July 11, 2012


There is a social and community issue in regional mining towns that we see less commonly in the south east, and many are trying to help governments and organisations address it. The crucial challenge that many central Queensland authorities face is the need to facilitate larger quantities of housing into towns around mining regions without creating a negative legacy of this generation’s boom when the large-scale construction activity subsides in years to come.

This was recently highlighted in the ABC Four Corners documentary on Moranbah, please click here to view this documentary.

“The issue here is not just solving the immediate housing problem but addressing the current issues with an understanding of the long term aspirations of the community,” said Scott Whiteoak, Director of Ellivo Architects.

“In regional Australia it is not appropriate to provide small lot housing of the density envisaged by the ULDA for South-East Queensland, where urbanization is permanent. Instead, after conferring with the local communities, the preference is for adaptable solutions that maintain traditional lifestyle block-sizes, allowing for controlled higher density uses while the boom continues.”

Housing in some areas of Australia has become particularly scarce. Mining leases around settlements have significantly restricted available land for housing in the Gladstone and Moranbah regions, and whilst we know this is a problem, we are doing our best to step in and help out.

Our team, led by Jason Natoli from Planning and Infrastructure specialists Integran have been working to provide urban design outcomes based on what works commercially. And it is these commercial design skills that have been assisting the Isaac Regional Council to help solve the immediate challenges facing Moranbah, offering solutions that balance commercially viable outcomes with the community’s desire to maintain land parcels at sizes appropriate for regional Australia.

The Belyando project is exploring the planning and design framework for smart medium term housing solutions that can be delivered quickly and integrate into regional communities. We are looking at ways that council can adopt changes to the planning regulations, offering a new type of zoning to their residents called ‘Adaptable lots’, which could become available in early 2013.

As expected, local authorities and communities are frustrated with the housing shortage and even more concerned with the negative impact of a quick fix to the problem. In response to this, the proposed approach would allow for the addition of a modular removable independent living unit to an existing family residence along a newly developed laneway. In many areas it would allow for immediate increases in density without the time lag of capital investment that it takes to build infrastructure. And it places the housing in the existing desirable community areas for the 5-10 years that housing pressures are at their peak allowing for their removal when housing requirements shrink again.

The use of laneways to improve vehicle circulation and density is not new, however special consideration is required to ensure a safe attractive environment for both the occupants and visitors, particularly with respect to carparking. Current discussions with the ULDA regarding the adaptable lot approach have proven positive, as this strategy is seen to enable density, while delivering highly attractive streetscapes that are in keeping with traditional lot appearance.

The local communities that have been consulted are very clear that they appreciate the quality of life and size of land offered in these regional areas and want to maintain this for the future, so we are working with them to design schemes that do so.

Most importantly, this is not a problem solved by just increasing density, but requires balancing the current high demand with the future reduction in housing demand that will inevitably occur at some future time in these regional mining towns.

Article written by Scott Whiteoak, director at Ellivo Architects.