Battlefield looms on coastal playground
Simon JohansonDecember 31, 2011
Development potential: a sea of housing is spreading across idyllic Torquay. Photo: Drew RyanA NEW suburban frontier is set to engulf once-sleepy holiday towns on the Bellarine coast.
In rezoned farm paddocks on the road to Torquay, a transformation is under way that began late in 2008 when the first section of Geelong's ring road was unveiled.
As each new section of the road opens - the Waurn Ponds overpass to Anglesea was finished last month - the trip times to and from Melbourne's coastal playground get shorter.
''Essentially you can drive from Torquay to Crown Casino [in little more than an hour] without a set of traffic lights,'' said Peter Dorling executive director of the Committee for Geelong.
''It's a classic case of infrastructure-led development,'' he said.
''We always knew that once we completed the ring road Geelong's population would grow.''
Geelong has shaken off the dog days when it was viewed as an industrial graveyard.
''We've got everything in place, a port, an airport, environment, great education and health,'' Mr Dorling said. ''We are ready to take our share of Australia's population growth.''
Developers have moved to capitalise on the freeway's expansion and new arrivals.
''Vibrant City of Geelong meets all the relaxed pleasures of the Surf Coast,'' reads the sales pitch for Warralily Estate in Geelong's newest suburb, Armstrong Creek.
The ambitious Caroline Springs-like estate on the southern edge of Victoria's second largest city will house 60,000 people, more than a quarter of the region's projected 40-year population increase.
So far, 500 homes have been sold. The first is expected to begin construction this month, a precursor to another 22,000 dwellings with businesses, schools, retail spaces, parks and other amenities.
Once complete, it will stretch from Geelong to within eight kilometres of Torquay's coast.
For ex-Rip Curl executive and surfer Grant Forbes, who settled in Torquay in 1975, the beachside town's charm is being eroded by the influx of people and rampant development.
''It's going to be a different world when you get 60,000 people saying this is their local beach, rather than 10,000,'' Mr Forbes said.
''There's definitely a sense that people want to slow the development.''
In July, a community backlash forced the Baillieu government to drop plans to rezone hundreds of hectares of farmland for new housing on Torquay's outskirts at Spring Creek.
Growth rates of up to 6 per cent over the past 10 years on the Surf Coast have created friction, said Speak Up for Spring Creek campaigner David Bell.
''You do that to any community, it destroys it,'' he said.
''It can't handle that many people coming in. Not only does the infrastructure not keep pace, but the social interactions start to fall apart, you get an us-and-them mentality developing.''
But it would be ''wrong to stereotype that view across the whole Geelong region'', said Elaine Carbines, chief executive of G21 Regional Alliance,
a body set up by five local governments to plan for the next 40 years of growth. G21's draft plan mapping the region's growth is set to be released in April.
The pent-up demand for coastal land was evident last November when 48 blocks ranging in price from $140,000 to $214,000 sold in Ocean Grove in a day.
Another 5072 lots were available in Ocean Grove, while Point Lonsdale had 864, said Geelong mayor John Mitchell.
''These towns need to grow but they need to keep their ambience,'' he said.
''We intend to maintain our green wedges so it doesn't become a sea of houses from Leopold to Bellarine Peninsula.''