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Byron Shire
April 23, 2021

Narrow vision drives land use strategy

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‘Byron’s dead’. That’s the statement that I often hear. Or ‘I never go there anymore it’s lost’ or ‘Byron died years ago’. It always makes me feel a bit sad and defensive. I have such a love for this place, although I curse it when I get stuck in snaking traffic at 8am on a weekday morning or I can’t find a park near where I am going.

Byron Shire councillor Basil Cameron, Goonengerry.

The draft Rural Land Use Strategy (RLUS) is being driven by a narrow vision to identify ‘opportunities’ for residential, tourist and other uses in rural areas. As such it was good to see some thoughtful contributions on affordable rural living and sustainable food production in letters (Echo, May 25). These visions are more tangible and relevant to the outcomes we want from an RLUS and will help to deliver a much better document. As it is, the draft RLUS bypasses these visions.

For example, the RLUS appears to protect food ­growing interests by omitting agricultural land from the mix. Generally good for larger agribusiness; however, the move towards local production and supply in recent years means that production is expanding to smaller lots either as intensive market garden style or integrated with residential, biodiversity repair and tourist use(s). Recognising this and responding with good planning will promote an expansion in the food production and supply economy and help bolster our community’s resilience.

Similarly, affordable rural living is not considered beyond an implied assumption that more supply will mean lower land prices. The RLUS effectively proposes opportunities anywhere in the Shire by creating get-out rules that would otherwise restrict expansion to within 2–5km of existing settlements.

Creating a mass of lifestyle blocks is not the answer as rural land is expensive to maintain and live on. Intentional communities may provide the answer for some, such as Tony Margan’s vision of affordable living on ‘underutilised lands for future generations while adding to biodiversity and environmental health’. However, most people are likely to prefer lots of an ‘affordable and manageable size close to amenities’ as Carole Gamble notes in her vision for more food-growing land.

The RLUS needs to consider our future planning law based on vision rather than opportunities so we can move towards more sustainable rural living that supports and strengthens our community and economy. More discussion please.

 


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