Five mornings a week I try to head out for a walk, which means that (allowing for weather, holidays and other factors) I go around a circuit that includes the jetty and the Yacht Club more than two hundred times each year.

That allows plenty of time to reflect on things that are happening around town and speculate about future developments.

However it seems that the people of Bowen aren’t getting a whole lot of information about those matters apart from the occasional reference to the possibility that the town’s population will double or, possibly, treble.

I’ve asked the questions before, but I might as well ask them again:

Where will all these extra people live?

Where will they work?

Where will they shop?

What areas of open public space will they be able to access?

How will they travel between those places?

I now know that some of those questions are already being considered, but there’s no sign of the answers being made available to the public.

Now the easiest explanation for that is that these questions are already being addressed and that we’ll find out about the answers when the deliberations are concluded.

Unfortunately when politicians and bureaucrats are considering potentially thorny issues, the possibility that the public might start to raise a few issues seems to prompt them to keep things under wraps as long as possible.

After all, explaining things to the public will take up time that they could be using for more “productive” purposes and there’s the possibility that they’ll be forced to answer the same questions over and over again.

So it’s hardly surprising and quite understandable that politicians and bureaucrats have found all sorts of ways of avoiding having to disclose potentially controversial or unpopular information.

Hardly surprising and quite understandable, but nowhere in the vicinity of anything that could be described as “open and accountable government.”

At all levels of government and in both major political parties when some difficult issue arises there seems to be a reluctance to stop, consider the issues involved, brainstorm the possibilities and then engage in a rational discussion to determine the way forward.

That’s always going to be difficult in the adversarial atmosphere that dominates state and federal parliaments, but surely it should be possible at local government level.

Over the next couple of years there are going to be a number of decisions that will have major implications for Bowen residents. If the town’s population increases quickly over a relatively short period of time a number of potentially thorny issues are going to surface.

Pardon me for a moment while I raise two of them.

Shopping Centres and Schools.

Earlier in these pages I’ve suggested that there will be new commercial developments in town and mentioned the area around Centrepoint as a possible site.

Looking at that suggestion the first thing that springs to mind is that it’s a long way from the substantial residential developments that we’ve been told to expect out towards Whitsunday Shores.

Does that mean we’ll have another shopping centre out that way, making, maybe, three retail zones (downtown, Centrepoint and the new one)?

Would the town have the population to support them?

What happens if it doesn’t?

As suggested elsewhere, the loser would probably be the current CBD with a number of highly undesirable outcomes of that scenario.

Would it be better to develop a new commercial hub more or less in the middle of an expanded Bowen with a couple of smaller more or less local retail centres around the periphery?

Assuming that you do put a substantial new commercial development that will attract considerable vehicular traffic in the same area as Centrepoint how will people get into the car park?

The answer to that obviously involves some combination of Soldiers Road, Hillview Road, Argyle Park Road and Richmond Road since they run along the sides of the area.

Will there need to be traffic lights? Where will they go? Will we be faced with the prospect of three sets of lights in the space of a few hundred metres along Richmond Road?

That would mean one set of lights at the Soldiers Road intersection, another to give traffic from Herbert Street access to Centrepoint and a third at the Argyle Park Road intersection that forms one corner of the High School campus.

Hold it there for a second and think what happens to the High School enrolments as the town’s population doubles.

Do we want an educational institution with a thousand students, many of whom will arrive by car or bus, located right beside a substantial commercial development that is, in itself, a major traffic magnet?

It’s safe to assume that a population of twenty-five thousand will require at least two new primary schools and possibly a second high school.

Where will they be in relation to any new commercial developments?

Now it’s quite possible that all these things are currently under consideration and that everything will be carefully worked through.

Unfortunately, looking back over the past forty years I can see a number of examples where it has been totally obvious that developments have proceeded without any consideration of some of their long-term implications.

Leaving Bowen for a moment, I started my teaching career at Heatley Primary, a school that had opened the year before I arrived, had an enrolment of more than six hundred within eighteen months of opening, and eventually settled down to an enrolment of more than twelve hundred.

A few years later I was teaching at Aitkenvale Primary, a school with an even larger enrolment located on a major arterial road where the lack of traffic lights at one point meant that some teachers, back in the days before crossing supervisors, were doing pedestrian crossing duty before and after school.

And the two schools would have been roughly two kilometres apart.

Those two examples may explain why I’m slightly dubious when I hear that governments are engaging in serious long-term strategic planning.

There are things on the horizon that need to be talked about and thought through. These pages will, I hope, provide a contribution to those discussions.