A long-time Hawkesdale resident says he holds grave concerns about the future of the town and the council is doing little to help.
Moyne Shire is in the final stages of implementing a rural housing and settlement strategy - through planning amendment C70 - to guide development of smaller towns in the shire. The amendment recommends very limited changes to Hawkesdale's residential zone, saying the town has "low growth potential" and already has 13 vacant lots for potential residential development.
A state government planning panel delivered its report on the amendment in November 2022, backing the council's view there's adequate residential land in the town.
Resident John Bos said that was "absolute tripe". "The mayor says this planning process is wonderful, well she has been grossly misled," he said.
Mr Bos said the suggestion Hawkesdale had 13 development-ready vacant lots was "totally deceptive".
"Half of those lots aren't even accessible by current roads. When I asked the council whether they would be building roads to create access to these supposed lots, they said 'no', that the developer would have to do that," he said.
"Then there are another three lots that have been used to graze cattle for at least 50 years and the owners have no intention to sell. So really it's two or three blocks for the whole township."
Mr Bos said he had spoken at length with councillors, council officers and the CEO about the issue. "They had their opportunity to do this right. I was there with the CEO and people from town and we told them the area to do it was up the guts of town," he said.
"They said if you can show to us that our plan is not in the best interests of the town, we will look favourably on doing it differently. We supplied the council with letters showing some of those lots they've said are available for development are never going to be sold by their owners any time soon."
Mr Bos said the letters didn't change the council's position. "They want to let small towns like Hawkesdale die on the vine, they don't want them to expand," he said.
Council economy and place director Jodie McNamara said council assessments showed there were empty lots in some smaller townships like Hawkesdale that hadn't been taken up and built on yet, but council was eager to "investigate those areas to see what can be facilitated to ensure that they thrive".
"A few of the townships already have zoned land that is ready to go, so Township Zone or that sort of thing that can be built on now," she said.
Since 2010 the council has reduced the boundaries of the "core township" of Hawkesdale. Many residents, including Mr Bos, have been pushing for the council to restore the township boundaries to their previous position.
"If the council was really up for it, to make these towns viable, go back to the original township boundaries and allow the towns to develop. As it stands, the land simply isn't available," Mr Bos said.
Ms McNamara said any redrawing of the township boundary would "take another lot of strategic work" and have to happen separately to C70. "In any strategic work or further study that we do, we would be keen to involve those communities in that so they're not excluded from that process," she said.
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