Presentation to Eurobodalla Council on item PSR19/022 Draft Rural, R5 and E4 zones Development Control Plan Post Exhibition by the Nature Coast Alliance (NCA)
I wish to speak against the Agenda Item PSR19/022 and associated recommendation that Council adopt the draft Rural, R5 Large Lot Residential and E4 Environmental Living Zones DCP without amendment on behalf of the Nature Coast Alliance.
• the Nature Coast Alliance is an umbrella organisation representing a number of different community and business groups across the Eurobodalla Shire.
• some have said that we have a vested interest in delaying the Rural Lands Planning Proposal, however we contend that our interest lies in protecting the environment of the Nature Coast and our economy, which depends on it. This will serve the best interests of the majority of the residents and not just those few with large land holdings who will benefit materially from the changes in zoning that will occur under this Planning Proposal.
1. Exhibiting and approving the DCP before the LEP has been signed off
• the Rural Lands Planning Proposal endorsed by Council in August last year makes far-reaching changes to the Eurobodalla LEP. It was highly controversial and was strongly opposed by six government agencies and large sections of our community. As a result, it has been with the Minister for Planning and his department since December 2018. We have been advised that they are looking very closely at the changes it proposes and taking on board the concerns of the government agencies and the community. To date there is no final, signed-off LEP.
• the role of a DCP is to support the LEP and provide guidance on how to implement its statutory planning controls. A DCP therefore needs to be read in conjunction with the LEP. Council has prepared this draft DCP and put it on public exhibition expecting the community to comment on it without there being a final approved LEP in place.
Comment: this is highly irregular and unreasonable. The concerns raised by the state agencies and the community are far too important to be put in a DCP, which is a guidance document that can be varied or even ignored by Council.
2. Piecemeal approach to bushfire risk
• the Rural Fire Service had major concerns about the increased bushfire risk that will result from the additional dwellings and land uses that the Rural Lands Planning Proposal permits in remote forested country.
• the DCP attempts to deal with these concerns by identifying over 300 sites which are subject to extreme bushfire risk. The risk at 282 of these sites is so high that future development will be required to adopt bushfire protection measures far beyond those normally specified by the RFS. The risk at a further 25 sites is so extreme, that although the Rural Lands Planning Proposal zones them for further subdivision and/or new dwellings, the RFS advises that they cannot safely be developed.
• the bushfire protection measures at each of these sites will need to be negotiated between Council and the individual owners at the development assessment stage, a lengthy process with an uncertain outcome.
Comment: this is an irresponsible approach to bushfire planning which should be dealt with more strategically through an enforceable LEP that zones these high risk lands appropriately and restricts the land uses allowed on them.
3. Extremely poor outcome for the Nature Coast’s biodiversity
• despite strong opposition from the Office of Environment and Heritage, Council intends to remove the Biodiversity Clause from the LEP which requires them to consider and then avoid or mitigate adverse impacts of development on biodiversity. Instead it will be placed in the DCP, which is a discretionary document that is not legally binding and can be varied by Council.
• in addition, the Terrestrial Biodiversity Map in the Eurobodalla LEP will be replaced with a simplified draft Native Vegetation Map that no longer shows biodiversity corridors or endangered vegetation and which will also be placed in the DCP.
• the DCP fails to address any of the outstanding concerns raised by OEH in relation to over 35 sites which support significant biodiversity values and which are proposed for further development.
Comment: This is a watering down of the protections afforded to important biodiversity values in the Eurobodalla and is at odds with the planning approach of all other Councils in our region. It demonstrates Council’s complete contempt for the natural environment of our shire.
4. Failure of the DCP to address a whole range of other government agency and community concerns with the Rural Lands Planning Proposal such as:
• increasing land-use conflict and fragmentation/alienation of productive agricultural land which will result from the huge increase in allowable land uses, together with a reduction in minimum lot sizes, on all rural lands across the Eurobodalla (Department of Primary Industries – Agriculture).
• this will lead to further clearing for development and associated bushfire protection in steep, forested country which will have downstream impacts on water quality from increased runoff and pollution, particularly from remote dwellings with unsealed access roads and on-site sewage systems (Department of Primary Industries - Water).
• deteriorating water quality will threaten Eurobodalla's important oyster industry and adversely impact on recreational fishing, as well as our tourism industry, which rely on the pristine rivers and lakes associated with the Eurobodalla’s ‘Nature Coast’ (Department of Primary Industries - Fisheries).
• this situation will be made even worse because the Rural Lands Planning Proposal allows grazing in wetlands and on riparian lands which currently serve as local fish nurseries and filters that reduce run-off into our waterways (SE Local Land Services).
• this surge in development facilitated by the Rural Lands Planning Proposal will lead to a growing demand for water at a time when the Eurobodalla is experiencing unprecedented drought (Department of Primary Industries - Water).
Eurobodalla Council will be the only South Coast council to:
• deal with extreme bushfire risk in a DCP and not through enforceable zoning controls in the LEP;
• weaken biodiversity protections by removing biodiversity mapping from the LEP and eliminating Environmental Management zones from some of our shires most biodiverse lands;
• open the zoning tables on rural lands, which is essentially the same as rezoning them for a whole range of inappropriate and conflicting uses (examples);
• allow grazing in sensitive Environment Protection zones, effectively undoing the restoration works undertaken on these lands over the years by our Landcare groups;
• permit development in steep, remote, forested areas without requiring sealed access roads.