREE)[1], The NSW Renewable Energy Advocate (NSW Resources and Energy)[2], NSW Office Of Environment and Heritage Renewable Energy Coordinators does not appear to have been undertaken.

Wind, solar and biomass should be considered as resources along with mineral/quarrying resources. This is a gap in the study which requires further consideration in a comprehensive 20 year plan.

Positioning Goulburn for the clean energy economy 

Since 2008, TGG has consistently prosecuted the case for a regional development strategy that takes account of the national and international shift towards a low carbon economy. The biggest economic change over the next twenty years will be the transition away from a fossil fuel driven economy to an economy driven by clean energy. This space is moving rapidly and Goulburn Council should seek to maximize the opportunities in the new economy.

The global appetite for clean energy, associated “green” products and services fits well with the abundant wind, solar and bioenergy potential of our region. Council has identified some of this potential in recent years. For example: In 2014 Council staff presented a Project Proposal to the Economic Development Committee outlining the economic benefits that flow from large scale wind farms in adjacent LGAs to the Goulburn economy.[3]

The Proposal highlighted data from a 2012 study by Sinclair Knight Merz: that for every 50 MW wind farm $1.2 million is delivered to the local economy through direct and indirect employment of contractors and service industries. The Project Proposal recommended that Council investigate the potential to leverage renewable energy projects for the benefit of the regional economy into the future:

“Goulburn Mulwaree needs to actively work towards capturing and retaining the long-term benefits of renewable energy developments in the region. In addition to those outlined above, benefits could include in migration of residents and businesses; and expansion, strengthening and diversification of existing businesses.

This project could also inform a business case to attract relevant service industries to the region by demonstrating local demand for specific products/services.” (P1)

However as clean energy technologies diversify and the national energy market adjusts to a change in energy generation, it is clear that opportunities exist for smaller scale social and commercial enterprises such as the Goulburn Community Solar Farm to enter the energy space.

The ELS does not seriously address renewable energy as an economic driver that also requires employment land use. The opportunities for solar farms, community solar, micro grids in new housing developments and a solar installation industry are substantial.

ACT as the major driver of economic activity – the implications

 

In 2016 NSW Planning identified the ACT as the key economic driver for the southern region[4]. In 2016 The ACT committed to being powered 100% by clean energy by 2020. It is well on track to achieve this. In early September, the Crookwell 2 Wind farm became the second NSW wind farm to win the tender in the latest reverse auction to supply the ACT with clean energy. Other large Councils are looking to adopt the ACT model to secure clean energy (eg City of Melbourne and City of Sydney). The potential for Goulburn to develop part of its commercial vision to leverage and support clean energy opportunities in wind, solar, biomass and hybrid projects is worthy of consideration in the ELS.

Investment in clean energy, associated commercial activity and value adding

30-40% of the total national investment in clean energy goes into regional Australia. If Australia secures 50% renewable energy by 2050 this will provide 28,000 jobs. [5] Not only are we entering the clean energy age but associated technologies will shape and add value to other commercial activities.

For example there is an expanding Asian market for agricultural produce that is healthy and safe. In regions like Goulburn there is an opportunity for large and small scale food production for the export market that can leverage water, recycling and energy efficiency technologies to provide meaningful employment and reputational benefits to our region. What is needed is land, available technologies, an increasingly skilled workforce and appropriate incentives.

What is also required is a shift in mindset to actively embrace a clean and green economy. How can Council facilitate this shift within the region?

Diverse business models are emerging

Economic (and employment) opportunities also lie in new and emerging business models. The ELS should provide a vision for the region that is robust enough to attract the right mix of entrepreneurship, know how and investment to seriously grow the region’s economic future.  Such a vision would enable Goulburn to position itself as a hub for sustainable industries supported by strategic location, transport infrastructure potential, clean energy resources, energy efficient agribusiness, tourism and livability.

How will the ELS assist Council to attract entrepreneurs and sustainability cluster activity  given that the background Report identifies that current entrepreneurship in Goulburn is low?

Education and Training

The ELS (and many other reports cited in the Background Report) rightly identify the need for skill development and training opportunities in the region so that our workforce is ready and responsive to commercial opportunities. The decline in TAFE offerings and the lack of targeted and tailored courses aimed at upskilling and retraining the workforce in Goulburn Mulwaree is an issue that should be tackled directly with TAFE Illawarra. Additional strategies must be developed to bring vocational and tertiary providers into the region so that young people and older workers have can maintain relevant skills for the next 20 Years.

Electric cars and the electric Highway

Interventions that are small but position Goulburn ahead of the pack are crucial in delivering  quick commercial benefits. In 2015 efforts by TGG and Council successfully secured the first Tesla Charging station in Australia for Goulburn city. In a 20 year plan the ELS should consider the commercial implications of attracting both residents and visitors with electric cars and providing accessible charging stations in the CBD. A fast charger should be installed at the Visitors Centre as a short term goal to strategically position Goulburn as the electric highway develops between Canberra and Sydney. Longer term considerations for commercially operated charging stations should be considered in the ELS.

Livability attracts investment and new residents.

Many people are attracted to live in Goulburn Mulwaree and surrounds because of its picturesque environment, built heritage and relaxed rural lifestyle. With a clean and green vision Goulburn positions itself to add value to this major attractor by managing our waste streams more commercially, delivering infrastructure and services that increase livability, lifting  our educational profile and enhancing eco tourism, driving and cycling tourism potential.

New residential developments should incorporate higher standards for energy efficiency and infrastructure such as walking and bike paths. These should be identified as part of the connectivity between areas in Goulburn and villages linking to a bike and walking grid across the city.

With an aging population accessibility to services for mobility scooters and power chairs along with appropriate housing design should be a consideration in all new development applications.

Managing environmental protection

All considerations for industrial and commercial expansion or diversification should be subject to significant environmental standards. While the Freight hub is as welcome initiative some community concern has been expressed about the poor application of environmental standards as the activities of the hub expand. Expansion of quarrys beyond the initial development has also caused considerable community concern with increased traffic and noise for residents. Management of expansion should require additional environmental impact assessments.

Hospitality and food services – the café culture

The ELS does not appear to have considered hospitality and food services as an employment growth area for the CBD and villages. Anecdotally there appears to be a growing café culture in most of Goulburn’s population centres. Hybrid models are springing up with café’s being added to green grocers, bakeries, antique shops and homeware stores throughout the region. Hospitality and food services, florists, newsagents, bakeries, hairdressers etc should have more focus in the CBD consolidation aspect of the ELS as they integrate well with the ‘shop top housing’ approach.

TGG agrees that attracting large scale retail given the proximity of Canberra and Sydney and the increase in online shopping does not appear to be a worthwhile focus.

Passenger rail services are very poor

TGG contests the assertion in the ELS that passenger and rail connectivity is “good” (p 4 Background Report). Passenger rail services are very poor, infrequent, unreliable and slow. Commuting to Canberra or Sydney is not a viable option. The NSW Government has shown little interest in delivering decent passenger rail services and rolling stock to the Southern Region and this has serious economic  implications for Goulburn. HSR could be a game changer for Goulburn and other regional centres but suffers from political inertia. In the meantime, Council must exert maximum pressure on the State government to improve  passenger rail for the region. It is misleading for the ELS to describe accessibility to passenger rail in positive terms.

Waste management

Opportunities for expanding and better managing waste and recycling to include the potential for bio energy enterprises in addition to Woodlawn should be identified. Recently it was reported in the Goulburn Post that Goulburn is unable to adequately manage recycling.[6] In the 21st century this is unacceptable and a breach of social trust. Waste management is a commercial opportunity that delivers employment outcomes for many cities across the world. With both the Goulburn and Marulan land fill sites reaching maximum capacity commercial opportunities in waste management should be explored in addition to the Woodlawn facility. Partnerships with tertiary institutions who are pioneering waste management technologies could be investigated.

In conclusion:

TGG would like to see the following aspects of the Strategy strengthened:

Leverage opportunities in clean energy and a green economy

  • Renewable energy projects, social enterprises, start ups and associated industry clusters should be incorporated into the 20 year ELS.
  • The ELS should identify sites for electric vehicle fast charging in the short term because of its flow on benefits in attracting visitors and creating a local appetite for electric vehicles. Electric vehicles could also become part of motor sports into the future as a point of difference.
  • Wind, solar and biomass should be considered resources along with minerals/quarrying.
  • Small and large scale agribusiness with associated energy and water efficiency should be considered for employment lands.

Heritage – built and natural

  • Heritage values should not just be “promoted” but deliberately incentivized. Preservation and adaptive reuse of Goulburn’s built heritage and protection of environmental assets have strong commercial value and should not be lost to fragmentation or demolition by neglect.
  • Shop top apartments should be aggressively encouraged with incentives to adaptively renovate our heritage stock in main street. Such consolidation of the CBD to increase residential development will add considerably to CBD vitality.
  • The Renew Goulburn initiative which takes advantage of vacant heritage stock in the CBD should be expanded in the ELS as an attractor for investment, start ups, and relocation of businesses into Goulburn. It may also give an economic boost to arts and craft based industries that contribute to the reputational capital of Goulburn.
  • Treescaping and green spaces should be incorporated into all employment land developments.

Urban Design

  • Better connectivity in CBD to open up pedestrian laneways and back street parking would support commerce and social wellbeing.
  • Treescapes/streetscapes and beautification plans should be strengthened within the ELS to visually harmonise commercial, industrial and residential areas. Many of the entry routes to our tourist hot spots are unattractive and fragmented e.g. The Rail Museum and Riversdale. These entry points should be the subject of progressive urban design planning into the future.
  • Ensuring that residential amenity is protected from inappropriate intrusion from commercial, large recreational or industrial developments. E.g.While TGG accepts that an expansion of motor sports may offer both employment and tourism benefits, these may also cause conflict in the community if zoning allows for intrusion into residential and rural areas. Careful management of visual and auditory amenity, biodiversity and community harmony is crucial in successfully diversifying Goulburn’s commercial and recreational life.
  • The ELS is right to acknowledge a concern about fragmentation within the city and villages. Urban design strategies that visually harmonise and functionally connect activities within and between the city and villages is an urgent consideration particularly in the absence of an overarching vision for regional development.

Demographic change

  • Planning for changing demographic challenges are inadequately addressed in the Strategy. It is not clear how the ELS has addressed the need for an expansion and diversity of health, transport and social services to meet an aging population.
  • GMC needs to be thinking about how it can facilitate better design into residential and communal areas so that homes and facilities remain responsive and accessible throughout the lifecycle.
  • With higher than regional average youth unemployment it is right that the ELS consider growth of vocational and tertiary educational opportunities. With TAFE Illawarra already winding back its offerings in Goulburn, concrete strategies will need to be developed and resources put to prosecuting educational investment outcomes more vigorously into the future.

Education and training

  • Employment and training linkages with TAFE and Tertiary institutions in the ACT are critical to ensuring a skilled workforce that can meet 21st century challenges as well as opportunities for young people to live, study and work in the region.
  • A focus on a range of green skill areas to prepare for the low carbon economy is vital. Dubbo, Bathurst and Orange Council areas are examples where such initiatives have been taken.

Thank you for the opportunity to contribute to the ELS. It is the intention of TGG to offer constructive feedback that takes seriously the many challenges we will face in the next 20 years.  I hope that our input will strengthen the ELS and also contribute meaningfully to related planning instruments.

regards

Mhairi Fraser

President, TGG

president@goulburngroup.com.au

 

[1] SERREE is an industry cluster initiative to develop the renewable energy sector in the ACT and surrounding south east NSW Region. www.serree.org.au

 

[2] The Renewable Energy Advocate reviews progress on the NSW Renewable Energy Action Plan. Considerable development opportunity continues to exist for clean energy projects if NSW is to meet the Plan’s targets.

[3] Renewable Energy Opportunities: Project Proposal to the Goulburn Council Economic Advisory Council, May 2014

[4] Draft South East and Tablelands Regional Plan, Planning NSW, 2016

[5] On the Frontline: Climate Change and Rural Communities, Climate Council Report, August 2016

[6] Reported in the Goulburn Post 18/3/2016 quoting Cr Rowlands – “70% of the city’s recycling goes to landfill.” http://www.goulburnpost.com.au/story/3797865/cr-sam-rowland-calls-for-better-leadership-in-council/?cs=181….