HISTORY was made last Wednesday when a majority at South Gippsland Shire Council gave approval to the Rural Land Use Strategy August 2011.
Fittingly for a document which was developed only after many years of robust debate (Cr Mohya Davies described it as “an incredibly fraught process” over 11 years) – in the community and at Council meetings – each of the councillors spoke on the long awaited strategy before the vote was taken.
Most enthusiastic of all was Cr Kieran Kennedy, who said the strategy was “a bloody ripper” and he “couldn’t think of a better outcome”. Airing views at the other end of the spectrum were Cr David Lewis, who said it was “a very restrictive strategy” and even “a mess” and Cr Bob Newton, who described the RLUS as “absolutely draconian and terrible for the future of South Gippsland”. Speaking only briefly because of a bout of laryngitis, Cr Jeanette Harding announced that she would be voting against the strategy because her sympathies lay with the many farmers who were against it and had expressed their concerns to her “and they are people who understand the land”.
The votes of Councillors Lewis, Newton and Harding against adoption of the strategy, however, were no match for the support given to it by the other six councillors.
These six praised the document for its simplicity, its delivery of certainty to landholders and its balance between the needs of farmers and those of tourism business operators and small landholders wishing to build dwellings.
Key points of the RLUS are:
- It allows lots under 4.1ha in size to be used for a new dwelling without the need to justify an agricultural use in the Farming Zone.
- It supports the current planning provisions that include a minimum subdivision area of 80ha and clear links between agricultural benefit and the excision of existing dwellings.
- It identifies seven areas of particular tourism demand across the shire and makes it clear that new dwellings in these Rural Activity Zones are encouraged only if they are to be used with a separate tourism use on lots under 4.1ha and details the requirements for lots between 4.1ha and 40ha.
“It’s not perfect, but it’s a big improvement,” said Cr Mimmie Jackson.
“As a result of this strategy we will protect most of the viable farming land in this shire, which will increasingly become the food bowl of the state,” said Cr Jennie Deane.
Mayor Warren Raabe summed up by saying: “To get where we’ve got has been a long, long road. I am quietly confident that the Minister will accept this document…I think we’ve struck a balance.”
He noted that the neighbouring shires of Baw Baw and Bass Coast were just now embarking on a similar process of clarification of rural land use regulations and would be watching South Gippsland Shire with interest.
Having adopted the Strategy, Council will now commence the preparation of a Planning Scheme Amendment to implement its key recommendations into the South Gippsland Planning Scheme.
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