Presentation to Council: Rural Lands: Cheryl Blessington
Submissions – Eurobodalla Shire Council meeting 28 August 2018 Cheryl Blessington of Narooma Agenda item: rural lands planning proposal My husband and I own rural land at Narooma; we work full time and live in the local area. We first approached Council about the possibility of building on our land in 2009. We were advised at the time that our 36-acre property which is located about 8 kms out of Narooma, on a Council maintained road, did not meet the requirements of the LEP for a dwelling on our land. The Blessington family have lived on farming land in the Narooma area for over 50 years; members of the family have raised their children in a rural environment, who have then gone on to complete university studies and gain skilful employment in the local area and beyond. We too want this opportunity, to raise a family on our property; we are passionate about self sustainability, we want to grow our own fruit and vegetables, to teach our children about rural values, how food is produced, to have a respect for nature and sustainability. However, following on from our enquiries with Council in 2009, we were uncertain about the future for our property. If we couldn’t live on our farm, how could we really enjoy it and raise a family there? How could we properly manage the land, grow produce, plant and protect young trees, control noxious weeds and get control of lantana, all while commuting back and forth from town every day? 5. In about 2012 we were considering what to do with our property, whether to sell and move out of the shire and look for new opportunities. We decided to make further enquiries with Council about building on our land. At that time, we were informed of a rural lands review that Council would be undertaking in the near future, and that there was a real possibility the review could bring about changes which would allow for a dwelling house on our property. Since 2012 we have kept in contact with Council about the progress of the rural lands review. We made written submissions and participated in a community-based forum in 2014. It is our view that since 2012, Council has given the community several opportunities to make submissions and have those submissions considered. In good faith we have waited for, and worked with, Council since 2012, to bring about some positive change for rural land holders. We understood that there was a due process to be followed by Council; we believe that a due process has been followed and we support Council in this Rural Lands Planning Proposal. We are now about 6 years on and we are still waiting for this positive change. It is very upsetting for me and my family to see those that are trying to hinder this rural lands planning proposal in its final stages. The only reason I am here today addressing this Council is because I am concerned that those trying to hinder this proposal may undermine the hard work Council, and members of the community, have put into the rural lands review over the last 6 years, and I want to express my support for Council and getting this proposal implemented. We have waited 6 years for this review; we want to see some positive changes for rural landholders. I note there have been some concerns raised about changes to land use and clearing of rural land, to the point it seems, that if farmers are given the ability to do a broad range of activities on their land, the concern is that they will decimate all native vegetation. I don’t believe that is an accurate perception of the local farming community today. As farmers and rural landholders, we are custodians of our rural land; we have a responsibility to future generations to balance growth with sustainability and preservation. As farmers, we understand that. One of the first things my husband and I did when we purchased our property over 11 years ago, was plant trees. We have continued to plant trees and have plans for many more trees to be planted in the future, to work in conjunction with a balance of livestock grazing, market gardening and hopefully rural living. We also understand there has been concerns raised about adequate bush fire protection of people living in rural areas. If we were given the opportunity to live on our property, we believe that we would be in a better position to undertake bushfire mitigation work on a regular basis. We have already, with the assistance of Council, undertaken a lantana management plan which has reduced a significant bushfire hazard on our property. We also have good access to our property for bushfire services, which were in fact used for that very purpose only a few weeks ago. We care for the environment; we just want the opportunity to live on our rural property, so in turn we can be better custodians of our piece of land. 15. We support Council in this rural land planning proposal; it is my submission to you, counsellors, to vote to have this proposal implemented without further delay.