22 October 2019

Bushfire concerns still burn in final steps of Euro Rural Lands Strategy

| Ian Campbell
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File photo: Eurobodalla RFS Facebook

Discrepancies in the Eurobodalla’s Rural Lands Strategy – Local Environmental Plan (LEP) have been flagged just days after the much-discussed document was declared as signed, sealed and delivered.

In a media statement, the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment says Eurobodalla Shire Council raised concerns about changes that were made to the LEP, without the involvement of Council, in response to a submission from the Rural Fire Service.

The Department and Council have agreed to work together to resolve outstanding issues.

“We are working to identify and clarify the changes as soon as possible,” says Department Secretary Jim Betts.

“We regret the uncertainty around some of the details and any inconvenience this may have caused.”

Mr Betts says senior representatives from the Department met with Council’s senior planning staff earlier this week.

“We continue to work to swiftly resolve this issue and discuss any additional concerns that Council have with the finalised LEP,” he says.

“I thank the Council and the community for their patience.”

The exact issues are still being identified and aren’t being discussed publically, but the Department says the changes will not affect the vast majority of landowners within the Eurobodalla Shire Council local government area.

Mayor Liz Innes says Council staff discovered a number of differences between the adopted position of Council and what senior Department of Planning staff and the Minister’s office had advised would occur.

“We are currently awaiting further work by the Department to clarify the full extent of changes and their potential impact,” Cr Innes says.

“Certainly we were not advised of any changes to the planning proposal prior to the Minister for Planning’s sign-off.”

Cr Innes says Council sought clarification and, where appropriate, resolution about the discrepancies with both the Minister’s office and the Department late last week.

“I have personally spoken to the Departmental head Jim Betts who has given his assurance they are working to rectify the matter as soon as possible,” she says.

“Council is not in a position to comment further until the Department has been able to verify the exact implications and what can be done to rectify these changes.”

In considering the Rural Lands Strategy – Local Environmental Plan, the Planning Minister received over 500 submissions from residents and community organisations, many of whom pointed to concerns raised by State agencies including the Rural Fire Service, NSW Fisheries, Office of Environment and Heritage, and Local Land Services.

Most raised environmental concerns to do with land clearing, water quality and climate change as well as bushfire risk. While members of the rural community spoke in support of the document.

Just last week, in offering some sense of reassurance for those with concerns Member for Bega, Andrew Constance said, “development will still go through the same rigorous assessment process it always has.”

“However this Rural Lands Strategy will provide options and opportunities that support tourism and rural economic development, whilst continuing to adhere to state and federal planning and environment legislation.

“The Government carefully considered seven sites identified by the NSW RFS to ensure fire trucks are able to gain access to future rural properties, that requirement has been met.”

A document almost a decade in the making continues to twist and turn, hopefully, the outcome is one all sides of this fractured debate can see their influence in.

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So the Mayor Liz Innes states on ABC Radio she does not know what is going on. It is quite simple, she has the Planning Finalisation Report. http://leptracking.planning.nsw.gov.au/proposaldetails.php?rid=5089

Click on the above Department of Planning link, Click on Determination Documents, open the RFS letter 25 June 2019 and then look into the Table within to find where the RFS objections have been retained.
The 7 “Areas” are in red and indicate the Lots that will have not have dwelling entitlements because current lot sizes were not reduced by the now gazetted LEP. They can only be changed by a new LEP process.

The fire risk was so great in these 7 areas, the RFS would not allow it despite our council Director of Planning, 7 of 9 councillors, our mayor, our local member Andrew Constance all intensely lobbying for it to go through unchanged. Are they willing to go against RFS advice and put the lives of future residents and fire fighters at risk?

From looking at the Table it seems that approximately 38 other “Areas” of serious bushfire risk concern to the RFS have had approval forced through because of pressure — despite needing to satisfy many severe bushfire constraints including BAL 29 fire refuge shelters and huge clearings for Asset Protection Zones (APZ’s). Why would anyone want to risk living in those areas in the coming years of increased catastrophic fire danger? Why allow people to risk residents’ and visitors lives and the lives of our firefighters? Naïve property buyers are going to stumble into this. Naïve visitors are going to stumble into this. This is outrageous.

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