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April 16, 2021

Multiple occupancy zonings being ‘abolished by stealth’

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Shane Schmidt (pictured) of the Global Ecovillage Network has accused the state government of abolishing landsharing legislation by stealth. Photo contributed
Shane Schmidt (pictured) of the Global Ecovillage Network has accused the state government of abolishing landsharing legislation by stealth. Photo contributed

Chris Dobney

The NSW Government is set to abolish a successful planning policy that has seen more than 120 intentional communities established across the state over almost 30 years, most of them in the northern rivers.

The policy allows groups of people to establish Multiple Occupancies (MO) or intentional communities on land of 10 hectares or more in rural or non-urban zones.

Just three councils statewide will be exempt from the changes – Lismore, Shoalhaven and Byron – because they wrote an MO policy into their 2014 LEPs, although Byron’s is more stringent than the state government’s version.

The policy change will not affect already existing MOs but it will prevent any new ones from being created outside of these shires.

The department of planning and environment (DoPE) commenced a review of the State Environment Planning Policy Review 2015 in June this year with only a one-month notification. Amongst this review was the recommendation to remove SEPP 15 – Rural Landsharing Communities.

Shane Schmidt, a representative of the Global Ecovillage Network, a town planner and a current resident of an MO in Mullumbimby, is angered at the move.

‘The Department of Environment and Planning is not replacing the policy with anything. They are expecting local councils to now include local policies however most councils are under-resourced and this would not be a high priority for them,’ he told Echonetdaily.

Stealth

Mr Schmidt is concerned rural landsharing will now go into the too-hard basket for the many north-coast councils that did not incorporate it into their 2014 LEPs.

‘Rural Landsharing is a complex issue and therefore many councils do not have the ability to interpret the state policy. Effectively the removal of SEPP 15 removes the ability for land sharing communities in most of NSW by stealth,’ he said.

The proposal impacts all of NSW and in particular the council areas of the region without local rural land sharing policies such as Tweed, Kyogle, Ballina, Richmond Valley, Coffs Harbour, Bellingen and Tenterfield.

Mr Schmidt was also concerned that the advertising of the review was not broad enough.

‘Many people would not have realised what the department was considering as the review included many policies and the proposed removal of SEPP 15 is lost in the detail,’ he said.

He is calling on the Department of Planning and Environment to reconsider the proposed removal of SEPP 15

‘The department has not provided adequate justification for its removal. SEPP 15 is a progressive planning policy that should remain within the State Environment Planning Policies. It has for 30 years effectively allowed people alternatives to living with the environment and each other. I want to know why the state wants it removed,’ he said.

Affordable and sustainable

Mr Schmidt believes the proposal will have a big impact for people seeking alternative lifestyles in NSW.

‘Anyone now hoping to form a community in NSW or share land together will not be able to do so under this proposal. Removing SEPP 15 will result in removing the ability to create MOs and intentional communities in most of the state,’ he said.

‘The department has not provided adequate justification for the removal of SEPP 15 and when affordability and sustainability in housing is an ever increasing issue they should be strengthening the policy rather than removing it’.

‘For the last 30 years MO’s have provided affordable sustainable housing options for people who want to live in rural areas and have limited money as well as providing options for people that want to live more communally.

‘MO’s also are active in Landcare and rainforest regeneration successfully transforming degraded farmland to rainforest and bushland. For many people in the area rural land sharing is a legitimate way to live more sustainably within the area,’ Mr Schmidt said.

People who are concerned about the removal of SEPP should contact the Department of Environment and Planning on (02) 9228 6333 or 1300 305 695 or email [email protected] or contact their local State MP.

 


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12 COMMENTS

  1. My email to [email protected]

    I wish to submit a complaint in relation to the abolition of SEPP 15 planning policy in the State Environmental Planning Policy Review.

    I believe multiple occupancies (MO’s) have a part to play in future lower cost and ecologically sustainable rural living. They are a proven way for families to inexpensively access rural lifestyles while repairing damaged landscapes.

    There are numerous other social, economic and environmental benefits to MO’s that need to be considered in any policy changes. In fact, I believe MO’s can be encouraged to alleviate problems facing local government areas in NSW such as inadequate affordable housing, cultural diversity, Fit for the Future local government planning and bush regeneration.

    MO’s have existed very successfully for more than 30 years with proven measurable and anecdotal evidence to demonstrate their justification.

    Please note my complaint in any submissions or feedback pertaining to the proposed policy change.

    Nathan Cooper
    Friday Hut Road
    Brooklet NSW 2479

  2. It is important that people write in support of the retention of SEPP 15, and even more important if you intend using the provision yourself.

    The Department of Planning and Environment does not seem to be aware of the level of interest in using this planning provision and, it seems, was hoping to quietly do away with it.

    In the last two weeks alone, three different groups intending to form landsharing communities in northern NSW have contacted me through the Co-operative Living Information Service for information and advice unaware of this threat to their plans.

    If you are in a group planning to start a landsharing community, it would be great if you would contact the Co-operative Living Information Service (email [email protected]), as well as the department, so that your interests can be represented in our submissions.

    The service provides support, information, advocacy and advice free of charge to people wanting to start or join rural and urban landsharing communities, as well as to existing communities. See the website at http://www.coopliving.info.

  3. Copy of my submission:

    I wish to make a submission on the proposed removal of land-sharing arrangements in NSW.

    My thoughts on the matter is that Land sharing should be opened up, not shut down. I made a submission to the ‘Imagine Lismore’ forward planning workshops about this issue. The idea submitted there was to allow multiple ownership of land (Possibly under Community Title) with restrictions. The restrictions are to stop the farm becoming a quasi-subdivision.
    My proposed restrictions are as follows:
    -Only a single road entrance for major access (unless there are special circumstances, such as geographic issues or fire requirements for instance)
    -Dwellings to be in an area 100M x 100M
    -Maximum 3 dwelling buildings
    -Maximum 9 bedrooms total for permanent residents.
    -Maximum 5 dwellings (in the 3 dwelling buildings) (so mix&match eg 3x2br+ 1x3br or 4x1br + 1x5br, etc)
    -There must be a bonding arrangement (that could be shared pool, tennis court etc, or a group working together for some reason)

    These restrictions mean that the farm or land is still usable for normal purposes such as agriculture (or conservation). The restrictions mean there will be a community that shares resources to some degree, but can still maintain individual privacy. The idea came to me because so many ‘Tree Changers’ buy a property when they retire, then find they cannot stay on the land when they become older. By having shared pooled resources it should be possible to stay on the property for longer & it also means a group could employ (possibly even live-in) help if required. There was a French film that gave me the idea that I have since expanded upon.

    I am now 66 yo, & would love to be able to share my property with others so I can realistically stay here until I no longer need housing. If I had 4 like minded couples & an employed carer I could easily stay until then. The current reality is that my wife & I will probably need to move into a dwelling in town in the next 10-15 years. Having more resources also can mean the properties stay more productive.

  4. It does not bode well for a state government to act against the people by banning this type of landuse.This sort of sharing is the only possibility for young people to purchase land at an affordable price and it seems ridiculous that bureaucrats and lawmakers would move against it.The fact that there is little money to be gleaned is no excuse .Were government actually acting for the people there would be no question of clamping down.As it stands one is unsurprised by the shortsightedness and lack of generosity portrayed by people in power.The fact of the matter is that since the inception of MO the people who could stand in its way and add taxes and charges have made it there business to do just that .Why…..I will never know…..gross stupidity seems to be the norm amongst these people unfortunately……

  5. This is the email sent by us to [email protected]:

    Our fledgling community called Bindarrabi (www.bindarrabi.com) has received approval from Tenterfield Shire Council under the SEPP 15 legislation. The legislation has proven to be perfect for our ideals of developing a sustainable and resilient rural community using the guidelines of permaculture systems. Our aims are to enable affordable housing with meaningful and fulfilling livelihoods with mutual respect and consideration for each other and the land. The SEPP 15 policy was passed by wise legislators in 1998 in order to
    “encourage and facilitate the development of rural landsharing communities committed to environmentally sensitive and sustainable land use practices”.
    The policy was important then and is even more relevant now as we face the combined pressures of stressed economics, climate change, and the peaking of natural resource use, especially fossil fuels. The combination of these pressures will soon deliver a reversal of the drift to cities and SEPP 15 will provide an ideal means of government control of such a reversal. For the sake of future families and communities we implore the government to maintain and strengthen the policy.

    Doone Wyborn and Carol Shantal

  6. Feel free to copy and send this email. Remember to sign you own name!
    [email protected]
    Subject: Complaint

    Dear Madam/Sir,
    I protest the removal of SEPP 15. This policy has been successful for almost 30 years, in which over 120 intentional communities were established in NSW. They provide an opportunity for people to live creative alternative lifestyles which are a valuable part of a diverse and healthy society.
    Yours sincerely,
    Hedy Wright

  7. I encourage people to send an email to the NSW Planning Department, to protest this action to remove SEPP 15.
    Feel free to copy and send this email. Remember to sign you own name!
    Send your email to this address: [email protected]

    Dear Madam/Sir,

    I protest the removal of SEPP 15 planning policy. This policy has been successful for almost 30 years, in which over 120 intentional communities were established in NSW.

    The existing SEPP 15 article allows people in particular the young, an alternative for affordable living, in the existing time when Australia is one of the most expensive places for residential property in the world. SEPP 15 also provides an opportunity for people to live creative alternative lifestyles which are a valuable part of a diverse and healthy society.

    I would like an answer on why the SEPP 15 planning policy has been abolished? From my point of view, I cannot see how this is in the residents of NSW’s best interest.

    I call on the NSW Government Department of Planning and Environment to reconsider the proposed removal of SEPP 15.

    I look forward to your timely response to this communication

    Yours sincerely,
    Mark Pages

  8. were conning council and government for cheap housing, enviroment and sustainabilty doesnt matter its a smokescreen to avoid our social and enviromental responsibilities and to live free from civil authority

  9. Sooo. This might impact preppers hey. You know, those among so concerned about all the risky stuff going on in the name of progress that is causing the planet to overheat. & with this in mind they’ve establish retreats, often with say 2 years food supply, usually underground. There are some beauties now. Some established by scientists in response to the fact they’ve been marginalised by so called economic agendas. Looks like they’ll be underground on two counts now huh?
    Oh the nsw state govt has one. It’s supposed to be secret.

  10. Could someone please tell me if this legislation and removal of Sepp 15 has come into effect yet?

    Thanks 🙂

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