BIG PLANS: 3500 blocks of land, hotel, shops and golf course
WHAT started as a desire to create an 18-hole golf course has transformed into a grand vision to reshape the Wollongbar plateau.
As plateau population growth puts increasing pressure on schools, roadways and housing, long-time resident Gary Bourke concocted a plan to make his dream green at McLeans Ridges Road the centrepiece of a major development.
That vision has translated into a 354ha suburban hub with 3500 residential lots, a hotel, retail and community precincts and a nursing home surrounding the 18-hole international golf course and clubhouse.
The extravagant plan also involved the creation of a central education facilities combined with the Wollongbar TAFE by relocating Alstonville public and high schools as well as St Joseph's Catholic Primary School.
The proposed community development spans from where Lindendale Rd meets the Bruxner Highway to parcels of land between Converys Lane, Sneaths and McLeans Ridges roads.
Mr Bourke said about five private landowners in the vicinity were willing for him to map out how the huge development could be brought to fruition.
But some of the land, such as the TAFE site, is government-owned.
About four months ago, Mr Bourke sat down with development consultant Tony Riordan, who is the director of RCS Group in Lismore, to put his elaborate plan to paper.
Despite the complexity of the plan, Mr Riordan and saw "substantial merit" in the plan and said it added "up to good common sense planning".
Shortly after the plans were drawn up, Mr Riordan met with Ballina Shire Council staff to put forward the Wollongbar and McLeans Ridge Strategic Vision for consideration.
Mr Bourke said plans were under way to meet with other government agencies to discuss the strategy in future.
He has also taken his idea out into the community, with a recent stall at the Alstonville Plaza.
Among those he met was TAFE project manager Peter Smith, who has jumped on board with the idea because of its potential to expand education facilities as well as provide affordable housing.
Mr Smith said it was important the community supported with the concept and helped shape it.
But like most grand plans, they take time.
Mr Riordan said "Garry has a lot of vision" with "a good handle on just where the area needs to be headed", but the development will be "a long road to fruition".
"It's not a pipeline dream, it needs to be worked through," Mr Riordan said.
Mr Riordan has worked on extensive developments such as the North Lismore Plateau and the residential expansion of Wollongbar at Plateau Drive.
To provide some context, Mr Riordan said it had taken the best part of two decades to compile a development application to subdivide about 1500 lots at the North Lismore Plateau.
Despite the protracted journey to development, Mr Riordan said it was important to test ideas with the community.
"Unless you start these things they'll never get anywhere," Mr Riordan said.