Wednesday 17 June 2009
Hansard of the Legislative Council

[2.56 p.m.]
Mr FINCH –(Rosevears)  Is the Leader aware of continuing concerns, especially in my electorate, about the effect of the Protection of Agricultural Land Policy on property values?  Is he aware that in Rosevears 2 000 of 3 000 title holders have had the value of their land reduced because Part B 13.13.1 of the Rural Resource Scheme says a dwelling must only be developed on a lot with a minimum area of 50 hectares?  Is any consideration being given to some form of compensation for the people affected, or is there any thought being given to revising parts of the scheme?

Mr PARKINSON - I thank the honourable member for his question.

Mr Wilkinson - On policy.  That wasn't over the top either, I didn't think.  I thought it was a reasonable question.

Mr PARKINSON - It depends on where his advice is coming from.

The issue relates to the provision of the West Tamar Planning Scheme 2006 and not to the particular parts of the State Policy on the Protection of Agricultural Land.  Specifically, the PAL policy, neither the previous 2000 policy, the interim policy currently in effect, nor the draft policy being finalised by the Government following the RPDC's assessment, make any reference to particular lot sizes.  The 50-hectare lot size is an interpretation of the PAL policy for the purposes of the West Tamar Planning Scheme.  However, even this is not a prohibition on residential development.  It provides that a house on a lot larger than 50 hectares is a permitted development but requires a discretionary application where the land is less than 50 hectares.  In the latter case, a proposed house should be integral to an agricultural or tourist operation use and not fetter neighbouring agriculture or occupied prime agricultural land.  These types of provisions are not unusual and similar controls are in many planning schemes across Tasmania and indeed in other States.

The Government is in the process of finalising the new PAL policy having taken into account the report to it by the RPDC.  This makes it quite plain that residential development is not necessarily inconsistent with the purpose of the policy but should be assessed in terms of its impact on agriculture.  That impact is either in terms of the amount of land a house converts from agricultural use, the quality of that land and how the residential use might negatively affect neighbouring agriculture.  These are perfectly reasonable and sensible planning considerations and the Government considers them important ways of protecting the productive use of our farmland.

In relation to the rural areas of West Tamar, I believe there is very little, if any, prime agricultural land, however there are substantial areas of good-quality and important non-prime land.  The PAL policy requires that the conversion of non-prime land to non-agricultural use should be determined through considering the local and regional significance of the land for agricultural use.  That is a matter for the local council to determine through its planning scheme and then for the approval of the independent planning commission. 

Once the Government finalises the new PAL policy there will be a requirement for all local councils to consider whether they need to amend their planning schemes to bring them into line with it.  I understand that the regional planning initiatives currently under way might provide the best mechanism for that review on a regional basis.  It may well be that the West Tamar Council will reconsider its planning scheme provisions, setting out lot sizes and conditions for the development of houses on smaller lots. 

However, it is important to understand that there may be a range of other planning reasons for a local council to limit the development of houses throughout its rural areas.  For example, it might want to consolidate its towns and villages to most efficiently use council infrastructure or it might want to restrict houses in visually important areas or in bushfire-prone areas. 

As regards whether compensation should be paid to landowners, the principle to remember is that the development potential of any piece of land can be affected by new planning controls.  For example, when a planning scheme changes, some parcels may increase in value while others decrease. 

The only circumstances where compensation is generally paid are where land is set aside for a public purpose or where access to land is denied by a planning authority.  Clearly that is not the case with rural land in West Tamar as not only can it be used for all sorts of agricultural enterprises, it can still be developed for houses under certain conditions.