Country living, city benefits
Queanbeyan is a regional centre in south-eastern New South Wales, and the council seat of the Queanbeyan City Council. The area is located just 15 kilometres east of Canberra, Australia’s federal capital, and plays an integral role in their economy. “The heart of Queanbeyan is closer to the heart of Canberra than many of the outlying suburban areas of Canberra itself,” says Mayor Tim Overall.
Queanbeyan’s proximity and importance to Canberra is one of the features that make it unique. They benefit from their location on Canberra’s border by acting as an accommodation centre – they have 24 hotels accessible to regional visitors. “Many people who stay in Queanbeyan are attracted to Canberra’s tourist centres,” Mayor Overall says.
Another central attraction to Queanbeyan is the fact it’s both a city and a country town, with the amenities of the former and lifestyle of the latter. “It’s an extraordinarily friendly place of multicultural character,” says Mayor Overall. “At the same time, we have all the benefits within Queanbeyan of a self sustained city.”
Additionally, Queanbeyan is home to a number of historic attractions. As of 2013, Queanbeyan will be 175 years of age – that is also the year that Canberra will be celebrating their centenary. “To a large extent, Queanbeyan has a highly historical significance to the development of the national capital, having been here some 75 years before hand,” Mayor Overall says.
Finally, Queanbeyan is an area of note due to the fact that is one of the fastest growing inland regional cities in the country. Mayor Overall and Queanbeyan City Council have made it their mission to foster and carefully guide that growth. “We’ve developed a 25 year residential and economic strategy that will take us to 2031, which was approved by the NSW government in late 2008,” Mayor Overall says.
That strategy is a blueprint for the growth of the Queanbeyan local government area, and plans for over 10,000 new homes, 136 hectares of employment land as well as community and recreational lands over its 25-year life span.
The first stage of that strategy – the new town development of Googong, New South Wales – has been approved by the state government, and will be located 10 minutes south of Queanbeyan’s central business district. That development will provide 5500 new homes, and within 20 years is expected to house a population of 16,000 residents.
“Going hand in hand with that is the redevelopment of our city centre, which is fundamental from a town planning point of view,” Mayor Overall explains. “Not only do we have the residential growth, but we must upgrade our CBD – which we’re currently doing – to be more self sustaining and endurable in the longer term.”
“There’s a considerable amount of rejuvenation taking place at the present time to turn our town centre into a more vibrant and people-friendly place,” he continues. “That’s all taking place and nearing completion at the moment.”
Queanbeyan City Council developed their CBD master plan in conjunction with consultants. The first phase of that plan is being implemented directly in the “heart of the city” – taking what Mayor Overall calls their most neglected area, and transforming it into a “lifestyle precinct” to encourage a new range of diverse retail outlets, and to provide a pedestrian-friendly area with opportunities for al fresco dining. At the same time, they have sought expressions of interest regarding two major council-owned inner city car parks – they are hoping to have them redeveloped into a mix of commercial and residential spaces.
The second major stage of the Council’s 25-year residential economic strategy involves a planned suburb called Tralee, located south of Jerrabomberra, in the Jerrabomberra valley itself. According to Mayor Overall, Stage 1 of South Tralee will provide 1800 new residential lots (with 4500 to come), as well as a business park and community facilities.
The challenge for the Tralee development is the opposition from the privately owned Canberra Airport. “Our residential and economic strategy and our planning for South Tralee, as it is known, takes into account the Canberra Airport’s growth and master plan to be the size of Sydney airport by the year 2050 – our planning accepts that,” he says. “That planning provides for residential development outside the aircraft take-off and landing ANEF 25 noise corridor and more than complies with NSW and the nationally recognised planning standards.”
A lesser challenge for Queanbeyan and its City Council was the global financial crisis, which did not affect the pace of development in the area at all – the Googong and Tralee developments serve as ample proof of that fact. According to Mayor Overall, Googong developers CIC Australia – in a joint venture with the Mirvac Group – expect to have the first houses on site there towards the end of next year.
A $70 million water recycling and sewage treatment plant for the area has also been approved by the state government. “It’s all proceeding, and the global financial crisis has not affected Queanbeyan’s growth,” he says.
The global financial crisis has affected Queanbeyan in the development within their town centre, however. Mayor Overall says they are keen to attract one or two major developments for that project, and that process has been slowed. “We did have a number of interested parties for those potential developments, but the global financial crisis delayed that,” he says. “But we’re now at the stage of renewing efforts in that regard.”
Finally, when it comes to strategies and focuses, Queanbeyan City Council has also placed major importance on environmental sustainability. “I think it’s fair to say we’ve been very proactive in that regard,” Mayor Overall says. “We’re in the process of developing our own climate change action plan for the whole local government area. We’ve been on the forefront in encouraging developments that are sustainable as far as their own practices – not just in building, but transportation services too.”
The Googong new town development, for example, is seen as a leader in sustainable integrated water cycle delivery, and the energy efficiency for the homes in that area goes well beyond the BASIX requirements. Googong has also – along with Queanbeyan City Council – established an agreement with Better Place Australia, a company that develops and sells transportation infrastructure supporting electric vehicles. “We will be right at the forefront in terms of sustainable development and transportation systems,” Mayor Overall says.
“The key role of a local government council is to put in place the planning framework,” he adds. “We’ve done that with our approved residential and economic strategy for 2031, and we’ve developed a master plan and adopted it for the Queanbeyan CBD. So the blueprint is there, the opportunities are there, and by taking the initiative and calling for expressions of interest for interested developers to participate in Queanbeyan’s growth – it’s the fastest growing inland regional centre in Australia, after all – we see that the future growth of Queanbeyan is assured.”
In 10 years, Mayor Overall sees Queanbeyan as having grown in population from 42,000 to 55,000. He also sees their new town developments thriving. “I see us having a very vibrant city centre, with new road and sustainable transport connections to the new town Googong and South Tralee developments,” he concludes.
At the same time, he also sees Queanbeyan as maintaining its most unique characteristic – “Country living, with city benefits.”