Eurobodalla Shire Council says it’s pleased with amendments to the long talked about and much debated Rural Lands Strategy which has just been signed off on by the NSW Planning Department.
“And we are thankful for the time and constructive input that has been provided by many people in our community in the development of the Rural Lands Strategy and LEP (Local Environment Plan)amendments,” says Lindsay Usher, Council’s Director of Planning and Sustainability.
Despite the State Government’s approval and Mr Usher’s appreciation, some in the community remain unconvinced about environmental and bushfire safeguards in the Strategy.
Member for Bega Andrew Constance says the Strategy sets out a 20-year vision for the Shire’s rural lands.
“The Rural Lands Strategy is a fantastic result for our entire region and I thank Mayor Liz Innes and the Rural Lands Committee, along with our community for bringing about this fantastic result for Eurobodalla,” he says.
“Changes have been made to planning controls, such as zoning, land uses and lot sizes to encourage a vibrant commercial agriculture sector, increase rural living opportunities and support the growth of rural business opportunities.
“With its beautiful beaches, plentiful parks and fertile farmlands, Eurobodalla Shire truly is one of our State’s more enviable places to live, work and visit,” Mr Constance says.
Eurobodalla Mayor Liz Innes, who has campaigned on the issue over two elections has welcomed the end of the process which dates back almost a decade.
“This is such a great news story for the Eurobodalla, and I am looking forward to seeing us reach our economic potential as we now have greater opportunity for rural producers to map our region as an amazing food tourism destination,” Cr Innes says.
“This approval is the culmination of years of consultation and strategic planning and brings to life our Rural Lands Strategy.
“Our Rural Lands Strategy will guide our rural land uses over the next 20 years to improve opportunities for farmers, businesses, landowners and visitors, whilst protecting what we love most about our shire.
“With 83 beaches, four major river systems and lakes and more than 80% of land covered by national parks or state forest, our natural beauty has been always been the centre of the deliberation on these changes,” Cr Innes says.
In considering the Strategy, 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.
In March in the run-up to the NSW Election, Amanda Thompson of Symphony Farm at Tilba told Region Media, “We have five young adult children – the fifth generation, who desire to remain in the Eurobodalla and develop long term rural businesses. The new LEP supports a sustainable and diverse agricultural sector.”
Offering some sense of reassurance for those with environmental concerns Mr Constance says, “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,” Mr Constance says.
“These are hollow words” according to Kathryn Maxwell from the Nature Coast Alliance.
‘[Those words] give no assurance to those who care about the Nature Coast, about our native flora and fauna and our wonderful wetlands and waterways,” she says.
“Eurobodalla Council and the RFS are already struggling with existing work loads and do not have sufficient staff or resources to undertake the rigorous development assessment processes that will be required under the Rural Lands Strategy LEP despite Mr Constance’s glib assurances.
“If the LEP has been signed off without the major changes proposed by state agencies and community experts, this is a dark day for strategic planning in NSW. If the NSW Government has ignored this expert advice, it will make a mockery of evidenced based decision-making.”
Council Planning chief Lindsay Usher says, “Council has worked closely with NSW Government agencies to consider and address concerns that have been raised, and in signing off the amendments to the LEP, clearly, the government has been satisfied with the changes made.”
“In accordance with the adopted Rural Lands Strategy, Council prepared a DCP (Development Control Plan) which in addition to addressing the biodiversity overlay, addressed additional requirements of the Rural Fire Service. The inclusion of these matters in the DCP was the outcome of meetings between government authorities, including Rural Fire Service representatives.
“It is disappointing that some in the community have and continue to misrepresent the facts related to this matter. These actions continue to cause unnecessary concern and distress for people in the community.”
The amendments to the Local Environment Plan with regard to the Rural Lands Strategy will be available for public viewing in the near future via the NSW Planning website.