Minister, MP tour for farm zone talks

PLANNING Minister Matthew Guy visited Hamilton district towns yesterday with the region’s upper house MP David O’Brien to learn more about rural living issues.

They went to Digby, Merino and Hensley Park to discuss farming zones with local landowners and community leaders.

In August Mr Guy announced rural planning zone changes to protect farmland and give councils more autonomy in decision-making.

The new rural living, rural activity and farming zones were designed to make it easier for local councils to vote on planning issues specific to their area.

This included identifying good farming areas that need protection and better use of former farmland for lifestyle lots for population management and sustainable population growth.

“Councils had very consistent messages that they needed more flexibility, they needed to be able to work the zones as was best for their own municipality and that country areas are not a one-size-fits-all,” he said in August. Last week, Mr O’Brien, the Nationals member for Western Victoria, called for community discussion on his suggestions for cluster communities in farming zones.

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

“The usual minimum size for a dwelling lot in the farming zone in 40 hectares.

“However, this has sometimes resulted in an inability to build multiple properties — for example, to allow family members to live in nearby dwellings.

“Rather than 200 hectares being divided into five 40-hectare lots, a cluster communities model would separate an area of five one-hectare lots for housing, retaining 195 hectares for farmland.”

Mr O’Brien said his model would increase rates revenue for councils, increase service efficiency and rejuvenate current infrastructure such as schools and medical centres.

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