17 March 2021

Yarrah's riverside development heralds a new era for Yass

| Genevieve Jacobs
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Yarra Yass

The Yarrah development is in its early stages, but marks a turning point for the Yass community. Pictured (from left): Jack Walker and Charles Walker (WMD Group), Melissa Luck and Franco De Pasquale (Oak Tree Group), and Mark Bindon and Peter Walker (WMD Group). Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Along a sweeping bend of the Yass River, with views of gentle river flats and the historic Yass township, a new era is dawning. The Walker family’s Yarrah development is in its early stages but marks a significant turning point for the local community as demographics and lifestyles change.

The Walker family has a lengthy history in the region during the years, contributing to its growth and development. More recently, the idea for developing Yarrah was hatched due to the family’s understanding that there was a shortage of land supply across Yass.

It’s a scenario now playing out in real time as country communities cope with a housing and infrastructure crunch exacerbated by changing rural community needs. There’s a growing impact on the availability of affordable land and housing as locals begin to feel the pinch.

Proximity to Canberra means the Yass Valley community is growing fast, but it wants to retain its identity and avoid sprawling development along the local government boundaries. There’s currently a moratorium on any further development along the Yass side of the ACT boundary, and Yass Valley Council is grappling with how to handle the massive Ginninderry development, part of which sits on the Yass side of that line.

Yarrah project manager Jack Walker says the family was approached to acquire one half of the riverside block within Yass township and could see the potential for a development that responded to the community’s needs.

“We’ve been engaged in the Yass community for a long time,” he says. “We’re invested in Yass and we want to see a vibrant thriving community that’s fit for the future.”

Jack currently chairs the Yass Valley Business Chamber and has also been involved in local activist Sophie Wade’s campaign with a local action group to improve the notoriously unsafe Barton Highway.

“Yass needs to attract state and federal government investment,” he says. “The loud and clear message is that you need the business case to attract the funds for upgrading the highway, and Yarrah is part of our contribution to the business case for better infrastructure in the community.”

COVID-19 has also provided further impetus to the growing trend for people to work from home at least part of the time. As Canberra grows rapidly, it has made Yass increasingly attractive for families looking for a less stressful lifestyle in a rural community that’s still close to the city.

“The Yass community is really keen not to become a suburb of Canberra, but to retain its own identity,” says Jack.

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Yarrah has a focus on community and the environment. The site design provides open spaces, wider streetscapes and landscaped environments flowing down towards the river corridor and back towards Yass township. There’s an incorporated activity centre for commercial uses and a retirement facility planned on part of the site. The blocks also include NBN fibre to the premises.

The Yass River is an important feature of the development masterplan. An established 40-metre buffer zone covers 1.7km of the river’s banks, creating a total area of around six hectares. Flood mapping and risk mitigation work has been undertaken and further landscaping is proposed, including footpaths and cycleways along the river.

The development’s first stage has been released to the market, with 62 residential lots offering a diverse range of options from 450 to 901 square metres, and the development timeline is around five to seven years until completion.

“We recognise not everybody wants the same thing so we’ve sought to deliver choice and something for everyone, from downsizers who want smaller blocks to larger family homes,” says Jack.

“What we’re seeing around trends towards regionalisation and the tree-change movement is the tip of the iceberg. It’s not a fad but an ongoing trend that will continue as people work from home more readily.

“People want a home base, greater affordability and real value. We’re looking forward to providing that.”

Original Article published by Genevieve Jacobs on The RiotACT.

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Aren’t we starting to learn not to develop on floodplains?

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