The following is the submission presented to the Eurobodalla Shire Council in regards to the Rural Lands Strategy.
Eurobodalla Shire Council
PO Box 99
Moruya NSW 2537
Dear Dr Dale
At their meeting on 15 October 2015 Eurobodalla Shire councillors
resolved to place the Draft Rural Lands Strategy on public exhibition.
This submission is the Eurobodalla Ratepayers Association’s (ERA)
comment on the strategy.
Over three years ago ERA's campaign for
the rejection of the draft rural LEP led to council’s appointment of the
Rural Land Steering Committee with the task of providing the community
with modern planning regulation for rural land. This committee has
worked hard to reach realistic and workable solutions to the contentious
issues - E3 zoning, extensive and inaccurate environmental overlays and
unnecessary restrictions on farm sub-division and building
ERA congratulate the committee on the
outcomes, in particular the recommended non-use of the E3 zone, the
sunset clause, the removal of the requirement to have a tar sealed
council maintained road to be eligible for a building entitlement.
These improvements should benefit many in the shire’s rural communities.
We note that the council’s consultant estimates that the committee's
proposals agreed to date will allow approval of an additional 100 new
rural blocks and 300 extra building entitlements.
Comments on the draft strategy
However, it appears that the inclusion of a new vegetation overlay is
now proposed in the draft strategy. The ERA opposes the use of overlays
in the Local Environment Plan and is surprised that this matter is
addressed at all. We note that at its meeting on 22 July 2014 council
resolved, on the motion of Councillors Brown and Innes, that “1. The
Rural Land Strategy recommends that overlays not be included in the
LEP………….” Apparently, the council’s consultant failed to get the memo
advising him of this important client requirement!
In any event,
ERA rejects the consultant’s argument that dropping the earlier
proposed use of an E3 zone strengthens the need for a vegetation overlay
as a helpful pointer to other legislated environmental restrictions.
It is ironic that one reason given for this substitution is that it
reduces the necessity for a higher level of map accuracy required for an
Given the extensive legislated controls on
farming operations these days, farmers and buyers of rural land (and
their advisers) need to exercise ordinary due diligence in discovering
all the restrictions applying to rural land. This is best done by
reference to the evolving primary legislation rather than by relying on
inaccurate overlays forming part of prescriptive and rigid land use
Guidelines and “helpful suggestions” from
bureaucrats have a habit of being turned into black letter law over
time. Overlays are not legally required and not used by many NSW rural
Additionally, the ERA recommends to council the removal
from the LEP of all E zones, all references to biobanking and voluntary
biodiversity agreements and rural landscape guidelines. We support
smaller lot sizes than are proposed, lot size averaging and further
housing entitlements on rural blocks. Councillor Liz Innes, a member of
the Rural Land Strategy Committee, is aware of the details of ERA’s
suggestions in regard to these matters.
Comments on the process
Given its extensive engagement with this process, ERA would like to make some general comments on its experience.
First, it has been apparent for some time that the task of revising a
complex piece of government regulation is beyond the capabilities of
council’s planning department. Andrew Constance has drawn attention to
the long time, relative to other rural councils, that ESC has taken to
complete the task. Clearly, there are economies of scale in legislative
policy development. These should be identified in the current sea
level rise policy development process, before it is too late.
Second, the community consultation has been excessive, repetitive and
inefficient. Land owners and others resent being asked the same
questions repeatedly, particularly when their answers are ignored.
Third, it is apparent that staff planners, planning consultants and
some councillors have an ideological bias against recognising the
foundations of productive, efficient and socially responsible farming –
viz private property rights, minimum government interference in markets
and incentives for private land owners to protect the environment. And
council staff’s failure to recognise the impact of uncertainty in
legislative frameworks on the operations of rural land markets was
particularly noticeable. It was greatly disappointing that councillors
with nominal liberal political values did not stand up for individual
land owners against the insatiable, yet rarely properly specified,
demands of the state to interfere with their private property.
Finally, consistent with ERA’s long standing concern for better
governance and management at ESC, you are requested to convene and chair
a public post mortem on this project to consider what went wrong and
what you should do about it. Your predecessor, Paul Anderson,
contemplated holding a post mortem at the end of the poorly managed
Moruya-Deep Creek Dam pipeline project, but left before it could be
Such a meeting would allow those people closely
involved to express frank opinions on what went wrong and what was done
well. It would enable you to clear the air, draw a line under the
project and, hopefully, rebuild some of the public confidence you lost
along the way. At the same time, you could present the community with
the total costs of the project, including consultants’ fees, staff costs
and RLS committee members’ costs. We would expect that final costs
would also include an estimate of those costs, particularly lost
production by farmers, that community members have borne in interacting
Thanks for the opportunity to comment. We look forward to participating in a post mortem meeting
For Eurobodalla Ratepayers Association
Friday, November 27, 2015
Friday, November 13, 2015
FARMERS REJECT USE OF NATIVE VEGETATION OVERLAY IN RURAL LEP
At recent public meetings called by Eurobodalla Shire Council to allow land owners to consider the draft Rural Land Strategy (RLS) attendees voted decisively to reject the proposed incorporation of a native vegetation overlay in the rural local environment plan. Also, many farmers let council’s consultants know that they objected to the length of the process and the consultants’ failure to incorporate previous public comment in the strategy. Others said they resented the fact that they were being asked yet again to raise their concerns, which have been known to council’s planners for at least five years.
Eurobodalla Ratepayers Association spokesperson Councillor Liz Innes said, “Attendees could not have been clearer in their opposition to the use of the vegetation overlay in the proposed LEP. No one spoke in support of its use and members of the RLS committee spoke against it.”
“ While the strategy deals with the major issues raised by farmers in the past – E3 zones, smaller minimum lot sizes, and more housing entitlements it fails to come to grips with the fundamental issue – the least costly way for farmers to comply with legislated environmental restrictions on their private land. Remarkably, the consultant described a policy of protection of private property rights as “controversial” and likely to offend the planning bureaucrats“
“The ERA rejects the consultant’s argument that dropping the earlier proposed use of an E3 zone strengthens the need for a vegetation overlay as a helpful pointer to other legislated environmental restrictions. It is ironic that one reason given for this substitution is that it reduces the necessity for a higher level of map accuracy required for an environmental zone. Given the extensive legislated controls on farming operations these days, farmers and buyers of rural land (and their advisers) need to exercise ordinary due diligence in discovering all the restrictions applying to rural land. This is best done by reference to primary legislation rather than by relying on inaccurate overlays forming part of prescriptive and rigid land use planning regulations.’
Councillor Innes continued, “And given the farmers’ opposition to the consultant’s other proposals in the draft RLS I will be pressing the RLS committee to recommend to council the removal from the LEP of all E zones and overlays, all references to biobanking, voluntary biodiversity agreements and rural landscape guidelines. I will be supporting smaller lot sizes than are proposed and further housing entitlements on rural blocks. “
“Farmers know from long experience that guidelines and “helpful suggestions” from bureaucrats have a habit of being turned into black letter law over time. Overlays are not legally required and not used by many NSW rural councils”
Councillor Innes concluded “The views of the public meeting attendees were so strongly and clearly expressed that they must be acted on by councillors. I call on Mayor Brown to bring the RLS process to a swift conclusion by supporting the immediate completion of the LEP in line with the community’s wishes.
Monday, November 2, 2015
ERA Newsletter - 2 November 2015
Mayor Brown needs to wait until full time before claiming stand alone victory.
Mayor Lindsay Brown's welcoming of IPART's recommendation that Eurobodalla Shire Council is "fit for the future" as a stand alone council is premature and goes right over the top. He has claimed that " ...the outcome of the IPART review is evidence that we are delivering value for money and operating efficiently" and that ".........there is no evidence supporting perceptions that Eurobodalla Shire Council is a "bad" council, or has poor management, or that it obstructs growth."
Apart from misrepresenting the IPART analysis, these claims are way out of line with the lived experience of the ratepayers of the shire. More importantly, they show an ignorance of government decision making.
IPART was given a very narrow, financially based, time constrained task by the government. It was not required to, nor did it, comment on council management. Its methodology has been widely criticised in the local government community and by a powerful all party committee of the NSW parliament. The parliamentary committee's first finding was that " ......IPART...... does not have the demonstrated skills or capacity to assess the overall "fitness" of councils as democratically responsible local bodies." This finding underlines the need for the government to take into account a number of other important matters, particularly the management competence of councils, in reaching its final decisions on amalgamations.
Our local member, Andrew Constance, has pointed out that ESC's history of past poor management requires it to engage genuinely with the FFF process and make a real effort in reform, including a proper discussion of amalgamation options with the community and our neighbouring councils. He has said that, notwithstanding the IPART advice, a merger of ESC with another council or councils remains in play. Regrettably, council pays as much attention to Andrew as it does to the community and has chosen to go its own way by resisting any serious examination of the considerable opportunities arising from these options.
The controversial way council formulated its fit for the future proposal, although ignored by IPART, has been brought to the government's attention by the ERA. In particular, we are unimpressed that council rejigged its forward financial estimates using accounting tricks to paint a much more optimistic picture than was advised to IPART and the community during council's very recent Special Rates Variation application. The fact that this sudden change of tack was not drawn to the community's attention is a public disgrace. Additionally, rather than attempt to meet the IPART specified scale and capacity requirements, council relied on an earlier and less detailed test applied by the Independent Local Review.
Mayor Brown has seriously misjudged the government's determination to effect real change through the fit for the future process. Other councils have been more responsive. For example, last week Wyong and Gosford councils agreed to commence merger talks, after previously proposing to go it alone.
Mayor Brown and his mates have left the community right out of the decision making process. Simply telling us that he has spoken to the mayors of Bega, Shoalhaven and Palarang councils and that together they oppose amalgamations doesn't cut it with ratepayers who know that no serious analysis of the options has been done. The proposed shared services memorandum of understanding with Bega is little more than last minute window dressing.
So Mayor Brown's view that IPART's recommendation is a ringing endorsement of his leadership and council's management is just wrong headed rhetoric. And his assertion that there is no evidence supporting perceptions of bad management is ironic given the way the council's fit for the future proposal was developed without public consultation.
Over the seven years of the ERA's life there has been considerable improvement in council's performance, but it is too early to claim that the shire's governance and management is operating at a level acceptable to the community. And the improvements cannot be reasonably attributed to the mayor's leadership. After all, he long opposed an early return to a balanced general fund budget before he was mayor and, more recently, in the SRV application.
Mayor Brown has wrongly and arrogantly claimed a premature victory in his quest to keep ESC's insular culture isolated from the modern world. He now runs the risk of having the NSW government impose politically determined boundaries on the shire when the real decisions are made later in the year.
EUROBODALLA RATEPAYERS ASSOCIATION
2 November 2015