What will become of the RLS now that Robert Stokes, who has a doctorate in Planning law, has been appointed the Planning Minister? On March 22nd the Independent Australia reported on the groundswell that was building around the NSW Governments actions on the environment saying "Gladys Berejiklian has shown no interest in responding urgently and proportionately to the challenge of climate change, or in defending our threatened species against the relentless pressures of deforestation and development, even though during her term the state has been gripped by drought, scorched by bushfires and sweltered through record heat waves." It turned out that many voters were concerned with the environment and climate change at the last election and the Premier has indicated that her government has listened. But what of the RLS that was a "done deal". As at March 25th we know that the Rural Lands planning proposal was sent to the Department of Planning and Environment (Department) on 30 October 2018 with a request to make the plan and that it is known that the planning proposal has not been sent back to Council for any amendments. As at March 25th all that is known is that the NSW Planning Department is reviewing the planning proposal in relation to government agency submissions and have the option to amend the proposal if they deem it necessary. No Doubt the new Minister of Planning will be looking closely at those government agency submissions and not just take the word of the Eurobodalla Director of Planning that the issues have been resolved. Remember the Dorothy Dix question asked by Councillor Lindsay Brown to Liz Innes in the Council meeting just before the election asking what was the outcome of the recent visit by then Planning Minister Anthony Roberts? “The Planning Minister wanted to come down and reassure our rural community, who have worked on our strategy for nine years, that he has been working through the concerns raised by departments like the RFS,” Cr Innes says. “He was very clear in saying that he is now confident in signing it [the Rural Lands Strategy] and that the concerns raised by those departments have been addressed. “And that, if elected, it will be the first document that he signs.” That will be a hard task for him now as he has now been appointed Minister for Corrective Services. The Mayor was more than obvious in her support of the NSW Liberal Party over the last year and rightly so as Andrew Constance has seen millions injected into key infrastructure projects in the Eurobodalla. She recently told Ian Campbell of About Regional “As far as I am concerned there is only one party that has said they will support our rural sector and that is Andrew Constance and the Liberal Party,” There is little doubt that the new Minister, Rob Stokes, will be made aware of the community discord that still surrounds the Rural Lands Strategy. Having a Doctorate in Planning with the Premier's instruction to be more environmentally considered in policy he will definitely be giving the Strategy a good look, and most likely investigating the concerns raised by six government departments including the OEH and the RFS. And what of Council's Planned Retreat Policy? At a community meeting on Monday 19th December 2018 in Surfside, the Member for Bega gave the residents of Lower Surfside an unequivocal assurance that there will be NO “PLANNED RETREAT” policies applied to their properties. With both planning issues of concern to the Eurobodalla community it is inevitable that there will be another visit from the Planning Minister however this time it will be the informed Rob Stokes representing a new and more environmentally sensitive portfolio. Rosemary Deadman, Convenor Surfside Residents Group and Vice President, Eurobodalla Coast Alliance told the Beagle "The local member, Andrew Constance has made his position very clear. He has opposed "planned retreat" from the start. He restated his opposition to Planned retreat at a meeting with Surfside Residents on 25 February, having arranged $5 million from the NSW Government to protect the suburb. "Andrew understands the angst planned retreat threats are causing our residents, and is genuinely working for the Eurobodalla coastal community. "On the other hand, most councillors who will decide what Coastal Management Plan is submitted to the Environment Minister for approval, and allow staff to impose draconian restrictions on development applications, are silent on the issue. "Mayor Innes has declared she is also opposed to Planned Retreat and is supported by Councillor Maureen Nathan who has expressed her concern over the issue." Ms Deadman said.
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