Wednesday 14 July 2010

Hansard of the Legislative Council

Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Madam President, this question is to the Leader.  The Government, I am sure, is aware that the rezoning activity by councils under the State Policy on the Protection of Agricultural Land has disadvantaged many landholders holding titles in fee simple of less than 50 hectares - for example, the West Tamar Council in my electorate of Rosevears.  This has had the effect of diminishing the land value by up to 90 per cent and preventing them from building a dwelling on their land.  What is the Government doing or able to do to correct the situation that these landholders find themselves in?

Mr PARKINSON - I thank the honourable member for his question. The State Policy on the Protection of Agricultural Land 2009 - PAL - was approved by Parliament and became effective from 10 July 2009.  The policy provides a framework for planning decisions involving agricultural land and its purpose is to conserve and protect agricultural land so that it remains available for the sustainable development of agriculture, recognising the particular importance of prime agricultural land.  The new policy is based on the recommendations of the former RPDC report on the draft State policy and its finalisation follows an extensive review and consultation process carried out firstly by the Government and then by the RPDC as part of its statutory duties.

Principle 5 of the policy clarifies in what circumstances residential development in rural areas is consistent with the policy by setting out a two-part test against which development applications must be assessed:

'1.      Residential use is considered acceptable if it is required as part of an agricultural use.  This may require consideration of the associated agricultural use, its scale and size, or a business farm management plan, or similar documentation, prepared by a suitably qualified person, which demonstrates the need for the house.

2.       If a residential use is not directly associated with an agricultural use it can be assessed on the basis of how much agricultural land it converts to the residential use and the degree that it might confine or restrain other agricultural use.'

Note the term 'agricultural use' is defined in the policy.  It is important to bear in mind that planning schemes often limit residential use in rural areas for a number of sound planning reasons unrelated to the protection of agricultural land.  For example, planning schemes may still restrict residential use in rural areas that is not consistent with considerations such as seeking to concentrate settlement in existing towns or villages or restricting development in bushfire-prone areas or other potential hazard locations.

The policy also does not mandate a particular minimum size of title before a dwelling can be approved.  The Tasmanian Planning Commission's preferred approach to implement the PAL policy is through the Regional Planning Initiative.  The regional approach will ensure the policy is consistently applied by local government through largely consistent planning provisions across each region.  A comprehensive implementation strategy through the Regional Planning Initiative is being progressed by the Planning Commission.  This will be further developed in consultation with stakeholders.  The community will be fully consulted on the regional strategy and draft planning schemes.  There will be opportunity at that time for affected landowners to make representation to the council and ultimately the Tasmanian Planning Commission in relation to the zoning of land and the provisions applying to it.