MP's more rural housing call fails to enthuse

A SUGGESTION  by Western Victoria MP David O’Brien to relax tight restrictions on housing subdivisions in farming areas has failed to gain much support from south-west leaders.

The Nationals upper house politician based in Geelong has suggested cluster communities with one-hectare lots for housing rather than the restrictive 40-hectare minimum lot size for a house in a farming zone.

“I believe land parcels of various sizes in regional areas need to be unlocked to give residents more choice when building a home,”  he said.

“There is a fine line between ensuring land is not chopped up piecemeal and allowing sustainable development that encourages increased rural population.

“I look forward to beginning   community discussions on this imporant issue.”

However, Great South Coast chairman and Corangamite Shire mayor Chris O’Connor said the right to farm should always be paramount.

“That right should be sacrosanct — it should override all other factors in planning decisions in a farming zone,”  he said.

“For example, farmers need to be able to yard their cows or use harvesting equipment at night without complaints from people who may move to the area with unrealistic expectations.” Cr O’Connor said recent data showed declining populations in communities in the north and south of the shire and he could see no point in opening up new clusters.

“I’d support it if a house was already on the farm and there was a desire by the family to excise the building from the main farm,” he said. 

Moyne Shire mayor James Purcell said it would be more logical to encourage new residents to build or live in existing small townships and demand was not there  for small acreages away from coastal areas.

“Increased population in existing townships will leave valuable agricultural land intact,” he said.

Warrnambool-based delegate for the Real Estate Institute of Victoria, Bruce Ludeman, said while Mr O’Brien’s  suggestion of small cluster developments had merit, it could cause problems with servicing, especially sewerage.

“This problem has already arisen with the many small Crown allotments in the outskirts of the city which have trouble getting planning permits for building,”  he said.

“I think 40 hectares is too large.

“The 40ha minimum  creates problems when a farmer wants to built houses on it for his family, with succession planning in mind.

“An area of four or five hectares may be more viable for horse and stock carrying.”

Mr O’Brien said allowing small clusters would enable councils to increase rate revenue, increase service efficiency and demand for existing services such as schools and medical centres in towns.

“Rather than 200 hectares being divided into five 40ha lots, a cluster community would separate an area of five one-hectare lots for housing, leaving 195ha for farming,”  he said.

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