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Rezoning 'threatens farmers' livelihoods'

Bywong landowners Keith Gascoine, left, and Mike Cramsie on the latter's property, which he says is overrun by kangaroos.

Bywong landowners Keith Gascoine, left, and Mike Cramsie on the latter's property, which he says is overrun by kangaroos. Photo: Graham Tidy

Farmers say Palerang Council's proposed planning changes will restrict grazing on their properties to protect wildlife, devalue the worth of their land and threaten their livelihoods.

They say its creeping green agenda includes protecting kangaroos now in plague numbers.

Bywong resident Mike Cramsie said: ''What gets up the nose of those of us opposing the zoning is the idea that somehow we are not environmentally responsible, yet the countryside would not be what it is today had we not developed it, planted trees, eradicated noxious weeds, fertilised the ground, and improved the pasture.''

A retired Canberran on a cattle property of 100 hectares near Braidwood, Paul Scammell, said the NSW government's template for new local environment plans (LEPs) gave shires some latitude, so Palerang had sought vast environmental zones and only low retention of primary production zones.

John and Jeanette Hindmarsh say Palerang's draft LEP aims to create a corridor across their 12,000ha farm to link neighbouring national parks between Braidwood and Cooma.

''There's nothing wrong with the plan today, but after it is passed by the council and state government, the environmental inspector can come out and say, 'you've been cutting wood and we wanted those lizards and little insects, we're going to fine you $500','' Mr Hindmarsh said.

The 76-year-old farmer wants to buy land in town in case, he says, he and his wife are forced to move. He asked his bank about a loan secured by his farm, only to learn his land's value could be halved because of the LEP. ''They're taking freehold land off you, that's what this amounts to,'' he said.

Palerang mayor Pete Harrison said descriptions in the draft LEP had unintended consequences for larger commercial farms in the former Tallaganda shire, which the council would review.

Mr Harrison said owners of small blocks closer to Canberra complaining of the environmental protection rules were being alarmist. Nothing prevented them from culling kangaroos now or in the future. ''It's fair to say we did overlook the reaction of particular landholders, particularly farmers not used to having that level of control on their land,'' he said.

People on smaller blocks were trying to paint themselves as being in the same planning category as commercial farmers. ''Their only complaint is that they no longer live in 'rural residential', they live in a zone called 'environmental living' and they absolutely hate that word.

''The simple reality is that everything that can be done today, can be done tomorrow [post the new LEP].''

Mr Cramsie, a solicitor, engaged specialist legal advice on this matter, and said he was told the new LEP created uncertainty over whether increased stocking of land would need development consent.

''The uncertainty doesn't exist under the current LEP, as grazing is permitted without development consent,'' Mr Cramsie said.

Mr Harrison said fears of government intervention were unfounded. In time the phrases ''environmental management'' and ''environmental living'' would be replaced by ''rural'' and ''residential'' to avoid the potential for misinterpretation.


  • While many rural residential landholders manage their land responsibly, a considerable number do not, often out of ignorance and inexperience. Common failings are over stocking and over grazing, excessive damming of watercourses, failure to control erosion and noxious weeds and clearing and replacing native vegetation with exotics. Responsible land managers have nothing to fear from the proposed new LEP.

    Date and time
    July 22, 2013, 12:25PM
    • Many of what you term "common failings" are already subject to environmental controls through the Native Vegetation and other Acts and Authorities. If there are abuses of these environmental controls, why is Government not enforcing the existing rules and regulations? Adding another layer of regulation, which is the purpose of the Palerang LEP, will not solve the policing problem. Contrary to your assertion that responsible land managers have nothing to fear from the new LEP, there are very many soundly based concerns, despite the attempts by Palerang spokesmen to trivialise and minimise the issues. The LEP will impose a new and additional layer of costs, controls and bureaucratic delays that threaten the already precarious viability of farming and interfere with the quiet enjoyment of their land that Rural Residential landholders are entitled to expect. If the Mayor truly thinks the only concern is with the semantics of zone titles and that the resistance to the LEP can be removed by simply rewording these titles, then he cannot have been paying attention to the blizzard of angry submissions Council received from ratepayers.

      Date and time
      July 22, 2013, 3:21PM
  • Unfortunately the previous comment shows a complete lack of understanding regarding the LEP. The Local Environment Plan is a planning instrument.
    The "common failings" as described, are already subject to regulation under various acts. The changes to the Palerang LEP seek to add yet another layer of regulation and as stated by a previous Greens Councillor, "would protect the environment, should state legislation change"
    Ratepayers need to see the changes for what they are, politics. Far from representing ratepayers, Councillors who use the "Environmental Hook" to push through their party agendas, fail to recognise the many reasons why people like to live in the country, and prefer to dictate, than communicate when faced with opposition. Council needs to rid itself of party politics and get back to roads, rates and rubbish.

    Mark Braidwood
    Date and time
    July 22, 2013, 2:55PM
    • If "everything that can be done today, can be done tomorrow [post the new LEP]", then why does this not impress the bank, one of which the farmer Mr Hindmarsh reports to be lowering the value of his farm by 50%. So for example, if he and Mrs Hindmarsh had a mortgage to 50% of the prior value of the land, his equity would be totally wiped out.... AND the bank could choose to call in a significant proportion of its loan, potentially forcing the owner to sell at a distressed price.

      If the financial market (in this case, represented by the banks) takes the view that property is devalued by a regulatory initiative, that's the view that matters to property owners - not the assurances of regulators and activists who are not willing and able to put their own money at risk. Uncertainty has a cost, and its the poor old property owner who ends up wearing it.

      Footnote: this type of planning uncertainty is in fact a species of sovereign risk in NSW that all property buyers should be aware of. As a general proposition, the State can and too often does act to impair the property rights of owners without compensation (except where It has positively chosen not to, as in the relatively limited case of resumptions). It shouldn't be like that. A former Justice of the High Court, Ian Callinan, wrote an item in the News press a couple of years ago that he saw this sort of thing as an area which would warrant a fresh approach by the High Court, if it had the opportunity.

      Date and time
      July 22, 2013, 5:04PM
      Comments are now closed

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