In a move that may have surprised some council watchers, it was the conservative councillors who voted in favour of keeping multiple occupancies (MO) in Tweed Shire while the Green, Labor, and other Independent councillors voted to ‘prohibit Rural Landsharing Communities’.
Multiple Occupancies are not permissible under Tweed Local Environmental Plan (LEP) 2000, or Tweed Local Environmental Plan (LEP) 2014 but is facilitated under the State Environmental Planning Policy (Primary Production and Rural Development) 2019 (the SEPP).
The motion before the council was to ‘to remove Tweed Shire from the SEPP’ an ‘action from the rural land strategy,’ said Mayor Chris Cherry (Independent).
The reasons put forward by Mayor Cherry were that because of the changing land values of the region the MO platform is being used by developers to set up large developments rather than facilitating intentional communities of ‘like minded people’ as was the original intention of the development model.
It was highlighted that the MO structure allowed housing development in areas that were rural where higher density housing was not supported. This was highlighted in the staff report where a current application for an MO in Kunghur is going to the Northern Rivers Planning Panel to be decided as ‘the proposed development has an estimated cost of $37M, therefore above $30M, therefore qualifies as regionally significant development,’ said a spokesperson for Tweed Shire Council.
‘Personal and community attitudes have changed to the point now that the concept of shared living has given way to a focus on rural living and lifestyle opportunities,’ stated the staff report.
Councillor Pryce Allsop (Conservative) told the meeting that ‘for some people there would be a lost opportunity in affordable housing [if MOs were removed]. A guy came to see me who’d bought a share in an MO because all he could afford. Maybe it needs refining. I can’t support the refusal of it. It seems very big brother for me.’
While Councillor Katie Milne (Greens) said she could see where her fellow Councillor Allsop was coming from she said ‘Things are changing and housing is hot property in the Tweed’.
Councillor Milne pointed out that Tweed is exceptionally beautiful and development and housing shouldn’t be at the expense for the rural landscape.
‘We have a duty to uphold the integrity of rural housing. Rural areas for people working on the land. We have huge areas of land for residential housing and development such as Kings Forest,’ she said.
Councillor Milne also pointed out the MOs were no longer a cheap option for housing as the properties could not be leveraged for a loan and the basic prices were no longer ‘affordable’.
Councillor Ron Cooper said that ‘the rural landscape has to be a rurally useful landscape’ and that it wasn’t ‘just to have trees on it… it has to be related to its use not just to look at’.
The motion ultimately was passed with Councillors Warren Polglase (Conservative) and Allsop voting against.