10 September 2019

Yass Valley perplexed by opposition to border buffer zone

| Genevieve Jacobs
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Yass Valley Council is adamant they will pursue a buffer zone at the state border. File photo.

Yass Valley Council says its adamant that a proposed border buffer zone to prevent urban development along the Barton Highway will go ahead, despite significant pushback from the NSW government. That’s despite opposition to the buffer from some landowners who may have anticipated a development bonanza.

NSW planners have rejected Council’s application for a 5km zone north of the ACT border where no development would be allowed. But Yass valley planning director Chris Berry, who has pushed hard for the idea, says it’s critical to prevent ad hoc urban encroachment spilling over the border.

“A lot of local residents have jumped up and down,” Berry says. “They may believe they’re entitled to subdivide and make a profit, and undoubtedly some people had expected urban development would creep over the border and they’d be strategically located to take advantage.”

“But that’s never been the case for that area. Through our settlement strategy, we’ve established a gateway to Yass Valley. It’s an important rural landscape, and there are significant environmental values around Mulligans Flat that we would like to maintain and protect,” he said.

Instead, Council plans to channel development and growth towards both Murrumbateman and Yass, which Mr Berry said were better positioned to take advantage of growth for Yass Valley. That will require infrastructure investment including a water pipeline from Yass, but Mr Berry says Council can solve the issues. Development in Yass town is also a priority over “urban suburbs strung out along the border”.

“Our perspective has always been that the buffer zone will be held largely within private hands,” Mr Berry said. “We have a number of existing landowners who value rural lifestyle and landscape. They farm the land, there are orchards and traditional grazing in the area.”

The development exception is Ginninderry, where a unique and complex set of issues will arise from the Parkwood site straddling the border. The site can only be accessed from the ACT and Mr Berry says there is “some logic” in seeing the extensive development as a special case.

“We’d agree that the natural river boundary and the falls would make a better border than a straight line on a map, but we’re committed as a Council to developing Ginninderry without disadvantaging other ratepayers and residents in Yass Valley.”

That will require complex cross-border agreements between the ACT, Yass council and the NSW government, but Mr Berry points out that the impact of these is several decades into the future. If negotiations fail, Council’s fallback position would support a change in the border to incorporate the development fully within the ACT.

“If we cannot make those arrangements work, we don’t want existing ratepayers in Yass, Murrumbateman, Gundaroo and Sutton to have to bear the costs of servicing that area,” Mr Berry said.

The Ginninderry site also includes areas of significant conservation value, and Mr Berry said that current development proposals include a conservation area with a special rating mechanism for conservation purposes.

A percentage of the initial sale price would go towards a sinking fund to manage the conservation corridor around Murrumbidgee river including fencing, weed control, pathways and walkways. There would also be a special rate applied towards ongoing management of the conservation reserve.

Mr Berry says that while this arrangement would not offer the Ginninderry area the conservation status of a national park, it has the advantage of creating a dedicated and continuous income stream under the development agreements.

“National parks are government funded and that means the financial allocation is subject to the usual budgetary processes,” he said. “Under this proposal, the money raised would be wholly dedicated to this area.”

Do you think we need a buffer zone between NSW and Yass Valley?

Original Article published by Genevieve Jacobs on the RiotACT.

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