Zones review goes to panel

Published on 03 April 2014

Loddon Shire Council has taken the next step in the long-running process of its Rural Zones Review.

Meeting in Serpentine this week, Councillors voted to invite an independent planning panel to assess submissions received during the latest phase of its public consultations.

That panel is expected to report back in May, with the matter due to be brought before Council again in June.

The story of the review goes back to 2007, when the state government introduced a Farming Zone classification into the Shire based on agriculture being the dominant land use across the municipality.

Council felt that classification had been inappropriately applied in certain locations, so started moves to bring in some changes.

A robust consultation process included two well-attended public meetings, hundreds of letters exchanged, plentiful publicity and meetings with interested parties.

In April 2012, Council adopted the Loddon Shire Rural Zones Review which contained a number of recommendations for changes to the Loddon Planning Scheme.

The latest public exhibition of proposed Planning Scheme amendments took place over the month ending 6 March and Council received 14 submissions, all concerned with how the Farming Zone had been applied.

Of those, four sought no changes to the amendments, but eight objections spoke against the rezoning of land to a Rural Conservation classification because most opponents had plans to farm it.

Council wants to apply the Rural Conservation Zone label to areas identified as having significant environmental or conservation values – largely, land containing remnant vegetation which creates biolinks between areas of protected land.

Most of these areas are not currently farmed and Council believes agriculture would compromise their value.

Mayor Cr Gavan Holt said the review “took a thorough look at how the Farming Zone label had been applied across the municipality”.

“It recommended, among other things, introducing Rural Living Zones and Rural Conservation Zones in various areas, rezoning some land, changing the minimum subdivision size and putting in new policies for subdividing and building in the Farming Zone,” Cr Holt said.

“It’s been a long haul for Councillors and Council staff, but the ultimate aims, we believe, are eminently worthwhile – to support agriculture, develop more appropriate land use and create opportunities for our population to grow.”