Image by Jeremy Bezanger

Smart development involves the community, protects the environment and builds houses

Michelle writes ... 

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My son Hugo said to me “I used to love bulldozers, but now I hate them.” He’s 7. 

Out of the blue, late last month, a tract of remnant, endangered Bangalay Sand Forest in Broulee was bulldozed. My children and I watched its demise over a number of days. Behind its fence, my community watched helpless. We had no idea this was going to happen. 

We had witnessed enough devastation and destruction as a result of the bushfires, to last a lifetime. We didn’t need to see any more. 


Our Black Summer was an environmental disaster with untold damage. It displaced people from where they lived, it destroyed livelihoods, it impacted relationships, jobs and finances. The bushfires, both directly and indirectly, impacted our physical and mental health. 

We are now nineteen months down the track and the consequences remain profound. I see them daily in my work. They are palpable.


Compounding and amplifying the damaging effects of the bushfires, were the multitude of floods and storms, along with the COVID 19 pandemic. It's a complex situation that we find ourselves in. The world we live in now has fundamentally changed. And there’s no going back.

The health of a community and the individuals that comprise it, is determined by many factors - factors such as where and how we live, the state of our environment, our income and education level, and our relationships with friends, family and the community we live in.

I know this because I am a GP. If the current pandemic has taught us anything, it has taught us that our health is paramount. 

Laws, regulations, protocols and plans that may have been right yesterday are now outdated. Along with our expectations and attitudes, they need to change. 

Post-bushfire, mid-pandemic, and in context of a changing climate, we must take another look at the meaning of community health and wellbeing. 

We must create a contemporary planning framework that includes consideration of the community’s health and well-being into all activities that council has control over, especially those that affect the space we inhabit – our natural and built environments. 

Is this going to be easy? Probably not - there are many competing, often conflicting, opinions and evidence that needs to be taken into account as we evaluate new developments in our Shire. There must – of course - be new developments: change is inevitable - indeed it is essential if we are to grow our local economy. But change and growth must sit comfortably with the need for resilience in the face of the inevitable and increasing risk of droughts, heatwaves, bushfires, floods and storms. 

There is ample evidence that high quality, easily accessible green spaces facilitate improved physical and mental health. Hundreds of studies back this up. Retaining assets such as old remnant trees within habitat corridors, along with setting aside areas for biodiverse green spaces, is an investment into future community health and resilience. 

A council that values the health and well-being of a village and its citizens as paramount would take the opportunity for all new developments to integrate planning and infrastructure that is well considered. And it is also blatantly clear, that some planned developments need reconsidering altogether.

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So, where does this leave my son Hugo? What do I tell him? I’m his mother ... its my job to tell him things will be ok. But for things to be ok, the grown ups have a lot of work to do. 

So, in conclusion, it's 2021, it’s not the 1980s. Now is the time to have a serious conversation about considered and smart development in our Shire.  

Smart development. What is that?

Smart development finds a way to retain the unique character and heritage of the place, retaining remnant, habitat trees, green spaces and corridors, rather than removing all the vegetation before development. 

Smart development would aim for a net gain of biodiversity in our shire, not a net loss.

Smart development is informed by climate risk and resilience. It would help mitigate the impacts of climate change, not contribute to it.

Smart development balances environmental and economic forces. Above all, smart development depends upon communication with the people that will live in it. 

Smart development depends upon the community - indeed, smart development is driven by the community. 

Smart development does not cost - it’s an investment in our communities health and wellbeing, now and into the future. 

Can we do this? Of course, we can. We must all be agents of change. After all, we are the Nature Coast - let’s live up to that name.

When elected, the The MAYNE Team will:


  1. create a contemporary planning framework that includes consideration of the community’s health and well-being


30 July 2021