Bega council, community in engaging open forum

THE importance of the Rural Fire Service, a proposal for a state-of-the-art equestrian centre and an innovative idea to rework traffic corridors through Bega.

Those were the matters discussed in detail at the Bega Valley Shire Council’s roving workshop on Wednesday afternoon in Bega, at which around 30 people - members of the public, councillors and senior BVSC staff - were in attendance.

The workshops have been successfully hosted in Bermagui, Eden and Merimbula in recent weeks.

This time it was Bega’s turn to spark the imagination and enthusiasm of residents and the council alike.

While there were three formal presentations on the above ideas, there was also the chance for members of the public to raise any topic they wished in an open forum to follow.

Matters raised in the open forum included - unsurprisingly given recent events - the removal of trees near the Bega Town Hall site and a lack of prior community consultation; the progress of the council’s determination to record video and audio of its public meetings; the perceived neglect of North Bega in relation to public amenities; and the possible provision of dump points for caravaners and the “grey nomad” sector.

Firstly though, RFS Far South Coast team manager Superintendent John Cullen gave a presentation on the vital community work performed by the organisation.

“Fighting fires is only a small part of what we do,” Superintendent Cullen said.

He highlighted the extensive community education and engagement in which the RFS is involved.

“We have a responsibility to make sure people are informed.”

Superintendent Cullen also outlined the assets and funding for this region’s RFS.

He said there are 25 brigades, 28 stations, 1130 volunteers and a budget of around $9million for the two districts RFS Far South Coast covers – Bega Valley and the Eurobodalla.

On a question raised from the gallery, Superintendent Cullen said the RFS’s biggest challenges include dealing and coordinating with the various land managers, the availability of volunteers during the day and the spread of “hidden bullet” African lovegrass.

Second up was local businessman Warren Page, with his vision of an upgraded traffic corridor assisting motorists through Bega and negating the impact of flood events on CBD roads.

He proposed developing Upper St and linking it with a roundabout at Meringo St to provide a direct route from the northern side of Bega through to the Tathra road.

Mr Page said the most heavily trafficked roads are right in town and that the sequencing of the traffic lights sometimes had traffic backed right up to the bypass.

His proposal would immediately split traffic into those actually wanting to head into town for work and shopping, and those just wishing to drive on through to Tathra or Tarraganda.

He said his proposal is not an overnight task and would require plenty of notification to Upper St residents and developers, but he said it was “critical” to consider in light of flood impacts on traffic flow.

“If it’s filled in near Meringo St, the entire route is flood-free,” Mr Page said.

“It’s an idea I believe will benefit everyone.”

Someone in the audience also pointed out it would make perfect sense as an expedient route to the new South East Regional Hospital rather than attempting to negotiate the Bega CBD.

Sapphire Coast Turf Club president Robyn Bain then took the floor to outline the club’s strategic plan and proposal for it to become the region’s “horse centre”.

The turf club’s strategic plan was released recently and a development application was also raised at the last council meeting, but Ms Bain took this opportunity to spread the word on the impressive future directions the club hopes to take.

To attract greater interest from top-class horses, owners and jockeys, the club aims to extend its facility to include 40 stables with basic accommodation and toilet facilities, provide extra yards for visiting horses, and an all-weather equestrian centre with sand roll and walking machines.

There are already plans afoot to develop land owned by the club into a light industrial zone and Ms Bain also hoped to gain approval for additional race meetings each year to improve TAB revenue and public interest in the track.

She and Sapphire Coast Turf Club secretary/manager Rob Tweedie said they are also willing to work with other groups in the community wishing to utilise their existing facilities more.

They pointed to groups such as local pony clubs, the Bega Showjumping Cup and even motocross riders as potential users of an inclusive “horse centre”.

“For much of the year there is a lot of infrastructure just sitting there,” Mr Tweedie said.

* What do you think of the above proposals? Leave a comment below or email ben.smyth@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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