Ballina Shire Council strategic planning manager Matt Wood pictured at the council offices.
Ballina Shire Council strategic planning manager Matt Wood pictured at the council offices.

500 new residents a year: How Ballina is coping with boom

BALLINA is booming, but the council has a plan.

The shire, boasting 44,208 people as of June last year, has overtaken the Lismore local government area's population of 43,843.

Ballina's gross regional product is $2.03 billion, up from $1.38 billion in 2002.

By 2036, the shire's expected to have 51,238 residents.

Ballina Shire Council's director of planning and environmental health, Matt Wood, said the total number of development applications in the 2014-15 financial year was 683, which grew to 750 in 2018-19.

Between 2009 and 2014 the council approved an average of 90 new lots, and 135 dwellings - 94 of them stand-alone houses - each year.

That rose to an average of 366 new lots, and 309 dwellings - 195 of them houses - per year between 2014 and 2019.

Mr Wood said the construction sector was a "key contributor to the economy on the North Coast", with Ballina a "key growth area" in the State Government's eyes, alongside the Tweed.

As the population continues to grow, he said a key challenge for the council would be "matching the infrastructure to the timing of the development".

Mr Wood said the "steady" 1.1 per cent growth rate was bringing about 450-500 new residents each year.

"It means we need to plan for something like 200-250 dwellings each year plus the infrastructure that goes with that," he said.

"(This involves) making sure the roads are built, making sure the parks are in place, making sure the water and sewer's connected at the right time … and paying for it is another big challenge.

"Another (challenge) is matching the infrastructure to the expectations to the community.

"We're all looking for higher-order parks and better roads and infrastructure all the time, so matching expectations around the level of service provided with the resources that we have."

Footing the bill for this requires some technical calculations to strike a balance between what ratepayers chip in and what the private sector pays.

He said plenty of time and resources had gone into preparing for this growth.

"We have long term strategic plans that identify the growth areas and we also have place-based plans for each of the key urban centres that direct that growth," he said.

"We have planned development … but that's based on community engagement.

"It has regard to accommodating growth but also the environmental elements of (Ballina) and the expectations of the community overall.

"It's about planning to balance the things the community values and the character of the area."

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