Shellharbour plan greenlit after four decades

Former Shellharbour mayor John O'Dwyer and other councillors fought to make sure the development came with appropriate infrastructure. Picture: SYLVIA LIBER
Former Shellharbour mayor John O'Dwyer and other councillors fought to make sure the development came with appropriate infrastructure. Picture: SYLVIA LIBER

The final chapter of a 40-year development known as ‘‘Shellharbour site 7200’’ has been reflected in a draft planning agreement negotiated between Urban Growth NSW and Shellharbour City Council.

Taking in the modern-day suburbs of Blackbutt, Flinders and the Shellharbour City Centre, the Shellharbour site 7200 project was the subject of controversy in the 1970s with the then Housing Commission planning to accommodate 26,000 people in the area.

Dairy farms were compulsory acquired and the land rezoned from rural to urban by the NSW government in 1978.

The subdivision eventually went ahead but primarily under the government’s development arm, Landcom – now known as Urban Growth NSW – and private developers.

Shellharbour Mayor Marianne Saliba said construction of the city centre was a significant turning point in the growth of Shellharbour City and that continued to evolve and support the needs of the community.

‘‘A good balance of open space, commercial and residential development has been achieved through the strategic planning of our city centre and created an inviting place that connects our townships,’’ Cr Saliba said. 

The draft agreement, which was placed on exhibition for public comment on Wednesday, includes a contribution of $360,000 and the dedication of land to the council including Benson Basin, which is located on the corner of Wattle Drive and Lake Entrance Road, and land adjoining the public reserve on Albatross Drive in Blackbutt.

A council spokeswoman said Benson Basin’s drainage capacity is being reviewed.

Just over $177,000 of the contribution has been set aside for Basin earthworks and drainage.  

Infrastructure key to area's expansion

John O'Dwyer was mayor of Shellharbour in the early 1970s when the NSW government's plans for "Shellharbour site 7200" landed on the town clerk's desk.

At the time the suburbs of Blackbutt and Flinders were nothing more than "cow paddocks", he recalled, and the site 7200 project was supposed to take 10 years to complete.

Mr O'Dwyer said there were differing views among councillors on the project's benefits, but the council of the day was united in its fight to ensure it came with appropriate infrastructure and avoided the problems faced in Warilla in the 1960s.

In the 1960s thousands of people, many immigrants employed in industries in and around Port Kembla, shifted into Warilla's new Housing Commission homes that had been built without supporting infrastructure.

"It was easy for the government to put in houses, but there was a real battle for us to get facilities," Mr O'Dwyer said.

"People think I am crazy when I say this, but in those days as a council we had to fight just to get street lights."

Mr O'Dwyer said the development of the Shellharbour City Centre, initially known as the Blackbutt Town Centre, was former mayor Bob Harrison's baby.

"He always wanted a centre for Shellharbour and that came a bit further down the track," he said.

Mr O'Dwyer said as the Shellharbour site 7200 project draws to a close people will have different views on the changes to the area over the past 40 years, but believes the eventual outcome has been "tremendous".

"I think people who live here now agree," he said.


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