Is this what our planning schemes are designed to do?

A press report in the Examiner, Monday May 11 2009 tells of a couple who purchased a small building block in the Meander Valley Council area in 2004, zoned Rural Resource.

At the time the press report was printed in 2009 the people had run up debts of $40,000 battling to gain a permit to build their dream Tasmanian home.

This 65 year old couple refused to quit, kept on fighting and working two jobs to meet their legal bills.

Their solicitor finally clarified the meaning of the legislation, which proved that the couple had the right to rebuild a house that had been destroyed by fire some years prior to their purchase.

A press report in the Examiner, Friday April 19 2013 told of the end to this sorry saga.

The elderly couple, showing great strength of character and resolve have finally been able to move into their new home.

This is just one example of the hardship that can be caused to a landholder when their local Council, who, on balance, and with a majority vote in favour of the issue of a building permit to one of their ratepayers, even though the land in question was zoned ‘Rural Resource’. The Council’s approval in this case was initially overridden by an appeal in the Resource Management and Planning Appeals Tribunal (RMPAT), which, after more legal costs to the landholders was overturned.

This one example, and there are more,certainly raises some serious questions, such as:

Who are the ultimate beneficiaries of this unconscionable method of diminishing the land value and rights attached to our “fee simple” land titles?

How many titles across our state are effected?

The land effected has obviously lost a considerable amount of value, so where do the people go to receive compensation?

The matter of restrictions on land zoned ‘Rural Resource’ having an area of less than 50 ha. in the West Tamar Council area was raised in a 2007 press release by Kerry Finch, the Member for Rosevears. At that time I spoke to a number of our Councils and estimated that approx. 30,000 properties across our State had been affected.

For the purposes of hopefully giving us some semblance of uniformity with our new Regional Planning Schemes, Tasmania has been divided into 3 Regions.

If we begin in the Northern Region (8 Councils in total) and start with West Tamar Council, the information provided tells us:

The area zoned Rural Resource is 6949 ha.
Within this area are 917 existing land titles.
There are 755 titles with existing dwellings.
There are 162 titles to vacant land.

The West Tamar Mayor,  Barry Easther OAM in his newsletter to the ratepayers says in part:  “One of the main changes to the zoning was the introduction of the “Rural Living” zone. Council has been under pressure for this zoning to be introduced rather than the “Rural Resource” zone in several areas. Under the current scheme the equivalent to the Rural Resource Zone was seen to be extremely restrictive for owners of relatively small parcels of land to be in a position to build a house and enjoy a rural lifestyle. Council was very supportive of this move as not only were we able to satisfy the many requests received, but such Rural Living rezoning was seen to be a positive move to ensure that the land was cared for and not left to become derelict.”

In his final paragraph Mayor Easther goes on to say:

“Council will continue to strive for a sensible and practical resolution, but again where planning is concerned, nothing happens quickly.”

West Tamar Council are not alone in supporting the concept of “Rural Living”, indeed it is a standard zone within the template that must be used for the development of all new Tasmanian planning schemes. It’s application restores some of the rights conferred on all property-owners under their Freehold Deeds in Fee Simple.