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Local member goes to bat for ‘property rights’ – But zones may be over-ridden by new state policy anyway

by Maria Taylor

Bungendore, 8 June  2013.

In an unusual move for a state representative, Member for Monaro John Barilaro has involved himself with the Palerang draft local environment plan on behalf of ‘property rights’.

In May he circulated a survey asking landholders in rural residential or rural areas whether they were satisfied with environmental zones E4 or E3 applied to the landscape in their area.

In a response letter received by some who completed the survey he maintained that “an overwhelming majority of people are opposed to the LEP…”

The Bulletin asked Barilaro how he knew this was so based on several hundred letters (compared to a population of some 15,000). We also asked for examples or evidence why the state representative agreed with people who thought an environmental zone name would disadvantage their particular property.

What’s it about again?

For those who still feel in the dark about this matter, the state template for a new local environment plan required certain names attached to particular local environments. For example,‘rural residential’ as a name was no longer an option.

Weighing up the overall landscape and lifestyle values, E4, environmental living, was considered the most appropriate designation for what was previously known as rural residential. There is considerable tree and grass cover, both remnant and planted, in Palerang’s extensive rural residential localities.

This has boosted the area’s environmental value as flora, fauna habitat. More importantly for many people, it offers significant aesthetic/lifestyle values – another of the criteria for environmental living. These existing land values are protected under the objectives of E4 when considering future planning.

Council sources confirm that this is not about any particular property and its environmental value, and it does not require landholders to do or allow anything ‘environmental’ on their property, as has been alleged.

Grazing and other hobby-farming activities will continue as before – whether products are sold or not.  The other naming option, R5, large lot residential, aims to allow urban expansion and was thus considered better fitted for village fringe areas.

Largely on the eastern side of Palerang, Council has admitted mapping mistakes in the rural E3 environment zone in instances where landholders were finding farming land wrongly mapped as, say, a woodland. This error also caused concerned landholders to write to the Member for Monaro, also questioning the word ‘environmental’.

Barilaro declined to provide any evidence for the property rights argument he made in the letter to constituents.  He appears to have distanced his stance a bit saying in a statement that he had been “inundated with correspondence regarding the Palerang Local Environment Plan (LEP) and its potential effect on landowners… (However) “the state of play currently sits with the ball firmly in Council’s court”.

Why are we doing this when…

He also foreshadowed changes in state planning legislation that would make the whole debate on names moot.

This proposed change was outlined by Councillor Keith France after attending a briefing on the NSW Government white paper A new planning system for NSW.  The document proposes fewer, broader zones that would simply lump R5, E4, village and anything named residential under the one zone – ‘residential’.

“This might make you ask,” commented Councillor France in the Wamboin Whisper newsletter, “why we are going through a lot of pain and suffering debating which land zone best suits our requirements when the NSW Government is going to introduce a system where we are all dumped into one big bucket?  I think the NSW Government and the local member, in particular, have a bit of explaining to do.”

Submissions to the white paper can be made via www.planning.nsw.gov.au/newplanningsystem until 28 June.

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