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Rural LEP: and now for the Fix

A Beagle reader has found the following information in a discarded page from Everyperson’s Political Manual blowing across the carpark near Council offices :

Politics 101, How to Build Your Popularity in Eleven Easy Steps–

Chapter 7 - How to sow the seeds of controversy, and reap the rewards

1 – Issue a press release stating that there is a major problem which you are working to solve, but do not actually reveal any details regarding the specific nature of the problem.

2 - Orchestrate the release of a corroborating email by a senior bureaucrat indicating that a state agency is assisting with your strenuous efforts to overcome this unspecified problem.

3 – Let things simmer for a suitable period, to build a frisson of uncertainty

4 – At an appropriate moment, with suitable fanfare, announce that the unspecified problem has been solved through your untiring efforts to battle the bureaucracy. You can now provide some details of the hitherto unmentionable problem you have vanquished, and bask in the warm glow of public acclaim.

5 - Collect your kudos for this marvellous effort, and put it toward your political capital for an upcoming election.

This is very handy advice, and no doubt heeded by many political players to great advantage. But there is just one problem with this approach – what if you aren’t successful at solving the problem, and end up with egg all over your face – not a good look for a politician.

Well, there is an easy way to guarantee success – just “fix” something that has already been fixed – that way there is no possibility of any embarrassing slip-ups. This is why it is essential not to specify the nature of the problem that you are solving at the outset – it enables you to subsequently choose something that you know has already been resolved, and claim the credit without any fear of being contradicted. How good is that!

If murmurings around town are accurate, it would seem that this strategy is under way in the Eurobodalla Shire. The Mayor has announced Eurobodalla Council has identified anomalies in the Rural Lands Strategy LEP, signed off by the NSW Government on Friday 11 October 2019 but that she could not divulge the nature of these changes as sensitive negotiations were under way to amend the instrument. “Council is not in a position to comment further until the Department has been able to verify the exact implications and what can be done to rectify these changes.” Liz Innes Oct 22nd 2019 We now await to see if all the above steps can be ticked off, and find out what issue has been chosen to be “rectified” - some around town are suggesting it could be “biodiversity”.

Background material to this factual fable

The facts of the matter are that the LEP amendment has already been finalised and gazetted by the Planning Minister, with only minimal changes to Council’s proposal. The minimal changes made by the Minister resulted from specific objections by the RFS to changes in minimum lot sizes for 7 areas because of extreme bushfire hazard. It would have been unlawful for the Minister to approve Council’s requested changes to these areas because of the unresolved RFS objections. In this sense, the Minister gave Council all that he could lawfully deliver, with all other options (including those made by 6 NSW agencies, the Department of Planning and many community members) being ignored.

In this respect, the Department of Planning’s Finalisation Report is a bizarre read. First off it here is a reminder of what it was all about:

After spending much of the first 20 pages outlining the many ways in which the Eurobodalla Planning proposal is inconsistent with or breaches a range of existing NSW Government strategies, plans or guidelines, the Department then advises the Minister that he can: 1. choose Council’s preferred option (with Biodiversity removed from the LEP), or 2. the Planning Department's suggested approach which retains the biodiversity map and relevant clause in the LEP; takes on board OEH's recommendations that 15 environmentally sensitive areas were unsuitable for additional development; and removes the exemption that allows grazing of livestock in environmental conservation lands. For whatever reason, Minister Stokes went with the Council’s preferred option.

If you want to read the LEP amendment which result from this decision, which was gazetted on the 11th October by Minister Stokes, here is the link to the NSW Legislation website.

https://www.legislation.nsw.gov.au/EPIs/2019-503.pdf

Perhaps Councillors, who appear to have been left in the dark about all of this may want to check it out so they can see what all the fuss is about. It’s a rather dry read, but an interesting part is Clause 48 which states “Clause 6.6 –Biodiversity - Omit the clause.” The practical meaning of this clause is to remove the Biodiversity layer maps (which were part of the LEP up until the 11th October), and allow them to be moved into the Development Control Plan (DCP), as recently exhibited by Council. The draft LEP also sought "to allow ‘grazing of livestock’ as exempt development in the E2 Environmental Conservation zone by including this activity in schedule 2 of the LEP;" Approximately 82% of community submissions objected to, or expressed concerns with, certain aspects of the proposal. Issues raised included: - the potential environmental impacts from permitting ‘grazing of livestock’ as exempt development in the E2 zone The OEH objected to several aspects of the proposal. In particular they objected to permitting ‘grazing of livestock’ as exempt development in the E2 Environmental Conservation zone due to potential degradation of biodiversity values; Council did not substantially amend the proposal in response to objections/concerns raised by OEH. Council advised on this matter that: section 3.3 of the LEP does not allow exempt development on environmentally sensitive areas, including wetlands, etc. Therefore, the proposal will only permit grazing of livestock on a small number of E2-zoned areas on private property where grazing is already being undertaken; They stated that "the impacts on environmentally sensitive areas are likely to be localised as exempt development cannot legally occur on E2 zoned land also mapped as environmentally sensitive land. This includes coastal wetlands and other areas listed in the mandatory excluded land clause 3.3 in the LEP" OEH maintained its objection saying "The impacts from Council’s preferred option of allowing grazing in the E2 zone will be localised as exempt development cannot legally occur on E2 zoned land that is also mapped as environmentally sensitive. This includes coastal wetlands and other areas listed in Clause 3.3 Environmentally sensitive areas excluded of the LEP. " OEH also noted that increasing development opportunities in bushland areas may trigger the biodiversity offset scheme under the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 and result in additional costs to landowners due to mandatory biodiversity assessment and offsetting. In discussion with OEH, a refinement of these concerns was narrowed to 15 areas where minimum lot sizes should be changed to reflect that they are not suitable for development. The proposal also permits grazing of livestock as exempt development in the E2 Environmental Conservation zone, which OEH states is likely to lead to the degradation of biodiversity values in areas currently benefitting from the application of the E2 zone. Local Land Services (LLS) LLS expressed concerns with several aspects of the proposal, including: permitting grazing of livestock as exempt development in the E2 zone; DPI – Fisheries also objected to the grazing of livestock as exempt development in the E2 Environmental Conservation zone; Once again Council responded saying, "the proposal will only permit grazing of livestock on a small number of E2-zoned areas on private property where grazing is already being undertaken;" DPI also were clear in their objection raising several concerns regarding the potential impacts of increased development within the catchments on oyster-growing areas. They stated "The proposal allows for a range of additional uses on environmentally sensitive areas, as well as permitting grazing of livestock as exempt development on E2-zoned lands. This may increase sedimentation and the risk of other pollutants within catchments surrounding the Eurobodalla’s oyster-growing estuaries and subsequently affect the industry, which relies on a clean aquatic environment."


The Department’s preference, as stated in their Finalisation Plan is that further amendments are required to address the remaining outstanding objections from OEH and RFS and inconsistencies with section 9.1 Directions and the South East and Tablelands Regional Plan. Those changes included: • remove provisions that will permit grazing of livestock as exempt development in the E2 Environmental Conservation zone and permit extensive agriculture with consent in the E2 Environmental Conservation zone. The Nature Coast Alliance, in their recent media release said they were disappointed that the Minister for Planning failed to adopt the Department of Planning's preferred option, which would have kept a number of planning protections in the Local Environment Plan including removing the exemption that allows grazing of livestock in environmental conservation lands. The has been a long history of the battle between farmers who have wetlands, or access wetlands, and environmental authorities who identify the importance these wetlands play as habitat for fish breeding and feeding. A key battlefront over the Rural Lands Strategy has been in the area of the Buckenbowra and Clyde Rivers with community concerns voiced around sediment runoff from rural development affecting the oyster industry and the impact of wetland grazing of E2 zoned land by cattle affecting the water quality of the Clyde River and allegedly compromising the fish breeding and vital environmental habitat role of those E2 zones, especially in the area of the Buckenbowra River

Above: an overlay of the E2 zones that Council says "the proposal will only permit grazing of livestock on a small number of E2-zoned areas on private property where grazing is already being undertaken;" Image Eurobodalla Council GIS At a public meeting in Batemans Bay in 2011 the community heard from affected farmers in the Nelligen area who said that they would "shut the gates" on anyone who wanted to come on to their property to see the impact of wetland grazing.

In coming weeks it will be interesting to read the results of a probity investigation presently being undertaken that might shine a light on the ownership details of the E2 zones in the shire including the details of the holdings that have been endorsed for subdivision along with the holding details of the seven sites identified in the RFS submission to Council on the 31st May 2019.

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