The Mirror News

Planning for the best

• Best laid plans: Mount Best Community Hall Association  President Meryl Agars and hall committee member Kim Newby  believe Mt Best needs more flexible planning rules

THERE’S a rumbling discontent in the Mount Best community, as people consider the future for a plan that doesn’t fit an easy planning mould.

A recent town hall meeting attended by South Gippsland Shire Council’s Cr Jeremy Rich, Cr Ray Agento, Cr Alyson Skinner, Cr Andrew McEwen, CEO Tim Tamlin and planning manager Paul Stampton heard complaints from many landowners – people with plans who cannot build or in a state of utter confusion about what is permissible and what isn’t.

Mount Best Community Hall Association committee member Kim Newby said the “dominant” problem was the amount of properties in the area that were in the 4.1 hectare to 40-hectare range. It’s a planning twilight zone that permits little joy for landholders.

“This council has the most generous rules for very small parcels of any council in Victoria. It always gives permits, sometimes with conditions, for blocks of 4.1 hectares,” Mr Newby said.

“The problem is for the ones between 4.1 and 40 hectares. There’s a lot of them up here. That’s partly a legacy of the Soldiers Settlement Scheme. None of those was greater than 50 acres, or 30-and-a-bit hectares.  “They’re no longer economical farms.”

Mr Newby said farms at nearby Gunyah and Mount Fatigue had “descended”.

“We’ve now got the frontier just here. People are wanting to build and are unable to satisfy the rules,” he said.

“The rules are difficult and one of problems that you have is that they’re very bulky. They often refer to studies that were done three, four, five years ago. You go and read those and discover what was said wasn’t actually what was implemented in the end.

“You can easily get lost. People are getting frustrated. People are spending a lot of time, money and emotional energy trying to realise a dream, then finding, a long way down, that they can’t do it.”  He said history had dictated the carve up of land in the area, meaning there was a great many properties “not viable for consolidation and not viable to earn a living off purely as a farming operation”.

“And when they’re not occupied they tend to become degraded by weeds and become an increased fire risk,” he said.

Mount Best Community Hall Association president Meryl Agars agreed that unoccupied properties were a problem in the area, with people often neglecting animals that were left to graze on bush blocks.

“They don’t even come down to check them,” she said.

Mrs Agars said the councillors who attended the meeting were “very understanding of the frustrations of the people who spoke”.

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