Mayor's Column 20 February 2019

Sometimes Councils and Mayors just can't win. No matter what they do, there will always be some members of the community who are unhappy.

Years ago when Southlakes Estate was being designed, the original owners left four blocks on the edge of the park for themselves to develop later on. We all know that the original front part of Southlakes, is one of the most picturesque estates in Dubbo. It has beautiful parks, small lakes and ponds. Many people even choose to have their wedding photography there because of the ideal parkland settings.

No wonder the developers left a proportion of the area for their future use!

As the years go by, new homes have been constructed around the park and people have come to enjoy the open space of the parkland. In recent months, Council has completed the first stage of the Boundary Road extension, where those blocks owned by the original owners have newly constructed direct street frontage to the new part of Boundary Road.

Now the problem. The original owners have decided to build on their blocks – blocks that they legally own.

Residents are upset that their parkland will be reduced in size to accommodate the four blocks of land. Despite the blocks always being on the plans, some residents insist that they were never told the said portion of open space would be developed later on.

Residents have raised the issue with Council, and some have gone as far as asking Council to refuse the development application. 

However, Councils simply cannot refuse development applications if the proposed development is within the permitted local planning perimeters. 

A refusal of a legal DA by council inevitably ends up in the Land and Environmental Court, where the court simply overrules the Council, despite Council spending huge sums of ratepayers funds defending the decision to refuse the application.

Other residents have asked what else can be done if it’s impossible to refuse the DA.  My initial reaction was that Council could investigate the possibility of purchasing the land. However the estimates proved too high for it to be a realistic proposition.

Would ratepayers in the other parts of the city be happy for Council to spend $1.5 million purchasing land to increase the parkland in Southlakes?

All this has caused a number of Southlakes residents to be very annoyed with Council. I understand their concern but it is simply impossible to keep all parties happy with the outcome. 

There is no legal way to stop the development and it is certainly financially unviable to buy the blocks. The good thing for residents is that even without those blocks, Southlakes still has a higher amount of parklands than most developments.

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On another note, Council will be holding an informal Community Forum Wellington which will give the public the opportunity to personally meet with Councillors and Senior Staff to raise matters to be considered by Council.  Residents can come anytime during the two-hour window and have one-on-one discussions with your elected representatives or senior staff of Council.

The forum is on Monday, 4 March 2019 commencing at 5.30pm and finishing at 7.30pm at the Wellington Bowling Club Function Room, Marsh Street Wellington.

Last Edited: 20 Feb 2019

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