Extensions, funding are the key issues

COFFS Harbour's Draft Rural Residential Strategy may remain open for public submissions for another month.

At tonight's extraordinary meeting of Coffs Harbour City Council, councillors will be asked to extend the public exhibition period until the end of February, following requests from a number of land owners and organisations.

Council planning staff said the extension would allow extra time for community input and enable transparency in council's planning process.

Rural lands' planning has been a vexed question in Coffs Harbour over many years.

The extensive subdivision of concessional allotments permitted in rural areas in the late 1980s created many problems for local government.

In Coffs Harbour there has been a determined campaign by a section of the community to permit dispersed rural settlement, which is opposed by State planning authorities.

Problems include providing transport and social services, especially in view of the looming difficulties posed by peak oil and managing land use conflicts between farmers and rural lifestylers.

Councils have to deal with the unrealistic expectations of people from the cities that move on to small rural acreages but expect city-style services.

Other difficulties for councils include monitoring and managing onsite sewage disposal and noxious weeds and there is increasing anxiety about the loss of land which could be used for future food production, especially land closer to cities, with access to water.

Other items on the agenda for tonight's meeting include an application for $25,000 financial support from council to enable upgrades to the Eastern Dorrigo Showground and Community Hall in Ulong.

The support from council would allow the community to apply for a NSW Sport and Recreation capital grant.

Also on the agenda is a request from the Woolgoolga Surf Life Saving Club for $25,000 in funding so they can host the NSW Surf Life Saving Championships from 2010 to 2012.

A spokeswoman for council said tonight's extraordinary meeting had been scheduled because there were a lot of items to get through and the gap between the last council meeting in December and the next ordinary council meeting was just too long to address them all.

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