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At last, RCoW is listening on land use

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More flexibility in farming zone

Written by SIMONE KERWIN. Source: Wangaratta ChronicleRURAL City of Wangaratta council has gathered a number of real-life examples to apply to its agricultural land study.

Four public forums held across the municipality over the last week attracted a significant number of farmers, lifestyle property owners, professional people, and industry representatives eager to have their say on future land use.

Rural city councillor Anthony Griffiths said former shire councillors had also attended some of the meetings to provide historical background on planning issues related to the minimum size of land required to build a house in farming zones.

Council is working on an agricultural land study to address the problems presented by the blanket rule that houses cannot be built on properties less than 40 hectares in the farming zone – council suggesting greater flexibility is needed to allow development on smaller lots where suitable.

The message from the meetings was that there was nothing contrary to the direction council is proposing,” Cr Griffiths said.

But some of the examples did give us a few other issues to think about, such as planning permits issued under Beechworth council which had totally different time limits.

A number of areas have got lifestyle blocks that are definitely expanding.

Some pointed out down a particular road, we’ve already got a clump of lifestyle people, and others were different again in that they had properties of between 60 and 80 acres, so they were stuck in the middle.

Cr Griffiths said Wednesday’s meeting in Wangaratta saw a number of points and questions presented regarding water supply and drainage, and about the idea for a food bowl to be developed in the Ovens and King valleys.

The overall message, though, is that the 40 hectare rule, or one size fits all, doesn’t work for anyone,” he said.

The lifestyle people say 40 hectares is too big for them, and farmers say it is too small to be practical.

Cr Griffiths said there was no animosity at the meetings between long-time farmers and lifestyle property owners.

By and large, you wouldn’t have been able to pick the difference,” he said.

The consensus is that dedicated agricultural areas should be protected, but there has to be rural living areas, which generally should be located in clumps.

At all four meetings, people said they would prefer future development to happen in conjunction with rural towns, to help them with planned growth.

The model discussed is very much along the traditional English model where you have the village, rural lifestyle blocks, and then out to the rural area.

The primary things people are concerned about when it comes to development are fire danger and access to water supply.

Cr Griffiths said council was working on developing four rural zones of different land types within the rural city, but that sizes had not yet been determined.

It may well be the perfect size for Moyhu may not work for Boorhaman,” he said.

The next step is to take it to a detailed level with boundaries and size, and there will be another round of public consultation to road-test that.

But Cr Griffiths could not give an indication as to when the next stage would be reached, with the land study dependent on the outcome of the State Government’s Future Farming Strategy, and the Murmungee acquifer Study.

It will take as long as it takes, we are not going to rush it,” he said.

We recognise this could set the tone for planning in decades.

“The overall message, though, is that the 40 hectare rule, or one size fits all, doesn’t work for anyone.” – Cr Anthony Griffiths

COUNCILLOR Anthony Griffiths (pictured) is thrilled with the public response to the Rural City of Wangaratta’s agricultural land study road show.

Just one month ago Cr Griffiths asked what council was doing wrong with its public consultation process, when it received no responses to its road management plan.

At the time, he called for better community engagement – and he said that is just what council had achieved during the four public meetings held throughout the rural city over the past week.

In six and a half years’ involvement in local government, I can’t recall any other council process involving planning, corporate plan and budget that has drawn the crowds, and importantly the level of participation, that these meetings did,” Cr Griffiths said.

The forums presented council’s corporate plan and budget, but were predominantly concerned with investigation into future use of the municipality’s agricultural land.

The public meetings – at Everton, Boorhaman, Moyhu and Wangaratta – gave residents a chance to have their say on how the rules could be altered to protect valuable farming land, while also allowing people to enjoy a rural lifestyle.

Everyone had a say, and there were no end of questions at the Wangaratta meeting,” Cr Griffiths said.


Written by Greg Naylor

20 July 2009 at 1:06 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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