The debate on the potential to allow dual occupancies to be built on small rural properties in Tweed Shire rested on the vote of Liberal councillor James Owen.
Councillors Waren Polglse and Pryce Allsop (conservative) had put forward a Rural Housing Proposal that would allow detached dual occupancy dwellings of any size to be built on rural properties of less than ten hectares.
Mayor Chris Cherry moved and amendment to refer the motion to a workshop to explore the impact of the motion.
‘It is really worthwhile to hold a workshop on a complicated issue like this one,’ Mayor Cherry told Echonetdaily.
‘We can’t just do what Cr Polglase is proposing. We need to go throughout the correct process and steps to ensure that we can we best facilitate what the community wants whilst still having agriculture into the future.
Labor councillor Reece Byrnes, who had previously been in support of the dual occupancy only being allowed on properties over ten hectares, appeared to have changed his position and voted with Crs Polglse and Allsop against referring it to a workshop. However, the clinching vote of Cr Owen ensured that the proposal will go to a workshop for discussion.
‘For three years we have been having workshops and basically going down a road, that the councillors who had a the balance of power directed, now there has been a sudden shift and I want to understand why that has happened,’ councillor Owen told Echonetdaily.
‘We are going to get the Department of Primary Idustries to come and explain what the constraints are at a state level for the proposal that any sized house on any sized lot,’ explained Mayor Cherry.
‘The Department of Planning has already advised that proper background studies would be required,’ said former Mayor Katie Milne.
Cr Owen also pointed out that,‘There has been a lot of information flying around. What’s the rush? We’ve been working on this for three years. If we are going to be doing this then I want to do it right. I want to know about rates, developer contributions, I want to know it is fair.’ There are some pretty extreme views on how bad it is going to be – but I want to understand the situation properly. That is why I voted to take into a workshop situation.’
Rate rise risk ignored?
According to Cr Milne many of the councillors appeared to ignore the impact the proposal would have on current rate payers.
‘The most shocking thing about last nights meeting was that Crs Byrne, Allsop and Polglase expressed not one iota of concern about Council staff advice that allowing an additional detached dwelling on all rural lots of any size would ultimately result in a ten per cent rate rise for the rest of Shire,’ she said in a press release this morning.
‘Instead both Cr Polglase and Cr Allsop are running a misinformation campaign claiming that I made this rate rise consequence up, even though we all received this same clear advice from Council staff before the meeting.
‘Cr Byrne gave no explanation for his decision but simply went along with them, with all three voting against even referring it to a workshop to discuss these implications.
‘Thankfully Cr Owen realised that the rest of our rate payers may not look to kindly on rate rises and voted with Cr Cherry, Cooper and myself to at least discuss this further at a workshop.
‘Cr Polglase’s attempts to subvert the normal processes by fast tracking this rezoning without the required studies, along with his other moves to review the minimum rural lot sizes are likely to backfire,’ she said.
According to both Mayor Chris Cherry and Cr Owen there has been a substantial amount of lobbying of councillors from both individuals and groups that would who would in some instances receive significant financial gain if the proposal was adopted.
‘We have to be very careful as to how councillors manage this,’ said Cr Owen.
Land use conflict
Councillor Owen also highlighted that there has been significant debate around buffer zones between residential and farming areas.
‘Land use conflict and buffers are a big issue and council have been supportive of the right to farm,’ he said.
‘There are people wanting to build residential lots close to farmland that council knocked back. There was a decision by councillors to defend these decisions in the Land and Environment Court at last nights meeting. It seems that some councillors are prepared to defend the right to farm but then they approach the dual occupancy with a sledge hammer. I’d prefer to see a more strategic approach to this. If we are going to do something on this we’ve got get it right.’
Mayor Cherry agreed saying that land use conflict is a very real issue for farmers.
‘A recent incident involved domestic dogs from a nearby residential area mauling some calves to death at the neighbouring dairy,’ she said.
‘Last night it was incredibly concerning that we have been through this process of putting the Rural Land Strategy out to exhibition, five times, with people saying they were happy with the original draft. Then now it is these same people who were saying they were happy who are now that they never were.’