If we want our Sunshine Coast to continue to be a beautiful, liveable location as it inevitably grows to more than 518,000 people in the next 20 years, then an efficient and accessible public transport network is critical, according to Sunshine Coast Council Mayor Mark Jamieson.
“Simply continuing to build roads which only encourages people to use a private vehicle is not an option for our Sunshine Coast,” Mayor Jamieson said.
“All that this will do is increase congestion and pollution, create bitumen eye-sores on our landscape and inhibit our current and future residents in being able to reach the places they need to get to or love to visit, like the beach, shopping centres, health facilities or where they work.
“Is this really the future that our residents want to see on our Sunshine Coast? I don’t think so.
“The public transport system and network on the Sunshine Coast is not council’s responsibility – it is the responsibility of the State Government.
“However, like most people in our community, I continue to wait for our State representatives to tell us what they plan to do to address the urgent public transport needs of our region – because the silence in this space has been deafening for well over a decade.
“The Sunshine Coast community – the community we all serve – deserves more than nothing.
“Our council has long recognised that to accommodate 518,000 people and enable them to move about efficiently, there is a need for the other tiers of government to focus on, and commit to, a viable and accessible public transport network.
“In fact, we are the only level of government pushing this case – and have been doing so since 2011 when then Councillor Vivian Griffin kicked off the initial exploratory work for a light rail network.
“Since 2012, our council has continued this work because we know the coastal corridor, where around 80% of our population lives, cannot cope going forward with just a single, road-based transport network dependent on the Nicklin Way and Sunshine Motorway.
“If we do nothing, then that network will inevitably choke itself, the liveability of communities will be massively impacted, housing affordability will worsen and our region’s ability to encourage local jobs growth will be hampered.
“But we also recognise that an effective public transport network – a mass transit network – can be delivered in a way that does not compromise the liveability of our coastal communities.
“Our council has never pushed for or advocated for a “wall of high rise from Maroochydore to Caloundra” and these claims are both baseless and questionable in their intent.
“We know our community doesn’t want to see that result along the coastal corridor and our council doesn’t want it either – we never have.
“Spreading claims like this does however, undermine any chance that our region may have of securing the much needed investment by other tiers of government in a new public transport network for our region.
“What it effectively says to the other tiers of government and their representatives in our region, is that the Sunshine Coast doesn’t want or isn’t ready for a better public transport network – so feel free to go and spend your money elsewhere.
“Perhaps that is the objective of some who are making these claims – to reinforce that it is OK to have no plan and offer nothing.
“One thing is certain – our Sunshine Coast has never stopped growing and it won’t stop growing in the future.
“People will continue to move here because they see it as an attractive place to live.
“We’ve got to make sure all the elements of growth are understood and managed carefully so that we don’t undermine the quality of our lifestyle – which is what will happen if we don’t have an efficient and accessible public transport network.
“We can’t build a wall and keep people out. Our residents now and in the future, need to be housed, get a job and move around.
“Our council’s plan – which reflects the intent of successive planning schemes and regional plans over the last 20 years - is to contain expansion to approved urban expansion areas – Maroochydore, Birtinya and Caloundra, as well as the new communities of Aura and Palmview – and build a second connecting transport network.
“If we don’t do that, we’ll be simply paving the way for urban sprawl extending out to and compromising our hinterland and spreading down to our southern border, further eroding our regional inter-urban break.
“A sprawling Sunshine Coast will have an impact on the lifestyles of everyone in this region, consigning us to a future dominated by the car and the congestion that comes with that.
“I have recently become a grandfather for the first time and I have to ask, how could any of us look our children and grandchildren in the eye and explain how we allowed that to happen.
“That is why our council needs to keep working on the development of the business case for a mass transit solution – because if we don’t, our Sunshine Coast will get nothing from the other tiers of government and our residents’ lifestyles will be forever compromised.”
Mayor Jamieson said he had been advised that a Mass Transit project update had been planned for some time to come to a Special Meeting of council on August 27 and that this would include the core principles of the community engagement plan for the remainder of the time while planning for this project remained with council.
“I also want a few matters to be abundantly clear for the record,” Mayor Jamieson said.
“Council is not planning a future of wall to wall high-rise for the coastal corridor.
“Secondly, council has not identified any planning scheme changes that may be needed to accommodate a mass transit solution – and when this does it occur, it will be done in consultation with our community.
“Thirdly, our council is not – and will not – be acquiring properties along the coastal corridor to gift to foreign developers. This proposition is absurd.”
Mayor Jamieson said council’s Mass Transit website was a one-stop-shop for all information about the project. Residents can also subscribe to a newsletter to receive project updates.