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Forum to discuss three big planning issues for the Northern Rivers


Sharlene King
26 November 2015
Regional planning, council amalgamations and bushfire risk management are up for discussion when Southern Cross University hosts a Planning Institute of Australia (PIA) seminar in Lismore tomorrow (Friday November 27).

Representatives from the NSW state government, local councils and bushfire experts will address the three big issues for the Northern Rivers at the PIA Northern Branch’s final seminar for the year.

The seminar has been organised by Dr Elizabeth O’Brien, course coordinator for the new Bachelor of Regional and Urban Planning at Southern Cross University.

“The University is pleased to be partnering with the Planning Institute Australia to place a much needed focus on planning in the Northern Rivers. It is the first time SCU has hosted the seminar series,” Dr O’Brien said.

The forum will address:
1. The impact of planning on regional development
2. Local government’s future role in the Northern Rivers
3. Conflicts between bushfire risk management and planning priorities.

Dr O’Brien will facilitate each session.

'Stimulating regional development: what are the planning constraints and opportunities?' – 10am to 11am

* Steve Murray – Regional Director (North Coast), Department of Planning and Environment
* Brent McAllister – Executive Director, Sustainable Development, Lismore City Council
* Matt Wood – Manager Strategic Planning, Ballina Shire Council

Panel members will discuss ways to stimulate regional development in the Northern Rivers and to address the planning challenges.

Dr O’Brien said discussion on this topic was vital and timely.

“The NSW parliament is currently holding an inquiry into regional planning processes in NSW. Evidence from the Northern Rivers can inform future approaches to regional planning.

“Development opportunities have to be created in the Northern Rivers to ensure the economic future of the region. The planning system must facilitate this process.”

‘Future proofing the Northern Rivers: are council amalgamations the answer?’ – 11.30am to 12.30pm

* Gary Murphy – General Manager, Lismore City Council
* John Walker – Chief Executive Officer, Richmond Valley Council
* Troy Green – General Manager, Tweed Shire Council

The leaders of local councils will express their views on whether amalgamations will future proof the Northern Rivers. Two of these councils, Lismore and Richmond Valley, have been assessed (by IPART) as ‘fit for the future’. The other council, Tweed Shire, has been classed as ‘unfit’.

At the same time, Byron and Ballina Shire Councils have been classified as ‘fit’, while Kyogle Shire and Clarence Valley are ‘unfit’. Forced amalgamations of councils in the Northern Rivers, fit or unfit, remain likely.

“Amalgamations will not fix the unique problems rural and regional councils face. These problems should be dealt with by the state government,” Dr O’ Brien said.

‘The Bushfire Risk Management Paradox: Balancing Competing Land Use Planning Priorities’ – 1.30pm to 2.30pm

* Laura Gannon, Managing Consultant Risk and Resilience, MWH Global

An expert in bushfire risk management, Ms Gannon will share her knowledge of the contradictory nature of competing land use planning priorities.

“Bushfire risk is a constant in the Northern Rivers. The risk is an issue for every member of the community and has far reaching planning implications,” Dr O’Brien said.

Photo: Dr Elizabeth O’Brien.