Dear Beagle Editor, I have mentioned the misuse of E-zones by the Eurobodalla Shire Council in previous letters, but a recent response on behalf of the NSW Minister for Planning and Environment throws a completely different light on the subject.
In 2009 the NSW Department of Planning and the Environment introduced E-zones. E-zones are environmental management zones that were supposedly developed to protect NSW’s most vulnerable wetlands and native vegetation.
In 2011 the Eurobodalla Shire Council developed a LEP (Local Environmental Plan) that applied E-zones in a manner that could only be described as E-zone mania.
Rural land holders were heavily penalised with the application of the E3 zone on their farms. This E3 zoning destroyed the farming potential of many properties and adversely affected rural property values. At the same time the E2 zoning was being used in urban and coastal recreation areas to return that land to nature and prevent any future development.
A small group of residents objected to the indiscriminate use of environmental management zones in urban areas and the potential for their misuse. Council and the Minister accused us of over-reacting, and failing to understand that E-zones could only be used, if in the first place, the land met the stringent environmental objectives of the selected zone.
At that time, we were not aware that E2 zoning had been applied to urban waterfront land on Wharf Road, North Batemans Bay, as a means of sterilising the development potential of that land. The land in question does not have any environmental attributes and does not meet any of the objectives of the E2 zone. Council decided that because it was land that was affected by “predicted sea level rise and other coastal hazards”, they could legitimately use the environmental management zoning to prevent any future development on that land.
The OEH practice notes on environmental protection zones do provide for the inclusion of “land subject to coastal hazards, including climate change effects” in E-zones, but at the same time state that “use of the E2 zone needs to be supported by an appropriate assessment of the area meeting the zone objectives of high ecological, scientific, cultural or aesthetic values of this zone.”
This latest land sterilisation tactic came to light in the recent Wharf Road Batemans Bay CZMP (Coastal Zone Management Plan) that was prepared by the Eurobodalla Shire Council and submitted to the Minister for approval. The Coastal Panel was so impressed by this land sterilisation method that it made special mention of the action in one of its reports.
The NSW Coastal Alliance, which I represent in the Eurobodalla, is appalled that any Council could treat its ratepayers with such contempt.
In early February, I emailed Anthony Roberts, the new NSW Minister for Planning and Environment about the Wharf Road CZMP, including the following paragraph on the use of E2 zoning:
“This shire has also suffered immensely from the indiscriminate use of Environmental Planning Zones. Our rural community in particular has waited four years to have a new rural lands strategy agreed without the original E3 zonings that would have curtailed rural activities and destroyed many small farms in the shire. "OEH is still stalling approval of the Rural Lands Strategy, and we now find that it is complicit with Council in using E2 (quasi national park) zoning to sterilise the development potential of urban waterfront land at Wharf Rd., that has not been eroded by the sea. This deliberate misuse of the E2 zone was applauded by the statutory Coastal Panel and the outgoing Planning Minister Rob Stokes.”
The response I received on 16th March 2017 addressed only the E2 issue, and is copied below:
“Dear Mr Hitchcock
Wharf Road Coastal Zone Management Plan
I refer to your email to the Minister for Planning, the Hon Anthony Roberts MP, about the Wharf Road Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP). Your email was referred to the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) and I have been asked to reply.
I note your concerns on the Wharf Road CZMP including the E2-Environmental Conservation zone placed on the area.
I understand council zoned the foreshore areas and the land subject to coastal hazards, as E2 Environmental Conservation under the Eurobodalla Local Environmental Plan 2012. The decision to do this lies with council but it is in keeping with the guidance provided to councils by the Department of Planning and Environment on how environment protection zones should be applied in the preparation of local environmental plans. This guidance can be viewed at http://www.planning.nsw.gov.au/Plans-for-Your-Area/Local-Planning-and-Zoning/~/media/F1001EC0B1C443CD83286163B43891B8.ashx.
You may be interested to know that Eurobodalla Shire Council recently wrote to the Minister requesting the opportunity to amend the Wharf Road Coastal Zone Management Plan. This request is currently under consideration.
Thank you for raising these matters.
Regional Operations Division
The Executive Director, answering on behalf of the Minister, makes it very clear that OEH and the Minister endorse the action of Council in using environmental management zoning to prevent the owners of residential allotments with registered Torrens titles, from exercising their development rights.
Why should this advice concern Eurobodalla coastal residents if they don’t own one of the sterilised lots on Wharf Road?
As it turns out, the release of this Wharf Road CZMP coincides with the passing of the new NSW Coastal Management Act that includes a new coastal management zone. That zone is a “coastal vulnerability area”, an area determined as being subject to coastal hazards, including the effects of climate change.
It is expected that over 100,000 homes in NSW will be categorised as “vulnerable” under the new Act, and will be subject to extreme development restrictions. Up to 6,000 properties could be affected in the Eurobodalla.
Heavy development restrictions are one thing, but land sterilisation is the ultimate act of treachery. It completely extinguishes an individual’s property rights, and renders the affected property worthless over time.
By endorsing the use of E2 to sterilise developable land on Wharf Road, the Minister has invited councils from Eden to the Tweed to solve their vulnerable area management problems in the same way. If you own a Torrens title house block in a location that your council has determined, or will determine, as vulnerable to coastal hazards and/or sea level rise, you had better monitor your council’s rezoning and LEP activities very closely. Otherwise, you could end up with an E2 “white elephant” just like the landowners on Wharf Road in North Batemans Bay. And no, don’t expect to be advised of the impending rezoning action. The Wharf Road owners had no idea their land had been rezoned until well after the event.
The Eurobodalla community can sit back and watch seaside living “go to the dogs” in this shire, or it can it can make a stand against bureaucratic ideologies that are destroying our economy and our way of life.
It is time for the local member Andrew Constance to stand up for this community and convince his colleague Anthony Roberts to approve the rural lands strategy, and put a stop this E-zone nonsense before it sinks the NSW Coalition government. It is also time the OEH and the Coastal Panel was pulled into gear and instructed to use E-zones for the serious environmental preservation purposes they were intended.
Eurobodalla Regional Coordinator
NSW Coastal Alliance