The news recently that the proposed Manyana Beach Estate development will be halted to allow further surveys of the importance of the land to the greater glider species, makes for nice reading amongst residents who live next door to the site and the loyal tourist frequenting Manyana each year. If protestors are successful and this development doesn't proceed, however, the region will take another backward step to ensuring the Shoalhaven is a great place to live and raise a family with the security of jobs and thriving communities.
The development was given NSW government planning consent in 2008 and is to be accompanied by new shops and services to support the 180-lot development. Millions of dollars of future economic activity will go by the wayside if the Manyana Matters activists get their way. Shoalhaven cannot afford to continually turn away investment into our area else, as we know, the investment leaves to find a new home.
The most glaring recent example of this was the proposed $20 million multipurpose motorsport complex near Nowra. It was to include driver training facilities, mechanical hubs and other infrastructure fit to host national level events. Close to $10 million was secured through commonwealth grants to help get the project off the ground. What happened? Hundreds of jobs, tourism and a community project were halted, eventually quashed and the project owner, Motorcycling NSW, harassed out of town all at the hands of the Leafless Tongue Orchid, a rare plant, discovered at the 11th hour by the Australasian Native Orchid Society.
Why does this matter? Because every time we lose investment into the Shoalhaven a young person in our community loses the opportunity to get a better paying job or even a job at all. At 21.6 per cent, according to the ABS, the Shoalhaven has the highest level of youth unemployment of any region in any part of Australia! At double the rate of NSW and higher than the areas in Queensland and Tasmania that are often referenced with poor youth employment outcomes, I think it's safe to say we are letting our young people down. If you discard the employment in December and January of many young people in our tourist destinations, the statistics are too horrifying to mention.
People on the NSW South Coast care about our land, beaches and environment and so they should, it's what makes our region the beautiful place that so many people come to holiday and visit. Accordingly, we are home to 11 National Parks and have a protected land area of almost 230,000 hectares (50.2 per cent of Shoalhaven's land). To put this in perspective, 19.7 per cent of Australia's total land is protected and only 9.3 per cent of NSW's land is. It's why the very small amount of land that is privately owned and development approved to benefit the growth and livelihoods of our region should be supported.
In June 2019 Shoalhaven council moved to adopt a 5 per cent increase in council rates to support its Delivery Program. Now Manyana Matters are calling for Shoalhaven council to be part of a buy-back of this private land in Manyana. Enough is enough, working people don't endure 5 per cent council rate increases to see private land bought back when over 50 per cent of our region's land is protected for flora and fauna.
The silent decay of our region is happening right before us, under the thin veneer of seasonal tourism and idyllic beaches. Why does the median weekly income in the Shoalhaven have to be 20% lower than the Australian median? Why were there more people employed in the Shoalhaven in 2011 than there are today? The addition of 180 new homes in Manyana means 180 new families will need to shop in the Shoalhaven, their kids educated in the Shoalhaven, requiring more teachers, health workers, cafe workers and so it goes on into other industries. Who will speak up to the future of our region for the unemployed youth, the aspiring young apprentice carpenter and the silent people too busy trying to rebuild their lives after bushfires and now covid-19?
Those two devastating events have hit us acutely. It has shown that we can't just be the bell boy to travelling tourists relying on their holiday spending, coupled with a supporting industry of government jobs in the Shoalhaven. Construction is our 2nd largest non-govt industry, let's realise a common-sense approach and get on with allowing the rebuild of our great region and unleashing more jobs for our young people. New housing proposals that are shovel ready can do this.
Alex Cooke is the president of the Budgong Community group, the main Community Consultative Board (CCB) in the Kangaroo Valley Area. Budgong was extensively damaged in the Currowan Fire.