Confusion still reigns
LANDOWNERS are still concerned for the future of their properties despite greater opportunities for development under revised planning rules in South Gippsland Shire.
People packed the gallery at a council public presentation session about changes to C51 last Wednesday to speak of uncertainty and the risk of wasting money.
They came seeking answers about whether their dreams of a rural life or selling their land could be fulfilled, and whether they should risk spending money on applying for permits.
But in many cases, mayor Cr Warren Raabe could only offer a glimmer of hope, suggesting they could apply and hope for a favourable outcome.
Councillors were briefed by acting planning manager Paul Stampton about the likelihood of more planning permits being granted under C51, following legal advice from Queen’s Counsel, Stuart Morris, about council’s interpretation of the policy.
Mark Keppich-Arnold bought a block of less than 8ha at Hallston in 1988 with the intention of living there. But now he cannot sell the property as only lots between 0.4 and 8ha created after December 4, 1994 may be considered for a permit to build.
“What is going to happen to the block? It’s going to remain vacant to the day I die. There is nothing I can do,” he said.
“I have paid rates on that block for many years as though there was a house on it because it was bought with a planning permit.”
The 1994 date was the day the existing South Gippsland Shire Council was created. Cr Raabe said dates were chosen to restrict the number of permits eligible for development to match the former State Government’s policy of minimising development of agricultural land.
“If we had left everything in there, we would have thousands and thousands of lots,” he said.
Cr David Lewis, who lives near Mr Keppich-Arnold’s land, is concerned the “arbitrariness of the dates will be written into our rural strategy” – the plan that will supersede C51 and govern future rural development.
Barry Hill questioned the imposition of cut-off dates for permit eligibility and believed council could have got a better deal from the State Government.
Cr Raabe responded: “The result may not be as palatable to the community as council would like but we have achieved something. We have achieved the right to give permits of a residential flavour to some people in the Farming Zone.”
A resident who wished to remain anonymous said his property has lost 80 per cent of its potential market value as he was unable to obtain a permit.
A council valuation indicates it is now worth less than what he paid for it.
“We wish to sell it. We don’t wish to build on it but it looks like we won’t even break even,” he said.
His wife was concerned they could become bankrupt under the costs of applying for a permit.
Cr Raabe said the 60 acre allotment was beyond the jurisdiction of C51.
Barry Gilbert asked why C51 excluded road reserves that were typically of poor agricultural value and therefore suitable for housing development.
A Foster woman questioned the ineligibility of grazing and calf rearing on lots between eight and 40ha to qualify as agricultural activity, particularly in steep country.
“It is impossible not to live on site when you’re checking calves all the time,” she said.
Mr Stampton said typically agriculture required land greater than 40ha in size.
David Wyhoon said he runs a beef stud and spends considerable time checking stock. He sought clarification about appropriate agriculture.
“Please, give us some direction as to what is acceptable,” he said.
Cr Raabe: “These are probably the same words that we asked the (former) State Government (when negotiating). They went silent. We are treading on new ground for them at the moment. They say build up cases through VCAT and people challenging you. They are looking for more intensive activities than grazing.”
Korumburra man Bill Jeffs wanted to know what type of agricultural activity would have to be undertaken in order for him to build a house on two acres within the Korumburra township.
Mr Stampton responded: “It’s difficult to come up with an agricultural activity that requires a house on a property of that size.”
Self-proclaimed council watchdog Paul Richardson has urged council chief executive officer Tim Tamlin to write to Deputy Premier, Peter Ryan, calling for C51 to be removed.
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