The NSW Government’s decision to sign-off on the Eurobodalla’s controversial Local Environment Plan (LEP) has “quashed” the shire’s farming industry and made the shire like “Swiss cheese”, according to upset residents.
NSW Planning Minister Brad Hazzard has given his approval for the Eurobodalla LEP, which is expected to be formally gazetted next week.
The announcement, made last week, circulated quickly among rural landholders, who have been fighting the plan since the beginning.
Nelligen farmer Jenny Shepheard said she was disappointed by the news and said her farm and livelihood had been affected by the environmental overlays.
“They’re basically quashing the farming industry in the Eurobodalla shire,” she said.
“Realistically, it’s devalued the land, it’s devalued it enormously and it’s stopped us expanding and improving our business.”
Eurobodalla Shire Council sent the LEP to the Department of Planning last December but deferred land proposed to be zoned controversial Environmental E3 to be examined in the current Rural Lands Strategy.
The Eurobodalla Ratepayers Association deputy chair Gary Smith said rural land was now a confusing mess of old and new zonings.
“The shire’s rural zoning plan is now like Swiss cheese - full of holes and on the nose!” Mr Smith said.
“It is disappointing that the Minister did not listen to the people of Eurobodalla Shire and direct the council to finish the LEP.”
However, Coastwatchers Association president Sheila Monahan welcomed the news.
“Retention of the environmental overlays is also a good outcome,” she said.
“Sacrificing productive agricultural land for more development in rural areas and increasing the burden of infrastructure and service provision on local government is also not in the best long-term interests of a shire that is already struggling financially.”
Mayor Fergus Thomson said the minister’s approval was a good outcome that would enable the shire to “move on”, including future developments that have been on hold, awaiting the decision.
“I appreciate the fact that everybody has been engaged in the process … at the end of the day, it should be about a better result for everybody,” he said.
Cr Thomson said the new council would be able to now work with a completed document, which would make it “much simpler”.
“We don’t know the make-up of a new council, so you have to make the presumption that it will take some time for council to get up to speed on a lot of issues.
“It would have been difficult to expect a new council to pick up on where the LEP got up to.
“Now (the new council) will be able to work with a new document and become familiar with the new LEP.”
Despite the news, Ms Shepheard said their continuous fight wasn’t a total waste.
“The only good thing coming out of it is the people who have stood up and shown council that they can’t push us around,” she said.
“We also did get a lot of things taken out of the LEP that were in there.
“We will fight for our rights and it’s shown what a terrible bunch of councillors are in there.”
In a statement released on Friday, Mr Hazzard said he was aware the shire had “strong views” on the LEP, and said he had struck a balance when he signed it off.
“I understand the concerns about E3 zones but I believe there should be less concern about environmental overlays which are more of a guide to indicate that there may be some environmental issues that need consideration,” he said.
“Accordingly I have approved an environmental plan for the Eurobodalla Shire that has had the E3 zones excised.
“I have however left in the environ-mental overlays for the time being.”