A development application before Shoalhaven City Council has revealed a new Centrelink office is proposed to be built at the Stockland Nowra Shopping Centre.
The new office is proposed for 32 East Street, Nowra, in the southwestern corner of the Stockland centre.
The current Centrelink building is located at Lawrence Avenue in the Nowra CBD. At this stage, it is unknown whether the new site will replace the Nowra CBD site.
GLN Planning Pty Ltd (GLN) has been commissioned by Stockland Development Pty Ltd to accompany the DA for the construction of the new single-storey Centrelink building.
Residents have raised concerns saying that if the new site replaces the current site, Centrelink will not be as accessible due to it being further from the bus terminal in the Nowra CBD.
Gilmore MP Fiona Phillips is demanding more transparency around whether the new building will replace the Centrelink office in the CBD and has "grave concerns" there has not been any community consultation.
"We don't have answers about the proposal, and what that's going to mean for the current central building," said Ms Phillips.
"I just find that appalling and the community deserves to know exactly what is going on. The new site looks quite small.
"The current location has good proximity to the Nowra Bus and Coach Terminal, something which is absolutely essential for access.
"Centrelink provides vital services. We have seen how important Centrelink is for people, particularly during the COVID pandemic.
"Firstly, they ripped Medicare out of its own premises, costing local jobs. Now they want to move Centrelink further away."
Ms Phillips has written to the Federal Minister for Families and Social Services Anne Ruston and urged the government to provide an immediate update for the community.
"It's the least they can do," said Ms Phillips.
The Minister for Families and Social Services of Australia was contacted for comment surrounding the decision for the new site and whether it will replace the current Centrelink office.
The DA proposes a new commercial premises with a floor area of 1200m2, garage, tree removal, drainage works (on site and in road reserve) signage and landscaping for lease as a new Centrelink.
The DA is supported by a Statement of Environmental Effects report and outlines the building "will be occupied by Services Australia - Centrelink."
The site of the proposed Centrelink building is within the existing car park adjacent to the southern exit driveway to East Street.
The construction of the building will remove 17 existing car parking spaces at the Stockland shopping centre, bringing the total car parking spaces to 791.
Concerns have been raised by residents of Morton Parade about the increased traffic the new office could cause.
Resident Ian James said there are already traffic issues for the area, especially when the Stocklands car park reaches full capacity.
"There is a narrow shared road at the top end of Morton Parade, that currently has people parking for prolonged periods on the grass verges, this activity would only increase as people attempt access to the shops or proposed Centrelink office," he said in a submission to the DA.
"Although there is a small sign on the corner of Plunkett Street and Morton Parade stating that there is no vehicular access to Stocklands shops, many cars still travel up and down this street in order to access the shops.
"Most lazily park on the street to avoid the extra traveling in order to access the car park, which leads to congestion."
A spokesperson for the Shoalhaven City Council said the DA is currently under assessment. Shoalhaven Mayor Amanda Findley said the federal government does not consult with council about Services Australia matters.
Shoalhaven City Council has the plan on public exhibition until October 21. To put in a submission, visit this website and enter the DA tracking number: DA21/2032.
More to come.