WARRAGUL and Drouin will have to embrace high rise and higher density developments to lessen the impact of growing populations on farm land, according to Victoria’s [former] planning minister.
Above: Warragul growing up: the Newmason development under construction earlier this month (December).
This story was first published in the 14 November 2014 print edition of the Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen. The government has since changed and Matthew Guy is no longer planning minister. He is now the leader of the Victorian Liberal Party.
Asked by the Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen whether vertical growth should be considered as a method of preventing urban sprawl in Baw Baw, Matthew Guy said “absolutely.”
“We must begin to build up, no doubt about it,” he said.
“I think that the central areas of Warragul do need to go up, and it’s going to be a bit of a bit of a change for people.
“It doesn’t need to be 20 or 30 stories but we do need two, three, four stories.”
Mr Guy said towns in Baw Baw will also “get used to” higher-density development.
“We do need a different housing mix,” he said.
“There will be medium-density [development] which regional cities like Warragul, Traralgon and others will get used to.
“We’re seeing that in Bendigo, and we saw that reported [recently] – people are starting to move into an apartment lifestyle in Bendigo.
“That’s what we’re going to have to get used to, that the way we plan for the next 30 years will be different to the previous 30 years.”
Mr Guy said vertical growth in booming regional towns was “the way of the future.”
“We can’t keep going out into farm land… so we do have to have a look at a greater density through some of our towns.”
There are no height restrictions in the new state planning zones introduced by Mr Guy in this parliamentary term except in the neighbourhood zone.
“That does have a mandatory height,” Mr Guy said.
“Councils can set mandatory heights, but in the central areas of Warragul there’s unlikely to be height requirements.
“I think councils are pretty keen to see a bit of density and growth there.”
Baw Baw director of Growth and Economic Development Matthew Cripps said multi-storey would be considered “where appropriate”.
“The development of multi-storey development in the order of four storeys is something which would be considered where appropriately positioned and designed,” he told the Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen.
“There are already examples of multi-storey developments in Baw Baw with the most recent currently under construction in Mason Street, Warragul.”
“Focussing higher density development in well serviced areas… has many benefits.”
Mr Guy was interviewed after delivering a speech at the campaign launch of local Liberal MP Gary Blackwood last month. In that speech the minister lamented the loss of farm land at Narre Warren North to housing, drawing parallels with population growth in Warragul and Drouin.
Asked why the state government had made moves to encourage growth in strong farming areas like Baw Baw, Mr Guy said new town boundaries drawn up in the Warragul and Drouin Precinct Structure Plans, combined with higher density development, would prevent much further urban encroachment into farming land.
“The question is ‘where else do you want it to be?’ Take your pick – everywhere has a reason as to why you shouldn’t grow [there], that’s why the government wants to define those boundaries,” he said.
“You’ve got to say once and for all ‘that’s the boundary’ and set it and keep it.
“The local council has designated it as a growth area and as a consequence… of doing structure planning we can actually define the boundary now.
“If you actually define the boundary around the two towns now it means you… know where you’re going to grow, and you can plan everything around that.
“Warragul and Drouin have been growing substantially for the best part of 10 or 12 years, so we do need to set those boundaries.”
Mr Guy said it was “pretty clear” there needed to be “a greater focus on healthcare [and] on transport in the region, and a greater focus on jobs” in future planning decisions, raising the issue of a new hospital for Warragul.
“I think all of those points are going to be crucial to making sure that Warragul and Drouin are sustainable places to grow into the future,” he said.
“They can’t just grow. [A new hospital] is certainly on the government’s radar. We’ve put a lot of money into the hospital in Traralgon and… there’s next going to be a focus on Warragul. It’s on the government’s radar and it’s one we know we have to have a look at fairly soon.”
Mr Guy would not say how soon but said the project would be “assessed against a whole range of factors over the next couple of years.”
“It’s on our immediate radar. That doesn’t mean we can fund it immediately,” he said.
Get free email updates from the Baw Baw Citizen
Read more Baw Baw News