Beneath the ‘business as usual’ surface, Noosa is paddling hard right now as it fights to stay afloat in a genuinely existential battle.
This is not just about saving Noosa’s notion of a ‘population cap’…a size we can sustainably carry. It’s about saving the very essence of Noosa; the reason most residents and tourists come here.
It boils down to this question; we know the Queensland Government is intent on jamming more than 2-million extra people into our state’s South East corner in the next couple of decades, including what they envisage as Noosa’s ‘share’ of this excess – nearly 20,000 more people.
How do we convince them that this will be the end of the Noosa project as we know it, and a demolition of our tourism industry which is based on the fact that we are NOT a coastal city, or part of the “Noosangatta” horror scenario that Alan Lander wrote about recently.
How do we plead our need to be kept ‘special’ and protected, not because of NIMBYism – although that finger is inevitably pointed at us – but because our economic and lifestyle model depends on it?
On Wednesday public submissions to the state on their plan for turbo-charged growth were closed.
We know Noosa Council has been making public and political noises while working hard in the background. With Noosa now a party politically ‘tainted’ Council, the State Government has found it easy to dismiss most of the Mayor’s arguments as little more than her LNP campaign for the seat of Noosa next year.
So, who will they listen to? Perhaps a little political context could be useful here.
Independent Noosa MP Sandy Bolton was recently appointed to chair the parliamentary Youth Crime committee, something of a poison chalice the Palaszczuk government was delighted to hand over to the member for Noosa.
This committee – if it does anything of substance on the complex issue of youth crime – is guaranteed to upset at least half of the population. But it’s a relief valve for the government and – here’s the connection – an extra reason for them to listen closely as Sandy Bolton argues Noosa’s case on population growth.
Any local community or environment group that’s worth its salt will have supported her case with a submission to the government.
Peregian Beach Community Association has lodged a comprehensive submission arguing that a ‘one-size fits all’ plan for growth in SEQ will do irreparable damage to Noosa.
And Noosa Parks Association argues for;
* A viable destination management strategy that respects and protects resident amenity and provides equitable access to visitors, and
* A housing diversity strategy that isn’t simply applying big city solutions to a locale that has long been successfully marketing itself as the alternative to big city life.
NPA argues that there are better ways of addressing the issues of affordable housing in Noosa than by blanket increases in density. They submit that Noosa Council can best play its part by:
- Getting Noosa’s future housing mix right, so that Noosa Shire’s economic potential will not be hampered by a deficit of available and affordable housing that is already leading to worker shortages; and
- Getting Noosa’s resident-tourist balance right, so that Noosa once again becomes an attractive and environmentally sustainable place to call home, or to visit.
The NPA submission says Noosa Council has already gone some way towards addressing the issue of affordable housing- at least at the policy level – in its Noosa Housing Strategy which includes a review of planning scheme provisions and a suite of proposed amendments to address the housing crisis.
These Council approaches to the Queensland Government remain confidential and are currently on pause.
It’s clear Noosa has moved well past the point where we can rely on the market to deliver the affordable accommodation required. Million dollar apartments are not aimed at our working families.
Turning the Destination Management debacle on its head
In relation to the resident-tourist balance, the NPA submission says “Noosa Council’s current destination management puts the interests of tourists ahead of residents. It can and must get the balance right”.
Noosa Council’s destination management challenge is to provide a delightfully relaxed and appealing recreational experience for visitors in a way that is both environmentally responsible and which complements rather than detracts from resident amenity.
If Noosa Council is to deliver such an outcome, it will need to do some heavy lifting sooner rather than later. To succeed, a revised destination management strategy will need to gain support from the Queensland Government, Tourism Queensland, the Noosa tourism industry, and the Noosa community. In the face of increasing tourism pressures resulting from SEQ population growth, this issue has never been more urgent.
And a final warning:
“Noosa Parks Association submits that the answers to the problems associated with housing affordability, adequate worker accommodation, community wellbeing and destination management will not be achieved through either increasing building heights nor by changing residential zonings or enlarging urban footprints”.
The message is clear. Noosa’s environment and lifestyle depend on it being delivered effectively.