By Alex Darling
"We certainly don't want to be seen as a group of people who are against development."
Davistown resident Jo Anne Lloyd made this quantifying remark speaking to me a few weeks ago, while discussing the planned sale of 47.5 hectares of wetlands in the Brisbane Water suburb, which happened today.
Her conundrum is by no means unique on the Central Coast (even if the wetlands are). In the past few years, people in Kangy Angy, Glenning Valley, Wallarah, Ourimbah, Point Clare and Wyong have all asked themselves: How do we campaign to preserve our home without being dismissed as anti-progress?
It can be tempting to judge such groups negatively.
The Coast is a growing region, to state the obvious. The NSW government's Central Coast Regional Plan, now a year old, predicts we'll be home to 415,000 people and need 41,500 more homes by 2036. All these new residents will have to live somewhere - and essential services will have to keep pace, in the case of the Kangy Angy Rail Maintenance facility.
Jo Anne acknowledged as much. "Of course there's always change,' she went on to say. "My grandparents were here when I was a little girl, and a lot of those fisherman shacks are now very big homes. Society evolves and what people want changes.
“But I think there needs to be a balance of that, and at the moment it's a nice balance."
We can't begrudge those who want to keep this balance. They're trying to protect natural features that make their patch special, and which are the reason many people choose to live and move here in the first place.
It's also worth noting the Regional Plan makes several references to safeguarding the environment in incorporating these new developments. It's only fair people hold the government to this pledge, particularly when it directly impacts on their day-to-day lives.
Instead, the spate of preservation-focused campaigns currently happening across the Coast presents us with an opportunity.
We now have the chance to flesh out - and more importantly articulate to our political representatives - whether we support growth across the region, or only in some parts.
It's highly likely the outcome of these campaigns - more often than not decisions made by relevant planning authorities - will set a precedent for how land on the Coast will be viewed and used into the future.
Will our peaceful - in some parts rural - lifestyles and natural attributes remain intact, despite the Coast being increasingly hemmed in by Sydney and Newcastle?
Or, in the eyes of governments, will the Coast only be seen as land for building on as the populations of these two cities continue to bulge?
Choose carefully PAC, DPE, JRPP, Council, and the rest: Your decisions in the coming months and years will define the future of a region home to 330,000 people, many of whom are deeply proud and protective of where they live.