MCC's Local Strategic Planning Statement


DejanFriday, 18 September 2020 - 10:32pm

Draft LSPS for MCC has been advertised for comments during July and August. Of 21 submissions received five were related to North Arm Cove.

LSPS will be put for adoption to Council on the meeting next Wednesday (23rd Sept).

These are the issues related to NAC

Issue 1: North Arm Cove needs to be considered in the LSPS in terms of: (Submission 1, 2, 10, 15, 17)

  • finding a solution to enable landowners to develop their land. Sustainable options should be investigated.
  • being included in action 3.3, to develop a master-plan for the area and provide a major release for the southern area of the MidCoast area.
  • undertaking meaningful engagement with the community.
  • recognising the importance of Walter Burley Griffin’s subdivision by State heritage listing.

Council staff comments:

  • it is agreed that a solution is needed for this area, along with other paper subdivisions in the MidCoast. The Rural Strategy, which is an action of the LSPS, will provide direction for this. The solution needs to be implemented in partnership with landowners and meaningful consultation will be part of the Rural Strategy consultation.
  • the future residential areas of Brimbin and North Tuncurry, have been identified by the NSW Government over a long period of time and both require master-planning prior to the development of these residential precincts. North Arm Cove will be looked at by the Rural Strategy, and recognise the significant environmental constraints of the area.
  • consultation with landowners will be undertaken through the Rural Strategy. We have to ensure our consultation approach is appropriate given the Covid-19 restrictions, but our aim is to provide the opportunity for both the landowners and residents to be involved.
  • State heritage listing can be undertaken either by the community or Council. If anyone would like to pursue a listing, they can contact Heritage NSW to investigate the option. It should be noted that State heritage listing requires a high level of heritage assessment for any future development.

Image presents LSPSs priorities and relationship to other strategic documents. Comments related to the documents on agenda could be submitted to Council by mid-day Tuesday next week.


Significant mention of NAC at today's Council meeting.

Although item on the agenda was mostly a formal one - adoption of LSPS (about six months after than Department of Planning original deadline), Deputy Mayor has noted that there was a significant input and support for NAC development proposal and heritage recognition.

Our representative, Councilor Roberts has also provided some clarifications on the history of NAC as well as information of NAC non-urban land being used as a training grounds for ADF during Vietnam War. That will be useful piece of evidence when determining environmental value of the area.

Council has concluded that heritage listing proposal has a merit and that it will be further discussed with Walter Burley Griffin Society.


I admire your enthusiasm and energy Dejan. Go have your argument with Council but please stop using, as your justification for rezoning, the Burley Griffins’ 1918 “dream” for Port Stephen’s City. The outcome of a rezoning would bear scant resemblance to anything the Burley Griffins imagined for our area.

Their visionary plan was rooted upon a larger post-WWI vision that saw Port Stephen’s becoming a major Naval Base and the merchant harbour serving northern New South Wales with goods brought here by rail.

They proposed many amazing things for the Baromee peninsular where our village now stands: wharves and jetties; a large railway hub; tram lines; a Central Business District, long rows of small “high street” shops; major government buildings surrounded by landscaped gardens; and, thanks to the Burley Griffins' love for our local natural environment, acre upon acre of parklands - including miles of waterfront reserves. Yes there were building blocks too, but far fewer than 4000.

That big, bold, Burley Griffin dream did not last long. Barely a year. The plan became a dead parrot on 16 June 1919 when the development company, Land Limited, ran out of funds and appointed a receiver. That also put an end to the Burley Griffins’ involvement with the Cove and the Baromee peninsular.

What arose from the ashes was the Henry F Halloran plan. This revised design was heavily focused on maximising return to the new company’s investors. So all Burley Griffin’s wonderful waterfront reserves were subdivided. The street layout was varied to pack in hundreds more building blocks. Deposited Plans 938, 939 and 940 were then lodged by the new company with the Lands Department.

Land sales began at Easter 1920 on a hopeful note and, not surprisingly, those newly created waterfront blocks were the first to sell. Speculators also bought up all the small blocks in the shopping precinct and the larger ones in the CBD. Halloran created further Deposited Plans covering surrounding land so they could be ready for expected rush of eager purchasers.

But in the mid 1920s, the Federal Government chose to put the Naval Base elsewhere, Newcastle was preferred as the northern port and the possibility of a railway connection was ruled out. Predictions of a boom for the area were dashed. Land sales dried to a trickle. Then came the Great Depression. With that, the once great hopes for the Halloran plan had well and truly fizzled. The unsold lots, including all the parks and areas designated for public buildings, still remained in the grasp of developers speculating that there would be future opportunities for sales.

What was to become the village of North Arm Cove evolved organically and incrementally without a plan. In the early 1960s, Stroud Council, as they were entitled to do, defined what land was to be part of the village and what was to remain rural. From that time, those that bought property within the village paid a premium for that privilege in purchase price and annual rates.

There were developers sniffing around the non-urban areas in the 1970s. Dirt tracks were bulldozed through the bush. Developers came in earnest in the early 1980s and again in the 90s. Making promises that couldn’t be met. Some buyers were simply speculators. Some bought sight unseen. Some bought because they loved the natural environment. Most however paid much more than the blocks were really worth. Council put up warning signs. Strong words were said in Parliament. But the sales went on.

It is clearly not possible to reincarnate the original vision for Port Stephen’s City. There can be no miles of waterfront reserves, no acres of parklands, no bustling wharves, railway station and tramlines, no stately Government buildings in landscaped gardens. If MidCoast Council were, at some time, to approve the rezoning of all those 4000 blocks of non-urban land, what would we have? A “City” without a heart and soul, without a purpose? It would not even be close to the original proposals of the Halloran plan. To claim such a diminished outcome as being the realisation of the 1918 Burley Griffins’ “dream” would demean their legacy and make a mockery of their creative vision for our peninsular.

The Timeless Vision

Thank you, Doug, for your time in presenting your view and for your kind advice.

On the surface your story is historically probably correct. However, it is incomplete and simplified. I am not entirely sure if that is the result of intent or lack of understanding? Irrespective, Griffin’s planning principles are very much alive and well, both in current general Town Planning thinking and particularly in North Arm Cove, the way town is laid on terrain, streets following topography, balance of private residential, commercial and communal places.

In words of Marion, Walter’s wife and partner:

“It was Walt who in the necessarily united professions of Architecture and Town Planning carried on the work of Louis Sullivan in raising architecture in America and the world to professional standards in creative design and in really solving problems. Through such seed the break-away from the bondage to tradition has become an established thing in America and bit by bit we see signs of his work in Town Planning coming to fruition in practice there, the standard for which was set in the Canberra design in 1912 which laid the foundation for community planning. Recently Walt said to me that he had as yet seen nothing done in Town Planning that was not laid down in the Canberra plan, and he was constantly on the lookout.”

One of the reasons why current North Arm Cove location has been suggested (and selected) as a potential location for new urban development (apart from area being used as a settlement for almost a century before that) was “really solving problem” of decentralization at the time.


Decentralization is an issue again, hundred years down the line. And local planners are still battling with the same “bondages of tradition” that have brought MCC in such a sorry state.

Griffin was an idealist genius, always battling with practicalities of land value, its impact on wealth accumulation and injustices it creates. Marion and himself were also centerd community creation, like they did in Catlecrag.

Halloran, on the other hand, was able to incorporate that practical side of the development of cities, in order to make them more viable and market oriented, to use modern terminology. North Arm Cove is lucky to have had two of such greats lay foundation for this town.

There is no doubt that, like Halloran did some re-allocation of uses, current needs would call for further adjustment to accommodate centuries of technological advancements and social changes. Yet, the basic principles remain the same:

“These fundamentals are so simple yet almost never put into practice - the simultaneous attack of the problems of distribution and occupation, the one requiring radial thoroughfares wide enough for all kinds of traffic, and the other requiring the complete elimination of acute angles by bringing in the distributive narrower streets at right angles to the thoroughfares. The third requirement is the bringing of the country into the city by making all residential blocks large enough in area to enclose open parks and playgrounds in their interior thus taking up no street frontage and so being no extravagance. For lack of this our children are degenerating physically, mentally and morally, bringing delinquency and crime.”

So, in the interest of those young and future generations, I will continue to use my energy and enthusiasm towards building, in my small ways, on Griffin’s vision for NAC and NSW planning as well:

"My objectives [are] for New South Wales Town Planning Legislation especially empowering private owner groups to become Responsible Town Planning Authorities independent of and as a protection against demoralizing Municipal Councils and other political units."

All quotes are from Marion's "Magic of America"


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