10 September 2019

Yass buffer zone freeze leaves border landholders out in cold

| Ian Bushnell
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A border map showing the 5km wide buffer zone. Image: 5km ACT NSW Border Planning Group.

Nervous landholders in NSW are worried about possible government arrangements that will see them lose effective control of their properties, undermine land values and curtail rural development options.

They are also concerned that urban development spreading from Canberra will destroy the character of the cross-border lands, arguing that a more sustainable approach would be to have small rural lots supporting new forms of agriculture to supply the ACT market.

The 5km ACT NSW Border Planning Group is worried about the lack of consultation and information on the issue and is holding a public meeting on Sunday 24 February at Sutton Hall, with former ACT Chief Minister Jon Stanhope listed as one of the speakers.

The group fears Yass Valley Council’s proposed 20-year no-development 5km-wide buffer zone for the border, except for the Ginninderry housing development, would suppress the value of land and prevent landowners from subdividing their properties to provide an alternative to urban development.

They believe Yass Valley Council would be able to resume their land at rock-bottom prices, due to the land being assessed at rural use only, when it does decide to pursue urban development along the border, which is supported by the NSW Government’s South East and Tablelands Regional Plan.

The NSW Government had originally rejected the buffer zone proposal but it is believed it had now thrown its support behind the council, which argues that it does not want urban encroachment on the border that it cannot service.

The group is also concerned that the border may be moved so the council could swap the land for permanent ACT water access for Murrumbateman and Yass, which has had supply issues in previous droughts and continues to struggle with poor water quality.

Mr Stanhope will speak on the political and legal constraints on moving the border.

The group believes the ACT Government, a joint venture partner in the Ginninderry housing development and reliant on land sale revenue, is ‘conflicted about wanting to protect nature reserves, retaining the rural landscape as well as having a seamless transition to rural NSW landscapes at the same time agreeing it should be urbanised’, according to member Arnold Dekker.

The landowners’ vision for the area along the border is for a ‘low-density rural-residential zone that would focus on the environment, heritage, economic and social benefits consistent with peri-urban developments around other cities’.

Long-time landholder Bill Ginn said the Council was being inconsistent to seek a buffer zone but also reject rural residential on the grounds that the South East and Tablelands Regional Plan says rural residential should not be allowed in the border area as it would interfere with urban development.

He says there is already a precedent for cross-border development in Ginninderry, previously known as Parkwood.

Mr Ginn says there is currently no real agriculture in the border zone and small acreages could be sustainable and self-sufficient, and attractive to people in Canberra sitting in expensive houses and apartments.

“It’s the uncertainty for the landowners, but we also need to look at the broader community. How is this benefiting anyone? You’re ticking the box for more high-density housing in Parkwoood but you can’t give people a bit of alternative development or living environment,” Mr Ginn said.

Other speakers include Trevor Fitzpatrick from Purdon Planning to discuss the best use of land in a peri-urban zone such as along the ACT-NSW border. Yass Mayor Rowena Abbey will also attend. The meeting starts at 4 pm.

For more information go to the group’s website.

Original Article published by Ian Bushnell on The RiotACT.

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