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On Wednesday I made an oral presentation to the Planning Panel which is considering MRSC Planning Scheme Amendment C110.
Nanjing Night Net

The hearing is being held in the council chamber in Gisborne. I was pleasantly surprised to see that audio equipment, including microphones, was in use. Contrast this to the degree of difficulty expressed by council over using audio equipment in its meetings – I half-expected the roof to fall in, and to see a rapid mass exodus from the building…but none of this happened, and even better, everyone could hear and be heard.

But back to Amendment C110, which seeks to rationalise small-lot rural development (generally 2-4 hectare blocks) within the shire.

To my mind, the amendment fails, and if it does go ahead, we can expect to see an unsightly patchwork of such blocks on valuable rural land (including some farming zone land), around several of our towns. I believe the amendment flies in the face of the widely accepted wisdom of State Planning Policy No. 8, which, among other things, warns of the threat of inappropriate rural development to the natural beauty and intrinsically rural nature of the area.

At its regular meeting in December last year, council pushed through a raft of Planning Scheme amendments, all bundled together so that they constituted only one agenda item. The three Western Ward councillors declared a conflict of interest regarding Amendment C98 (which related to Woodend), but because all of the amendments were bundled together, they were unable to participate in the debate or to vote on any of them. There were more than 100 people at that shambolic council meeting, and all will remember how a proposal concerning Villawood was tacked on to C98 at the last minute – there was justifiable uproar in the gallery.

It is strange indeed that these amendments were rushed through ahead of Minister for Planning Richard Wynne’s independent panel of experts, the Macedon Ranges Protection Advisory Committee, actually sitting and deliberating on many of the issues the amendments purport to address. Council should have erred on the side of caution and probity by deferring consideration of all amendments – including C110 – until after this committee had completed and published its findings. There are questions being asked about the need for this rush, but answers seem difficult to come by.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.