ONE of the greatest challenges for any council comes with mapping a path forward for a city over the next three or four decades.
While the immediate concerns of roads, rates and rubbish may be at the forefront of most ratepayers’ minds, the best councils are those that can keep one eye on the present while keeping the other on the big picture.
Bathurst has traditionally been well served in this area with some big-thinking councils – and big-thinking mayors, in particular – playing a major role in establishing our region as one of the most progressive, economically sound and fastest growing in the state.
The continued development of facilities at Mount Panorama, the raising of the dam wall and investment in cultural facilities such as the Australian Fossil and Mineral Museum and Chifley Interpretive Centre have given us a diversified stream of income to keep growing the region.
Now we have a new council which has been given the chance to prove its own worth as a forward-thinking group of elected representatives.
Bathurst Regional Council is currently developing a housing strategy looking for ways to cope with the challenges of a population expected to reach more than 52,000 by 2036.
The strategy will consider the range of housing styles needed to meet the demands of such a population growth and where those houses should be built,
Higher density housing will be needed but getting the location right is a difficult balance between maintaining the integrity of Bathurst’s heritage and suburban areas and also the imperatives of a city of the future.
The community has been asked to have some input and expert planners will also be consulted.
But it’s just as important that the nine councillors elected to speak for ratepayers also play a role.
This is not an area where full responsibility should be turned over to the bureaucrats. The whole community has a stake in what the Bathurst of the future should look like and those elected to speak for us must stand up now to prove they are up to this challenge.
Planning a 20-year housing strategy should involve more than a public service ticking boxes and crossing the “ts” – it should also take innovation and imagination from those elected to positions of authority.
Over to you, councillors.