Ovata trees in the agricultural zone on Larcombes Rd, Reedy Marsh. Pic: Andrew Ricketts
8th November 2018
On 20 October 2018, the Draft Meander Valley Local Provisions Schedule (LPS) was advertised for a 60-day period of public comment, ending 21st December 2018. You can contact Meander Valley Council (MVC), phone 6393 5300 and they will post you a DVD or USB stick. Or, you can obtain a copy of the Schedule at: https://www.meander.tas.gov.au/page.aspx?c=20703
This is the first public comment exposure of any statutory Draft Local Provision Schedule within the Tasmanian Planning Scheme (TPS). Only with the finalisation of a Local Provision Schedule (LPS) is the Tasmanian Planning Scheme enlivened. It seems this precedent is set to occur using the Meander Valley’s LPS.
If you wish to make a representation to a hearing of the Tasmanian Planning Commission (TPC), to have the opportunity to have your issues considered afresh you must first make a submission to the Local Government planning authority, Meander Valley Council (MVC), during the comment period.
The comment period is to encourage you to inform MVC of your concerns and issues. Having received them, they prepare a report to the TPC, with a copy of your submission. MVC may/or may not support your submission. This gives you the opportunity to convince either or both of the two planning authorities that the scheme should be amended.
The Local Provisions Schedule
The Draft LPS is comprised of several components.
• The zone maps;
• Local area objectives;
• Particular Purpose Zones;
• Specific Area Plans;
• Site Specific Qualifications;
• Code Overlay Maps (prescribed and local data)
• Code lists;
In preparing its Draft LPS, Council has attempted to determine the best zone to apply to land from the list of available zones in the State Planning Provisions (SPPs). The Zone maps are a part of the LPS and a representor can suggest an alternate zoning for any land within the Municipal area.
Council does has the ability to create planning rules and provisions different to the SPPs, however the legislation requires Council to demonstrate that a unique or tailored approach is warranted and to also provide justification for a variation in the Draft LPS.
So, if a representor seeks a variation under the current comment period they too would need to provide a justification, if they wish to succeed. Section 32 of the Land Use Planning Approvals Act LUPAA, called The Act from now on, provides a guide.
Limited Opportunity for Changing the State Planning Provisions
In regards to the State Planning Provisions, if you consider there needs to be a change, you can make a representation to MVC. If you convince them, they would then make a representation to the TPC. (Under Section 35G of LUPAA). The Act prevents you from directly suggesting change to the TPC (Section 35E (4)).
Precedents will likely be established during the exposure and hearing process of the MVC LPS… Fine-tuning, not only to the Local Provisions Schedule but possibly to the extent the State Planning Provisions would apply to the Municipality depends upon the compelling strength of the reasons a representor provides.
It is also possible to make the case (to MVC and later the TPC) that an area, which does not have Local Provisions should have an exceptional, non-standard set of conditions applied. Any such proposal will be judged on Sections 32, 33 and 34 of LUPAA. There are a several clauses within the legislation.
Council Informed Ratepayers by Letter
Meander Valley’s General Manager, Martin Gill, on 16th October 2018, wrote to all residents of the Municipality. He stated:
“In 2017 the State government finalised the state planning provisions that make up the majority of the Tasmanian Planning Scheme (TPS).” …
“The part of the TPS that includes rules that specifically relate to a municipal area is known as the Local Provisions Schedule.”…
“The draft Meander Valley local provisions schedule is comprised of the zoning maps, overlay’s and the written regulations contained in appendix A of the TPS.” …
“It is important to note that under the TPS, the requirements for use and development will be different to those that have been in place under the current planning scheme. In addition, the legislation limits the matters that can be considered in a representation.”
Mr Gill’s letter of warning, chose to both alert residents and arguably, sought to diffuse the motivation for ratepayers to make a submission. Mr Gill’s letter does not adequately describe the role of the State Planning Provisions, which absolutely also relates, constrains and indeed defines the context of the Meander Valley Local Provisions Schedule. When Council warns the rate payers in this way – believe it!!!
The Complexities of the Tasmanian Planning Scheme
Only with the exposure and subsequent hearing into this first Local Provisions Schedule, will the inequity of this complicated and rigid TPS system become more widely understood.
This brief focuses on the bigger public interest issues. We do not deal with any spatial anomalies, inconsistencies or faults which may be present in the draft LPS.
To give Meander Valley Council its due, it has produced two informative Fact Sheets which can be accessed on its website. These Fact Sheets significantly improve the explanation of the Tasmanian Planning Scheme and the Local Provisions Schedule. I encourage you to read these fact sheets. MVC obviously considered that the TPS may be fairer with a better explanation of the process and how to make a representation.
However, no amount of explanation can rectify the manifest inequity, embalmed in the TPS, including this first Draft LPS.
It is important to understand that the Local Provisions Schedule and the State Planning Provisions are inextricably linked. Yet, they have been presented separately, thus substantially diminishing the ability of the public to understand their collective substance and meaning.
This is just one of the many massive failings of the Tasmanian Planning Scheme. This is not Council’s fault but rather the Liberal Tasmanian Government, who would appear to be making things as hard as possible, for those who wish to participate in local government land use planning.
Many of the suggestions of the Tasmanian Planning Commission in this process have been ignored.
Meander Valley, a mid-sized local government, happens to have a well-staffed and professional planning Department. Many of its suggestions in this process have also been ignored.
Meander Valley’s Local Provisions Schedule – Some Deficiencies
However not all is perfect with Meander Valley’s Local Provisions Schedule. Council has repeatedly failed to honour and abide by the strategic position of the Northern Regional Land Use Strategy, to which it accords limited respect.
The backwardness of Meander Valley arguably is due to sectoral interests and the slavish property rights mantra of some Councillors. The failure to honour and abide by the strategic position of the Northern Regional Land Use Strategy is a major weakness of the Meander Valley Local Provisions.
To make matters worse, under the Tasmanian Planning Scheme, Meander Valley Council, in constructing a Local Provisions Schedule, has been unable to recover from the dumbed down State Planning Provisions (SPP), (the majority of the scheme), which unashamedly foists intensification and densification on Meander Valley residents without repentance, apology or any suitable underpinning strategy or policy.
It is fair to say that in some LPS zones, Meander Valley has tried to apply changes from the SPP to zoned areas, where unique local conditions and requirements have dictated a change to the inflexible SPP standard. These are often shown as Specific Area Plans (SAPs). The substantial number of SAPs present in the draft MV LPS, indicates the simple, dumbed-down SPPs to not be adequate, in the opinion of Meander Valley’s planners. We forecast more SAPs will likely need to be created to finalise the MVC LPS satisfactorily.
Reduced Protection and Appeal Rights under the State Planning Provisions
The Tasmanian Planning Scheme was never about consistency. The truth is: the Tasmanian Planning Scheme (and hence this Draft LPS) reduces protection both for local communities and their amenity, the rights of the residents of Tasmania and a reduced protection for the environment. Indeed, it could be argued that the Tasmanian Planning Scheme should be characterised as a pro-development, greed-based planning instrument.
The Meander Valley LPS under the Tasmanian Planning Scheme, was created in an absence of comprehensive State Policies, and an acceptably remains inconsistent with the Northern Tasmanian Regional Land Use Strategy (NTRLUS).
The NTRLUS, which in any case, has been recently substantially amended, its policy intent changed by the Minister, a tampering without regard for the law (process wise) and in an absence of meeting the objectives of the legislation.
Additionally the latest version of the NTRLUS (June 2018) was deliberately not put out for public comment and the changes, which have been made, have deliberately not been disclosed for public comment. If governments were confident that they have society’s interests at heart the day would not be avoiding a proper public consultation.
The latest (June 2018) Northern Tasmanian Regional Land Use Strategy (NTRLUS) is simply undemocratic. It is substantially altered and fails the ‘policy neutral test’ and accordingly will remain a deeply unfair and poorly designed anachronism of best practice, modern land use strategic planning. This is the dark age of the now ageing RMPS.
The Tasmanian Planning Scheme has been and will continue to be an expensive project but from the community’s perspective, it will likely continue to be regarded as cheap, nasty and backward.
In order to create a scheme absent a policy base, the Planning Reform Taskforce, led by the Property Council’s Ms Massina, infused the State Planning Template with Policy, which had never been transparently articulated in any proper and public fashion so that the community understood and had an opportunity to make comment through a fair process. This template, much expanded and dumbed-down a cane in the SPP of the TPS.
The TPS is designed specifically to disable and diminish community participation and objection.
The Draft Meander Valley Local Provisions Schedule, with the SPPs, being the rest of the Tasmanian Planning Scheme, would bring about a serious reduction in planning Discretion across virtually all Zones. That lack of discretion means more rigid planning control. The TPS claims to be simpler but this miserable attempt of simplification has created a more rigid and less flexible system.
Zone Primacy Weakened Codes and Avoidance of Priority Vegetation in the Agriculture Zone
The Meander Valley Local Provisions Schedule, (with the rest of the Tasmanian Planning Scheme, that is the SPPs), would increase the primacy of the Zone (which is mapped under the LPS) and would limit and diminish the role of Codes created under the SPP and their associated Overlays, created under the LPS. Is it simpler?
The 28 current Interim Planning Schemes, applied Codes universally across all Zones and therefore provide public interest protections to all the Zones in all Municipalities, all across Tasmania.
This Tasmanian Planning Scheme LPS represents a spatial debasement of the universality of the Codes within the current SPP. Additionally, under the SPP’s these Codes have been weakened.
Some Codes under the Liberals new TPS system, do not even apply to certain Zones within the MV LPS and for some Land Uses (such as Forestry to use the classic example), there is a litany of forestry exemptions, both in the Codes and elsewhere in the SPPs.
It is a preposterous proposition that a Zone does not have regard for a particular Code (or part of a Code). The public interest is not a zone dependent. This proposition represents a failure to meet Schedule 1 of the RMPS.
My understanding is Meander Valley Council was forced to delete some of the SPP Code values from their Agriculture Zone from within the MVC’s LPS mapping.
To use an excellent example: In the Draft MV LPS there is Natural Assets Code Overlay mapping, which maps both Priority Vegetation and Waterway and Coastal Protection in the one map set. That Code mapping under the MV LPS is now incomplete and inconsistent across the Municipality because under the SPP the Agriculture Zone’s provisions, does not accept that constraints of Priority Vegetation should be applied to the Agriculture Zone. This has caused the full and utter deletion from the Tasmanian planning scheme of Priority Vegetation wherever it occurs in the Agriculture Zone in the Draft MV LPS.
The current Meander Valley IPS 2013 did not have an Agriculture Zone. Under the TPS, it was forced to create one. A mapping project was completed by MVC behind closed doors, absent any public comment opportunity to review the spatial propositions contained in the mapping.
Right now within the Draft LPS, one cannot determine from the Meander Valley Local Provisions Schedule, the complete extent of Priority Vegetation within the Municipal Area, because it has been deleted from all of the land is Zoned, Agriculture.
However, in the same map set, the Waterway and Coastal Protection Areas of the Natural Assets Code, have been included regardless of Zone. Thus, in the one set of mapping in the MV LPS there exists a complete waterways and an incomplete priority vegetation mapped extent, yet the zones are not disclosed on the Code map-sheets. This is enormously confusing, misleading and obviously grossly deficient.
The removal from relevant consideration of Priority Vegetation within the Municipal Areas Zoned Agriculture does not meet the Schedule 1 objectives of LUPAA, which states:
“2. In clause 1(a), “sustainable development” means managing the use, development and protection of natural and physical resources in a way, or at a rate, which enables people and communities to provide for their social, economic and cultural well-being and for their health and safety while –
(a) sustaining the potential of natural and physical resources to meet the reasonably foreseeable needs of future generations; and
(b) safeguarding the life-supporting capacity of air, water, soil and ecosystems; and
(c) avoiding, remedying or mitigating any adverse effects of activities on the environment.”
The protection of agricultural land policy commits: “To enable the sustainable development of agriculture…”. I argue that Priority Vegetation is obviously a relevant consideration for the sustainable development of agriculture. The clearance of any native vegetation is regarded as a threatening process under The Commonwealth EPBC law.
The avoidance of Priority Vegetation as a relevant consideration in Meander Valley’s Agriculture Zones means the avoidance of the protection of Listed Species habitat and the absence of the protection of Ecological Communities, including those which are Threatened.
Meander Valley has significant Threatened Vegetation (Listed) present within the Agriculture Zone, which is now not even being shown as Priority Vegetation under the LPS Natural Assets Code mapping. It makes it very hard for it to be saved from clearance or from a project, which harms it. Is this part of “cutting green…tape”?
Public Conservation Reserves and the Environment Management Zone
The draft Meander Valley Local Provisions Schedule deliberately delivers a reduction in the public accountability of the public reserve manager, the Parks and Wildlife Service, who happen to manage a very substantial amount of land within Meander Valley Municipality in the LPS which is Zoned EMZ in the SPP.
It is relevant that The Parks and Wildlife Service, who have failed to meet Tasmania’s obligations under the Regional Forest Agreement to have Statutory Management Plans for each of those securely reserved public properties under their control. Most of the reserves in Meander Valley have no Statutory Management Plan.
Even though it has long been known that there are hundreds of gazetted Reserves on public land being managed in the absence of proper Statutory Management Plans across the State, the Tasmanian Government has gone ahead and watered down the relevant Environment Management Zone (EMZ) provisions and expanded the range of Permitted and Discretionary Uses (with a reduction from the Prohibited category) via the Tasmanian Planning Scheme (in the SPPs) to enable either Parks and Wildlife and/or developers to have virtually a free reign. The TPC mandates that all secure conservation reserves are mapped as EMZ in the LPS. More “green tape cutting”.
The absence of any refinement in the MV LPS to the SPP Environment Management Zone, under which there are Areas (Reserves) with no Statutory Management Plans, for virtually all public conservation Reserves outside of the World Heritage Area, should be rectified and a Specific Area Plan created for each zoned Reserve or collections of nearby reserves which have similar tenure and purposes without delay.
It is hard to understand the reason any sound and reasonable Tasmanian Planning Commission would walk away from proper land use controls for the public land component of the National Reserve System, when the public conservation land manager, the Parks and Wildlife Service, has so obviously failed completely in its duty to the people of Tasmania over public land management.
Not only is the lack of more than 600 Statutory Management Plans an atrocious deficiency but the Tasmanian PWS has been rewarded with an Environment Management Zone, tailor made so as to ensure that Zone would allow almost anything could be developed in secure conservation reserves with an unfair absence of public consultation and appeal rights.
Only an irresponsible Government could commodify, without checks and balances, the State’s Reserve System. It is a start of a defacto privatisation of the public conservation reserve system of Tasmania, which is a part of the National Reserve System. This is a national issue.
Because the SPP cannot easily be appealed during the comment process for MV LPS the government’s deficient EMZ will be hard to change but you can rely on Section 35G of LUPAA which states:
“(1) A planning authority, by notice to the Commission, may advise the Commission that, having considered –
(a) a draft LPS, in relation to the municipal area of the planning authority, that has been made available for viewing by the public under section 35D(1)(b)(i) ; and
(b) representations made under section 35E(1) in relation to the draft LPS –
the planning authority is of the opinion that the content of a provision of the SPPs should be altered.”
Meander Valley’s Heritage Lie
Within the draft Meander Valley Local Provisions Schedule, you will find absolutely no Heritage list. That means for a place of Local Significance (and not on the State Heritage Register) no meaningful protection would apply. It is as if local heritage simply does not exist in the Meander Valley municipality.
The truth of the matter is that the independent expert Heritage architect, Paul Davies identified approximately 600 Heritage properties in the Meander Valley Heritage Study Report of February 2006. His report identifies the heritage properties worthy of conservation and certainly worthy recognition and respect, and yet Heritage (i.e. the Local Heritage Place list) in Meander Valley remains completely un-populated in the Draft Meander Valley Local Provisions Schedule. Likewise, there is no identification or list of Heritage Precincts in Council’s Draft LPS, again despite Council having the Davies Report, which identified a number of precincts in a number of Heritage towns within the Municipality. In Schedule One Part 2 of LUPAA it states:
“(g) to conserve those buildings, areas or other places which are of scientific, aesthetic, architectural or historical interest, or otherwise of special cultural value; and”
Meander Valley in its draft LPS has obviously deliberately continued to fail to conserve heritage within the municipal area, which clearly should be listed in the LPS.
Within the draft Meander Valley Local Provisions Schedule, you will find no listing of cultural heritage landscapes, termed in the TPS, Historic Landscape Precincts. Yet, there is obviously an abundance of cultural heritage landscapes, which are deserving of recognition across the Meander Valley municipality. Davies identified a few were but he acknowledged more work needed to be done. Council has not devoted more funds to this work and has effectively avoided heritage altogether.
Scenic Protection Shunned
Within the draft Meander Valley Local Provisions Schedule, apart from a single solitary hill at Traveller Rest (“The prominent topography of the Blackstone Hills and Strahan’s Hill”) near Hadspen, one will find absolutely no other Scenic Protection Area within Meander Valley municipality.
Everyone knows that Meander Valley municipality is a highly scenic part of Tasmania and yet, even though Council commissioned a scenic management report, from consultant planning specialists, Inspiring Place, it has steadfastly refused to put in place any proper responsible listing of the municipality’s highly scenic landscape features, nor has it adopted the consultant’s reasonable recommendations. Scarring has degraded our scenery and amenity.
The single hill at Travellers Rest is regarded as “Prominent Topography” and is relatively scenic and worthy of listing. So are a vast number of other landscape features, which fall within any definition of “Prominent Topography” but outside of the Scenic Road corridors.
Other scenic areas should be subject to the Code and thus the Draft MV LPS should be amended. This Draft LPS represents an uneven application of the Scenic Protection Code and Overlay in its worst and most aggriegous form.
Aboriginal Indigenous Heritage Avoided
Within the draft Meander Valley Local Provisions Schedule, you will find no listing of Aboriginal heritage places, termed in the TPS, “A Place of Identified Archaeological Significance”, yet again there are obviously important indigenous sites present across the Meander Valley municipality and these deserve protection.
These substantial Code omissions under MVC’s Draft LPS are deliberate, have long been unacceptable, have long been criticised, do not meet the objectives of The Act and are inconsistent with both the Northern Regional Land Use Strategy. They are inconsistent with the approach of adjoining municipalities in many cases.
Thus it can be said that Meander Valley Council under this draft LPS is not an adequate performer in terms of any heritage and scenic landscape protection or management. These cultural public interest matters are relevant considerations in any sane notion of ecologically sustainable development, a concept which has underpinned the RMPS from its inception and which had its genesis almost 40 years ago.
Desired Future Character Shunned
The SPP of the TPS has deliberately removed from its template the ability for local governments, including Meander Valley to make and incorporate into its scheme, Desired Future Character Statements within its LPS. These statements are present in the current 2013 Meander Valley Interim Planning Scheme, yet the SPP has obliterated the ability of MVC to populate its LPS with Desired Future Character Statements. This is not mere simplification but rather the bald abrogation by the State, hampering the ability of Meander Valley to meet the sustainable needs and expectations of current local residents and of future generations. This is a pitiful diminution of sustainable land use planning. Again, this is the fault of the current Government’s planning buddies, including the Property Council of Tasmania.
Mole Creek Karst Code Protection Diminished
The Mole Creek Karst under The Meander Valley 2013 IPS is handled and to some (inadequate) extent, protected by a Karst Code within the State Planning Template. Under the Tasmanian Planning Scheme, it was decided to not have a Karst Code. The TPC has ignored there are several Karst landscape geologies across the State.
Meander Valley was, in the TPS process when creating its Local Provisions Schedule, in essence forced to construct a Specific Area Plan (SAP) for the area subject to the Karst. This SAP has limited protections for the sensitive karst (cave) system. Cave systems are fragile and vulnerable.
The Mole Creek Karst is of National Significance indeed some parts are World Heritage Listed.
Forested Public Land
Finally, there is the matter of how the public forested land currently managed by the Crown Land Services, as a consequence of the Tasmanian Forest Agreement, to be managed for conservation, yet is incorrectly Zoned Rural. This should be rezoned out of the Rural Zone into something such as Open Space or Environment Management Zone. Sustainable Timbers Tasmania (formerly Forestry Tasmania) considers these areas to be a part of the secure reserve system and has mapped them accordingly.
Regarding the Government’s facile mantra (faster, simpler and cheaper) for the Tasmanian Planning Scheme:
The government’s land use planning reforms are now over four years in the making, yet the Tasmanian public continues to see an illogical, piecemeal approach to the introduction of scraps of amending legislation and the failure of The Liberals’ original 2013 electoral promises.
Will the Tasmanian Planning Scheme be faster? Is over 4 ½ years in its creation faster? Will it consume less time in operation all make approvals significantly quicker and easier – No!
Is the Tasmanian Planning Scheme a cheaper system? It certainly has not been cheaper to implement so far. Indeed an inquiry into the enormous cost and disruption of the TPS should be initiated. We are not aware of any fees having been dropped or lowered for the consumer.
The current MVC Interim Planning Scheme (IPS) of 2013 runs to 360 pages or so. The new TPS of the Draft MV LPS is well over 500 pages. This is not “Simpler”.
Is the Tasmanian Planning Scheme simpler? This paper suggests that it is far more complex yet also more rigid, whilst offering less protections to natural environments. It would be hard for anyone to describe something that is more complex, longer, and yet more rigid as being “simpler”. It is an abject failure, by any standards.
In summary, the omissions of the Draft MVC LPS are horrific and unacceptable and are the face of anachronistic land use planning decline in Tasmania, which is an ongoing scourge. With the Draft MVC LPS, Tasmania has lurched firmly into the arms of the Property Council.
Unless a substantial number of matters are rectified in the draft MV LPS, the public would have far less appeal rights, the individual neighbour would also have substantially diminished rights of objection and appeal. Council too will have less Discretionary rights and less appeal rights and would have less ability to modify any given development so as to make it more acceptable to the surrounding community.
Local areas have been encouraged into densification and intensification.
This Draft LPS of MV, with the SPPs of course, represents a loss for current residents, a loss for the existing environment and the natural indigenous species, which depend on it and finally it indisputably would represent a loss for future generations.
Making a successful representation is considerably more complex now than under the previous Scheme and legislation. Section 35E and Section 35G of LUPAA makes the limitations and opportunities clear.
The substantial decline in the number of Discretionary developments in the SPP and hence in the Meander Valley Draft LPS is criticised and considered to hold no public interest value. This will mean developers will likely attempt to place developments in Zones, which currently in the MV 2013 IPS do not accept such developments. This, I forecast, will cause substantial anger in local communities. But by then, it may be too late.
The 60-day comment period for the draft MV LPS comes at a time when a newly elected Meander Valley Council will be undergoing an induction period and at a time, consequently, when there is a lack of experience.
The Tasmanian Planning Scheme increases the favoured position of development at any cost. The Tasmanian Planning Scheme and thus the Meander Valley Draft LPS gives a substantial primacy to the developer and the private property owner.
The major losers in this new dumbed-down land use planning recipe are both local communities and the environment. This is entirely intentional.
The Tasmanian Planning Scheme and hence the Meander Valley Local Provisions Schedule within it should be characterised as a pro-development, greed based planning instrument.
Because this is the first occasion to comment on a Statutory Draft of the first Local Provisions Schedule under the new Tasmanian Planning Scheme, there is an opportunity to deal with some of the bigger picture issues, as well as the spatial, local, Zone type issues, which usually do get some attention from residents in the draft hearing process.
The Tasmanian Planning Scheme is poorly designed and grossly unfair, complex arrangement, which has damaged the integrity of land use planning in Tasmania. It will require a major overhaul to restore the core values (Schedule 1) of the RMPS.
Andrew Ricketts is Convenor, The Environment Association (TEA) Inc., PO Box 261, Deloraine 7304. TEA@antmail.com.au
(With thanks to the TEA Management Team)