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Byron Shire
May 18, 2022

Byron council extends E-zone review period

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Section of e-zone map around Bangalow. Image Byron Shire Council
Section of e-zone map around Bangalow. Image Byron Shire Council

Chris Dobney

Byron Shire Council has extended the period of review for its revised environmental zones to December 8 following widespread interest from landholders in the process.

Environmental zones were excised from the Local Environment Plans of five Northern Rivers councils in 2012 by the former local government minister, then Ballina National Party MP Don Page.

Mr Page’s actions headed off a revolt by many landholders who claimed councils were unfairly using E-zones to penalise farmers participating in Landcare and similar voluntary regeneration programs.

Some five years later, the resulting review of E2 (environment protection) zones and E3 (environment management) zones requires that they be applied by councils only if conservation has been the primary use of the land over the past two years.

Grazing allowed

The proposal goes further to head off complaints by farmers by allowing grazing in the understorey of both zones, something that will likely raise the ire of conservationists.

The Department of Planning and Environment (DoPE) review says, ‘The criteria for the application of the E2 zone will ensure that it is only applied to land containing vegetation with significant environmental attributes that is being used primarily for environmental conservation purposes.

‘Listing extensive agriculture as “permitted with development consent” in the E2 zone land use table, would ensure farmers do not have to rely on “existing use rights” if an E2 zone is applied to land that is being used for agricultural activities.

‘It will also provide opportunity for new agricultural activities that may be consistent with the E2 zone objectives, to be considered by a council through a development application process.

‘Such activities would constitute those that do not destroy, damage or have an adverse effect on areas of high ecological, scientific or cultural values. This is expected to be limited to activities such as understorey grazing.’

Penalising those who do the right thing

Despite the considerable concessions, not all landholders are happy with the arrangements: one who wished to remain anonymous wrote to Echonetdaily saying he felt he was being penalised for doing the right thing.

‘People who still have vegetation on their property – i.e. have not bulldozed it – are been scapegoated by council. They are [the ones] having constraints placed upon them.

‘Whereas those who are bulldozing, in some cases to build additional dwellings – some illegal – for profit, are being encouraged and rewarded.

‘If the zones are to be imposed, should not they be on those who’ve already damaged the environment?

The writer gave the example of ‘property A’, which he said has six neighbouring properties on the boundary fence.

‘Two have carried out extensive excavation work involving the removal of native vegetation and the destruction of natural watercourses damaging property A.

‘Another property is a macadamia plantation and another has been used for commercial activity that is illegal in its zone.

‘But it is A that has been notified of potential E zoning. Neighbouring properties appear to have council’s blessing,’ he said.

Capitulation to the Nats

But Wayne Penn of Binna Burra, who has an E2 zoning pending on his property is concerned that the new rules appear to override an ‘in perpetuity’ Registered Property Agreement entered into by a previous owner with the then NSW Department of Land and Water Conservation in 1999.

‘Part of that agreement requires the owner to “exclude grazing by domestic stock from the agreement area”,’ he told Echonetdaily.

‘I do not farm my land but it appears anyone who was to buy it from me could now legally allow cattle to trample and graze on the precious understorey of this very fragile ecosystem.

‘By comparison, under the new agreement, I would be prevented from undertaking activities that are much more compatible with an E2 zoning, for example: bed and breakfast accommodation, primitive camping, ecotourism or passive recreation.

‘This seems like a complete contradiction in priorities to me – and a complete capitulation to National Party interests,’ Mr Penn said.

Byron Shire landholders who have E2 or E3 zones pending on part of their properties should have received a letter from council dated October 9 encouraging them to go to council’s website for further information and/or to request a review.

Byron Shire Council was approached several times for comment for this article but failed to respond by deadline.

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  1. In relation to use of the E2 zone, landholders need to be cautious that they are not further penalised for doing the right thing, particularly if they exclude grazing from the E2 zones. Under Section 523 (1)(a) of the Local Government Act 1993, council has the ability to adjust the rate category of your property from Farmland to Residential should they deem your property no longer has a significant and substantial commercial purpose or character. This obviously results is an increase in your annual rates but does not alter the zoning classification for your property under the planning laws as defined in the Local Government Act Section 515. I would encourage all landholders to do the right thing by our environment but remain aware there may be a sting in the tail.

  2. Cattle are destructive and should not be allowed in Evironmental Protection zones full stop. Your map above shows how little habitat is left with most of it being operational for cattle. Time to strike a fairer balance for the environment. Humans are too greedy though.

  3. The proposed Ezones have extraordinary implications regarding the future use of the land, and for many landowners this is causing an extreme amount of angst, fear, upset and anger. The vast majority of landowners in this region already go to great lengths to manage their land responsibly and sensitively, and feel that the voluntary approach to E zones adopted by lismore and Kyogle would be a much fairer and more reasonable approach instead of this heavy handed imposition.

    In response to Hope’s somewhat blasé comment that landowners are greedy: many of those that you are tarring with the greedy brush haven’t got two cents to rub together, and struggle to make ends meet as it is. Further land use restrictions will not help their situation one bit, and neither will it guarantee any sort of meaningful regeneration of bushland. When you say that cattle should not be allowed in an E zone, you are effectively saying that not only should that persons livelihood be suddenly be taken from them, but they should now do nothing other than tend their land, for no pay. These “E zones” are, in fact, mostly small working farms or small acreages held by people living peaceful and self sustaining lifestyles.

    This all smacks of politicking to me: it is a move that costs the state government absolutely nothing, yet is something they can point to so as to claim green credentials, at the expense of private owners who have suddenly had huge restrictions placed upon them, with zero compensation.


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