Archive: Council's Draft Admin Policy for Houses & Subdivision in Rural Areas

Updated 24/9/06



"8 - 10 Year Old Could Understand Simplified Rural Policy", Says Town Planner Cr John Letchford

(2/8/06 - P)  MRRA says that's not surprising, even most 2 year olds have no difficulty understanding "yes, can do"

Council's Dwellings and Subdivision In Rural Areas Policy is no more after being ravaged by a Council-appointed committee comprising Cr. John Letchford (South ward), Cr. Helen Relph (South) and Cr. Sandra McGregor (East), along with a representative of the MR Land Owners group (who are campaigning to remove restrictions on development in rural zones) and another submitter (Cynthia Goudie) who also objected to the original policy.   The policy has now shrunk from 4 pages to little over 2. 


A key feature of the reviewed policy is the policy statement that "The development of the dwelling on land subdivided since June 8 1995 will be supported by Council", and where other houses already exist in rural zones, additional dwellings on nearby lots will also be supported.  All of the specific standards for dwelling development and subdivision contained in the exhibited policy have been deleted, as has the original policy's intent to keep rural land in agricultural production by providing guidance for excision and subdivision applications.  


The recommendations before Council were (1) preparing an amendment to place the policy in the planning scheme, (2) advising the Minister that those directly affected by the policy will be notified by direct mail of the proposed changes, (3) reviewing Amendment C21/C48 (approved by the Minister in February 2006) in February 2007, and (4) considering the review of rural zones and permit triggers in future budget processes and assessing the appropriateness of using the Rural Activity Zone.*  


The full recommendation was very enthusiastically moved and seconded by Cr. John Letchford (South) and Cr. Helen Relph (South) and carried with the support of Crs. Noel Harvey (West), John Connor (West) and Mayor Geoff Neil (East).  Crs. Tom Gyorffy (West), Rob Guthrie (South) and Henry Bleeck (East) opposed.  Note: Cr. Sandra McGregor was absent.


Mayor Geoff Neil (East ward) said it was good to see a planning document in the positive rather than negative for once.  He thanked the committee for drawing up a reasonable document, and picking up on what had been submitted.  Cr. Noel Harvey (West) said it was more user friendly and it made such good sense to look at the Rural Activity zone.  He ended by saying when no-one is happy, it means Council has got the balance right.  Cr. Henry Bleeck (East) seemed to be going somewhere else and said Council had gone too far in Amendment C48, there shouldn't be conservation zones on farm land. 


Cr. Rob Guthrie agreed the policy should go to an amendment, and announced that he will be a submitter to any Panel appointed to hear submissions on it.  He opposed inclusion of item (4) in the recommendation, pointing out that the State government requires comprehensive strategic work to be done before applying the Rural Activity zone.  Cr. Tom Gyorffy (West) also supported sending the policy to an amendment but said he also was mindful of costs involved in doing anything more than that.  He said in relation to item (3) that Council had only had the new State zones for a short time and in relation to Item (4), Council should mind the Chief Executive's advice to wait and see how other Councils went with the Rural Activity zone (in relation to costs and State government attitudes) before sending the Rural Activity zone to the budget here.


Cr. John Letchford said, in moving the motion, that the policy was more plain speak to achieve the outcomes the community is looking for.  It was now better balanced, more proportioned.  He said Council will need a Rural Review in future and he regretted that the terms of reference for reviewing the policy hadn't included a brief for the committee to rezone land.  Council needed to look at zones and identify urban trends in rural zones and rezone accordingly; where properties got a tick, they would get a permit.  He also asked for the State government to give us strategic direction.   Cr. Helen Relph vigorously defended retaining the recommendation about the Rural Activity zone.  She said Council has a whole zone available to it and isn't using it, and should look at applying it.  In any event, Item (4) only said 'consider'.  She had taken on both sides of the argument in reviewing the policy, and it now recognized the existing planning scheme [existing policies?].  She said the State government wouldn't accept duplicates so the policy was only clarifying what the existing scheme doesn't have, and would give direction to applicants.  It now needs to be moved forward to the Minister.


In closing, Cr. John Letchford said the new State zones had been thrust on Council and Council needed to check their performance.  He applauded the reviewed policy saying it was not too simplified, and was in accordance with the VPPs (Victoria Planning Provisions).  The technical parts had been taken out and this was how it should be.  It is a community document where submissions had been translated into policy, although he foreshadowed Council would have angst with the State government.  He said Macedon Ranges was really leading in this area, and with what it was trying to do with its planning scheme.  He finished by saying the recommendations were a responsible decision and the way to go.   Click here to see the reviewed policy Council went with.


* The Rural Activity zone is not presently applied in Macedon Ranges.  It is a rural zone which allows a variety of lot sizes and dwellings on small lots in association with intensive agricultural activities.


MRRA Says:

Breathtakingly 'blind leading the blind', isn't it?  Oooeee!  Where to start? 


There was a distinct impression of watching kids who had been given the keys to the lollyshop with this one.  In fact, Cr. Relph's comment about having a spare zone we weren't using sent one of our MRRA reps into a laughing fit.  It sounded so 'Let's have one of these, and one of those...'  Perhaps Macedon Ranges can apply the Capital City zone as well - we aren't using that one either! 


Big spending?  You betcha.  It seems some Councillors want to start the Rural Review all over again, even though the one put in the planning scheme in February probably cost ratepayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. 


As for Cr. Letchford's regret that the committee couldn't rezone land as well as 'improving' the policy...  So much for strategic planning.  We'd probably all like an opportunity to change the colours on the planning scheme maps but unfortunately planning doesn't work that way.  He's right though in saying Macedon Ranges is leading the way with this policy - this must be the only place in the State that is attempting to go with a policy that gives automatic approval of all houses on pretty much all subdivided rural land (and that includes land on Mt. Macedon and in drinking water catchments). 


It would be worth paying money to see the look on any Panel's face when they read this limp, whimsical and likely illegal excuse for a policy, which so expertly defies State policy and State zone requirements.   Er, well done.  Bring it on, we are going to enjoy this one. 


Oh, and one more thing, no-one need bother to write individual submissions during the life of this Council.  It is clear that 'boiler-plate' letters and lots of them counted most with the majority of our Councillors.


Council's 'Rural Policy' Starts Its Downward Slide?

(16/7/06 - P)  This one seems headed just one way

Council last Wednesday decided it couldn't support its 'rural policy' (Dwellings and Subdivision in Rural Areas Policy) as exhibited.  Council's Director of Planning Veronica Schilling gave high praise to the extent and calibre of submissions, and made 3 alternative recommendations: abandon the policy, rewrite it or form a Councillor group who would, with Ms Schilling, amend the policy in response to submissions.  Council agreed to go with forming a Councillor group. 


Cr. John Letchford (South) moved, Cr. Sandra McGregor (East) seconded and it was carried without opposition that Crs. Letchford (South), McGregor (East) and Helen Relph (South) meet with Ms. Schilling to review the policy.  Mayor Geoff Neil said there should also be some community representation in the group reviewing the policy and said an invitation should go to a representative of the the Macedon Ranges Land Owners' Committee, a committee born at a meeting organised by Woodend real estate agent John Keating, and which represents people wanting reduced controls over rural land. 


MRRA Says:

Given the extent and diversity of views in the 150+ submissions received, the Mayor's explicit request for only one side of the debate to be represented will fuel perceptions of Council bias in this issue.  All or nothing, Councillors.  Everyone or no-one.


Council's Draft Rural Areas Policy Consultation Meeting Schedule Now Out

(28/3/06 - P)  Get those submissions in - tell Council you want our rural land protected: "Keep It Rural"    DATE FOR SUBMISSIONS EXTENDED TO END OF MAY

Here's your chance to let Council know you want our rural land preserved and protected.  Click here for meeting and contact details.   Click here for information about sending a 'Keep It Rural' message.  Click here for the Rural Policy Archive


Council's "Rural Areas" Policy Out For Public Comment Until April 28

(10/3/06 - P)  Go! Go! Go!   Even if you don't put in a submission on the policy, send a message saying you support keeping and protecting our precious rural land - before there's none left.

Council's draft policy which gives guidance on if, and how, housing and subdivision should occur on rural land, is out for public comment until April 28th.  MRRA has already said it thinks the policy strikes a balance between the open slather some seem to want, and 'no development' others might want.  It doesn't stop Council continuing to consider, and under certain circumstances approve,  applications but it does want Council to set some standards for what it does approve.  You can find the policy at Council's website - click here for more information. MRRA is urging every resident who thinks our rural land should stay rural to tell Council just that.


MRRA Says:

MRRA gets community feedback that people in Macedon Ranges value rural land and want it protected from over development and inappropriate development.  Here's your chance to send Council that message.  You can do it two ways - first, you can make a submission on the draft policy, or you can just send a one-sentence message simply saying you support protecting our rural land. You could also send that message to the Minister for Planning.  Here are contact details:


Macedon Ranges Shire Council:   Post:  PO Box 151, Kyneton, 3444    Fax:  5422 3623


Minister For Planning, Rob Hulls:

Email:  Post:  Level 17, 8 Nicholson St., East Melbourne, 3002  Fax:  9637 8921




Council's "Dwellings And Subdivision In Rural Areas" Policy Is Fair Enough

(1/3/06 - P)  MRRA says 'good job' but it could have been tougher.

Council's proposed "Administrative Policy To Assess Proposals For Dwellings and Subdivisions In Rural Areas" has certainly rattled some people's cages so MRRA decided to check it out.


Currently a draft, it's a policy that sets standards about how decisions will be made on applications for more houses and subdivision in rural zones.  Essentially in two parts, the policy expands on new, tough policies for rural land introduced into the planning scheme by Amendment C48 (which comes down hard on further houses and subdivision).  The policy explains 'how discretion will be exercised' when Council makes a decision, letting everyone know in advance what the ground rules are, and what 'tests' applications must meet.  It provides critical guidance on two key questions: firstly, can it be done?  And secondly, if so, how should it be done?


Far from being the ogre a minority of people are painting it, if adopted the policy will go a long way to letting people know what to expect (i.e. the same rule applied to everyone), while allowing Council to consider some expectations for houses in rural areas on lots created in the last six years.


It definitely won't suit people who want 'open slather' development in rural areas, and it won't suit people who want no development either.  It strikes a balance which supports the objectives of Amendments C21 and C48 while not 'shutting the door' on some property owners.  It will improve certainty for land owners, real estate agencies, Councillors and the community about standards that apply in Macedon Ranges.  MRRA knows a lot of people want our rural land protected. This policy, and these standards, will be supported by many in this community.


MRRA Says:

This policy was prepared in-house by Council planning staff and shows an outstanding level of professionalism.  Well done, Veronica and Lisa.  MRRA supports adoption and implementation of this policy, and, in the best long-term interests of our community and our rural land, encourages Council to prepare an amendment to put the policy into the planning scheme.