ACT News


Rezoning 'threatens farmers' livelihoods'

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.


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