Hawks Nest plan to ‘breathe new life’ into town

A PLAN to “breathe new life” into the seaside town of Hawks Nest by allowing more businesses and villas near the beach could be in motion by the middle of next year.

MidCoast Council has lodged and notified the NSW government of its intention to carve out two areas to rezone in the Port Stephens village of about 1000.

The main parcel is five hectares framed by Mirreen and Russell Streets, and would run from Booner Street to Beach Road near Bennetts beach.

Under the plan it would become a business “open zone”, allowing for takeaway food shops, tourist villas and roadside stalls.

A smaller zone would overlap with the town’s current shopping district.

That parcel’s rezone would allow “multi-dwelling housing” and neighbourhood shops.

MidCoast Council strategic planning manager Roger Busby said the council had had a “great quality of feedback” from residents and stakeholders in the town.

“The community told us they want to revitalise the business area of Hawks Nest, and they are also looking to breathe new life into the village,” Mr Busby said.

“To have a planning proposal in place can be a complex matter. We need to ensure that all the legislative requirements have been met and this can take some time.”

The Newcastle Herald understands the council received six submissions on the Hawks Nest plan.

Hugo Elstermann, who owns Hawks Nest Newsagency, was unaware of the proposal but said most of it was raised last year in council-led focus groups.

“Personally, I don’t see much changing,” Mr Elstermann said.

“I note a lack of any timelines [in the plan] or any developers wishing to drive any change.”

Christian Patteson, a Hawks Nest resident of 40 years, said the plan was “not that controversial” but would add to the town’s oversupply of empty low-rise units.

“The town has got a 40 per cent occupancy rate. In the middle of town it’s probably only 20 per cent,” Mr Patteson said.

“This will just create more empty units. It’s just small fry.”

The plan would also extend a clause that protects koala habitat from development to a corridor of trees near the town centre.

Jill Madden, of the Myall Koala and Environment Group, said it was the kind of result the group had “worked for for years” for the area’s endangered koala population.

Once MidCoast Council’s administrator formally approves the plan, it will go before state Planning Minister Rob Stokes.

Mr Stokes has already granted it a gateway determination.

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