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Sunshine Coast mayor mulls population cap -

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Sunshine Coast mayor mulls population cap

The World Today - Thursday, 24 April , 2008 12:33:00

Reporter: Annie Guest

ELEANOR HALL: For decades, sea-changers have been drawn to its endless beaches and warm weather,
but the welcome may be cooling on Queensland's Sunshine Coast.

The mayor of the region's new mega-council, Bob Abbot, wants to slow economic growth and introduce
a population cap.

He's known for enforcing population restrictions during his previous role as the mayor of Noosa's
council.

But developers and business representatives say his plan is unworkable.

Annie Guest has our report.

ANNIE GUEST: A relaxed lifestyle helped along by lots of sunshine, surf beaches and national parks
has induced many to pack up and move north over the past 30 years.

But with 50,000 new residents in seven years, the welcome mat is wearing thin.

BOB ABBOT: The Sunshine Coast is a 300,000-person population now and it is just getting bigger, and
bigger and bigger and one wonders when that is going to stop or at least slow down.

ANNIE GUEST: The mayor of the newly formed Sunshine Coast Regional Council is Bob Abbot. He is
called "Big Bob", but big is the last adjective he wants to see attached to his community.

And the ideal population for the Sunshine Coast?

BOB ABBOT: Probably around about three and a half, 400,000 but whether we could achieve that, I
don't know.

ANNIE GUEST: Bob Abbot is well known on the coast for enforcing a population cap in Noosa. He led
Noosa's council until it was subsumed by the regional mega-council this year.

BOB ABBOT: This is not new stuff. A lot of the councillors that have been elected talked about
exactly this during the election campaign.

ANNIE GUEST: Bob Abbot has told ABC Radio, he also wants to see the Sunshine Coast's economic
growth almost halved to two per cent.

BOB ABBOT: The Sunshine Coast is growing at such a rate, we are outstripping our capacity to
provide the infrastructure and everything we do at the moment is merely catch up. We are not
getting ahead at all.

I'm not saying shut the gate. I'm just saying make it a little bit slower.

ANNIE GUEST: However, the Queensland Government's plan already allows for almost half a million
people on the coast within 20 years, so how would Bob Abbot's plan become a reality?

He's going to use the council's planning scheme to reduce population predictions and he's going to
make sure its enforced, claiming that hasn't always been the case in the past.

It could mean further height restrictions for developments.

BOB ABBOT: Reducing the amount of density that is available on any given block of land so the
number of people that can live there. Like whether it is multistorey or whether it is a single
house.

ANNIE GUEST: The body representing developers has rejected his view that the Sunshine Coast
councils have, in the past, approved developments outside the planning scheme and the Urban
Development Institute of Australia is also sceptical about Bob Abbot's plan to slow economic and
population growth.

Its Sunshine Coast president, David Oliver warns coastal councils oversaw a dire economic downturn
in the 1980s.

DAVID OLIVER: It concerns me. I do not want 1982 repeated. We do need to diversify our economy. It,
at the moment, is tourism, retail and development, and we need greater diversification.

ANNIE GUEST: What will Bob Abbot's plans and talks of a population cap and slowing growth to two
per cent mean for developers?

DAVID OLIVER: I would like to see how he is pulling those figures out of the air. I am not sure
whether they are sustainable.

ANNIE GUEST: Do you have any concerns about the potential for a downturn in the economy with this
sort of talk and potential job losses particularly in your industry?

DAVID OLIVER: Absolutely. That is our primary concern if this is done badly.

ANNIE GUEST: And the Maroochydore Chamber of Commerce says the proposal would mean only the rich
could afford to live at the coast. Its president is Gillian Taylor.

GILLIAN TAYLOR: We would consider that the economy would slow and that we would see that it would
be harder to buy in here, obviously, and also, we would have greater skill shortages because of
that reason.

It would be harder to buy in here and to get in here.

ELEANOR HALL: That is Gillian Taylor from the Maroochydore Chamber of Commerce ending that report
by Annie Guest.