Stop growth now: McDonald
By YVONNE McLEAN
THE recent shock revelation that the Gold Coast's population had surged to 500,000 and rising, has sparked a Gold Coast councillor's call for a radical re-think on devel- opment approvals. In a nutshell, for existing infra- structure (roads, public transport, drainage and so on) to dictate the speed of development rather than the State Government-approved town plan. The call comes from the council's water sustainability committee chairperson, Cr Daphne McDonald, who has deep concerns that with- out a pause in developments (tour- ism and housing estates) the pres- ent essential services may not cope. Speaking exclusively to the Gold Coast Mail, Cr McDonald said the population increase to the half mil- lion mark had come sooner than most people expected. ''I know what I am saying will set the cat among the pigeons, but it has to be said. There will be a lively reaction, especially from de- velopers,'' she said. ''We are at the crossroads. It would be wrong to go on approving new development applications with- out infrastruture in place. ''Certainly developers make con- tributions, but the responsibility is fairly and squarely on council to ensure services the population re- quires are in place, or nearly there,'' Cr McDonald said. She said she had been worried for some time that the Gold Coast was so loved, so welcoming, that before long council could be provid- ing services for what was virtually another city. ''Imagine the soaring costs in- volved, the rates bills beyond the means of many. In my opinion our philosophy needs to change, we need to build on what we have, not what we need, slow down, take a breather, head in the right direc-
tion,'' she said. ''This may be a form of capping population, but pausing could be one way to make sure the high level of service the community ex- pects keeps pace with development, not lagging behind.'' Cr McDonald said how the Gold Coast moved forward depended to an extent on a big injection of funds from the Federal and State governments. Both these authorities knew full well of the pressures now placed on a number of coastal regions in Australia. ''Noosa caused an uproar when it capped population, but now that de- cision is accepted. Behind the Gold Coast's population explosion with all its demands is the shadow of the rates bill - there is only so mch ordinary families, the back- bone of any region, can pay. To me, that's a real worry,'' she said. Cr McDonald said she was well aware that council could not legal- ly call a temporary halt to develop- ment approvals - or at least those with the potential to strain existing essential services. The State Government would need to pass special legislation. The law states that councils work to a town plan and every application must be considered within a cer- tain time. ''The Gold Coast for years was a laid-back city and that's the way many residents prefer it to stay. Now we have to catch up. ''Our transport and traffic study is more than 10 years old, we have at last after a long deliberation de- cided on a light rail for one part of the city. Now everything must hap- pen suddenly, and it cannot.'' Cr McDonald said she was put- ting her belief on the fact that es- sential services existing should dic- tate the pace of developments on the agenda. ''The cat's among the pigeons - it's a wake up call to slow down,'' she said.