Mayor Rowena Abbey pushes for Rural Lands Proposal

Mayor Rowena Abbey.
Mayor Rowena Abbey.

A planning proposal that would see the value of rural land increase in the Yass Valley has been supported by the Minister for Planning, Rob Stokes. 

In a meeting last week, Yass Valley mayor Rowena Abbey and State Member for Goulburn Pru Goward, met with the Minister for Planning Rob Stokes to discuss Council’s Rural Lands Planning Proposal (RLPP). 

Under the RLPP the proposed changes will include the average minimum lot size permitted in a rural subdivision to be halved, from 80 to 40 hectares. No new lots less than 20ha or greater than 173ha would be permitted.

The proposals aim to encourage the diversification of agricultural activity and sustainable growth in the sector. They would allow farmers greater flexibility when planning for intergenerational change or retirement and when coping with adverse circumstances such as drought.

The changes have been a long time coming, since the recommendation was made in 2012 by the local Rural Lands Planning Committee. The meeting with Minister Stokes was a welcomed and positive step forward according to the Yass Valley mayor Rowena Abbey.

“We had a very productive meeting with the Minister, where we were able to outline the process undertaken by council which included, extensive community consultation, the establishment of the local Rural Lands Planning Committee, a peer review of the proposal and discussions with various State Government agencies,” Cr Abbey said.

“I pointed out that Council submitted the request for the proposal to be approved almost 12 months ago and while our Planning Division has continued to follow up the Department for further information or a decision, progress has been slow,” commented Cr Abbey. 

“There is only one remaining substantial objection to the proposal, which concerns environmental implications, but council believes there are sufficient legislative protections in place to address these issues.”

The proposed changes would partly restore the flexibility lost by farmers in the Yass Valley area in the 1970s when the Federal Government considered expanding the ACT border towards Yass and the minimum lot size was raised. In recent years the averaging provision was restored; these proposals would increase the flexibility of those provisions.

Cr Abbey said that Ms Goward had been a very strong supporter of council on the issue and assisted with setting up the meeting with the Planning Minister.  

“Minister Stokes was well aware of the proposal and indicated his Department would have a decision to council by Christmas which is great news given that the rural minimum lot size has been a contentious issue for the past decade,” Cr Abbey said.

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