Whether you like it or not, Tamworth is one day destined to reach a population of 100,000 – and the city’s councillors say we need to start planning for it now.
Cr Glenn Inglis wants Tamworth Regional Council to develop a new master plan for the region within the next term of local government.
The master plan would look at every aspect of the city from ring roads and bypasses to new hospitals and schools.
“A lot of these projects have long gestation periods, so the sooner we start thinking about them the better it is for everyone,” Cr Inglis said.
“The 100,000-number is convenient because its a figure that forces us as a community to sit down and think about what happens if we do get there.
“What things do we need in place to keep our quality of life and keep what people love about this place?
“The only way to do that with an increasing population is good planning of services and infrastructure.”
While designing a city for an additional 40,000 people may sound like a daunting and overwhelming task, Cr Inglis said there were plenty of things that could be considered now.
“For example schools, you work out how many schools you need per head, crunch the numbers and work out that you’ll need a new high school in 20 years based off current population projections,” he said.
“Then you say ‘oK, where are we going to put it?’ You can then set aside land, and hold on to it until you need to build it.
“That’s how good cities are planned.”
Cr Russell Webb says the road network, water infrastructure and sewage system are “the bones of a city” and were paramount to its sustainable growth.
“If we don’t get that right, we can’t sustain development in the long-term and we end up in a mess,” he said.
“Particularly the roads leading in and out of the city. They might be adequate now, but we have to think about how to make those roads suitable for the next 30 to 50 years.
“Projects like roadworks and water supplies cost a lot of money, and they have to be budgeted for.”
Cr Mark Rodda said while he’s “not sold on the idea that bigger is better”, he acknowledged the need for a new master plan.
“Think about the country music festival influx we get every year, and you can see the impact a dramatic increase in population has on a city,” he said.
“We might not have that increase for a decade or two, but we have to be prepared for it.”
He said for the moment, the city was well-placed for housing developments, but wanted to ensure subdivisions and the roads entering were planned carefully.
“Ring roads and the duplication of roads will be a big focus,” Cr Rodda said.
“We all know where the big bottlenecks are going to be – I don’t know how many complaints I get about Calala Lane or Scott Road.
“The roads out to the growing suburbs like Oxley Vale, Moore Creek and the Arcadia development have to be able to cater for the increased traffic.”
Cr Inglis pointed out that multi-million-dollar projects like the Dungowan Dam upgrade – which may not come to fruition due to its recently revealed price tag of $480m – can take a decade of planning.
“Water is a big one, and that could take us 10 to 20 years to work out what we’re going to do. The Chaffey upgrade gives us 25 to 30 years of growth max. That’s not that far away when you’re talk about this sort of massive infrastructure.”
Cr Inglis stressed that the master plan must include Tamworth’s surrounding towns and villages.