Southlake Business Chamber and Community Alliance president Jo Hanlon on why Cedar Mill can be the catalyst to renew Morisset town centre

OPPORTUNITY: Jo Hanlon says it's time to modernise Morisset and make it a vibrant place for people to live, work and play. Picture: David Stewart

OPPORTUNITY: Jo Hanlon says it's time to modernise Morisset and make it a vibrant place for people to live, work and play. Picture: David Stewart

We need a bright future for Morisset.

When the Southlake Business Chamber and Community Alliance (SBCCA) asked local business people and residents what they wanted to see developed for our region, the most frequent answers included more services; better cafes, roads and pathways; a local hospital; and a decent sized train station car park.

These facilities are what the broader local population would benefit from on multiple levels. They would deliver better and more diverse employment opportunities, with more money coming to, and staying, in the area, and a more varied choice of things to do.

We've been told by those whose job it is to attract investment to fund more infrastructure that population growth is key to driving demand for services. While it's ideal to have infrastructure in place before the population demands it, economic development does not generally work this way, so while we are waiting, we risk losing more of our young people to disengagement, unemployment and poor mental health.

Locals will continue having to seek work, play and spend outside of the Morisset district, and local businesses may fail to grow further and diversify.

Any plans that offer the community a chance to participate in, and work across, a variety of activities that all people can enjoy is very appealing to the majority of the community. That's why the general verbal and social media response has been strongly in support of the proposed Cedar Mill development on the former Morisset Country Club site.

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The development of a precinct that plans to make the most of the existing spaces by providing entertainment and events that bring family and friends together for food, water play (supplied from a tank), concerts, accommodation and general outdoors enjoyment is a great plan.

As we know, there have been concerns expressed that the concerts and large events will have a negative impact on parking, traffic and wildlife, and create noise around Morisset.

While we acknowledge these problems are not easily resolved, we need to trust in the development application review process, and let Lake Macquarie City Council and other decision makers such as Roads and Maritime Services, the Land Council and NSW Transport do their jobs.

I have no doubt if their assessments agree with the concerns expressed, they will be talking to the developer about what changes need to be made.

The fact the investment is being proposed by a local resident and family man who will have not only financial but personal skin in the game, is a much better option than the probable alternatives; the land lying fallow for years or, worse, the zoning being amended to allow development of non-locally owned medium- to high-density housing which would completely decimate the site and limit community access.

We also acknowledge the loss felt by many who have used the country club for a variety of purposes including those who have lost their golf club. But these decisions have been made.

We absolutely need to respect history, but delaying or avoiding conversations about development options for a number of high-profile sites which are currently not being used in Morisset is not helping us develop a community heart for the future that works for both long-term and new residents.

There are many ways to celebrate, recognise, honour and retain historically important features and meaningful contributions from past residents and I know that members of council are keen to discuss with stakeholders what solutions can be found.

It doesn't matter what age we are, we all need reasons to stay and buy local while encouraging family and friends to visit and do the same.

The goal of many people to maintain and/or improve their physical and mental health and keep engaged in their social circles is proven to be key. And while we can't please everyone, it's time to modernise, spruce up and encourage investment in Morisset to make it a vibrant place for people to live, work and play.

*Jo Hanlon is SBCCA president. She lives at Bonnells Bay.

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