In early 2014, the Ballina Shire Council initiated the process of developing the Ballina Major Regional Centre Strategy, with sMap playing a pivotal role in engaging the community. The intent of this regional plan is to guide growth in a way that maximizes opportunities, while at the same time preserving the things about Ballina that are most important to the community. The key focus of the strategy is the identification of key policy and planning related initiatives that can define and drive Ballina as a regional centre into the future. sMap was instrumental in soliciting the input necessary to identify the community’s cherished assets, as well as generating ideas for future projects.
Promoted at Every Level of Community Engagement
The Ballina planners promoted sMap on their website, during targeted presentations to community organizations (including live demos), publicized it in a local paper, and used it as the basis to engage local school children, where during class time, groups of students were invited to create their own maps.
Ballina Shire is located within the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales, Australia. The Shire was formed in 1976 by the amalgamation of the Municipality of Ballina and Tintenbar Shire. Ballina has been identified as an emerging regional centre through the New South Wales State Government’s Far North Coast Regional Strategy. This state strategy acknowledges the fact that Ballina can expect growth and change over the next 20 years. Change is expected due to factors such as improved transport links to a rapidly growing South East Queensland, and to Ballina’s thriving regional airport.
The planners at the Ballina Shire Council participated in a 30-minute training program on sMap’s administrative panel. After the training the planning staff setup their own site, including customizing their legend, home page, welcome message, call to action and more, and have managed the site ever since.
The Shire’s main town and commercial centre is Ballina, which is situated on the banks of the Richmond River. The coast, the river, the escarpment, and the plateau are four of the standout features of the Shire. Together, the waterways, natural habitats, farming, beaches, and ocean help to define the community.
Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down
Once points are added, users are able to agree or disagree with points added by other users. In Ballina, a suggested new public pool gained a lot of support, but a suggestion to build new high-rises along the river proved to not be very popular.
For the last 10 to 20 years Ballina has experienced an influx of more people, changing economic opportunities, and increased desirability as a destination for people seeking something different from a city lifestyle. However, many come with “city” expectations regarding the level public services that should be available. Ballina’s population of approximately 40,000 is expected to increase to more than 50,000 by 2025. Approximately 32% of the population is anticipated to be over 65 years of age.
sMap has a default list of legend items that apply to most urban planning projects. However, the legends can be changed very easily – including icons, titles and descriptions – to fit the unique needs of any project. The Ballina Shire Council made tweaks to the legend to suit their needs, but still utilized sMap’s standard icons.