New zone rules set confusion

THE REZONING of privately owned rural properties over the past few years, brought about by changes to statewide zoning definitions could see landowners on the receiving end of warnings and fines from their local councils for everyday acts like clearing shrubs and fire hazards.

The ongoing implementation of the Tasmanian Planning Scheme (TPS), which started in 2017, has seen a number of changes that appear to have had greatest impact in rural and semi-rural municipalities.

Where many larger farming properties have simply transitioned from “Significant Agriculture Zone” to “Agricultural Zone’’ and won’t see many changes, the story appears less clear cut for the old “Rural Resource Zone” properties. It appears to have been the Government’s intent that a significant proportion of the Rural Resource Zone would be rezoned to “Agriculture Zone”, and where the land had less broadscale agricultural potential, it would be real-located to the new ‘‘Rural Zone”.

Councils apply the new zones, and in some areas have attempted to place large numbers of Rural Resource titles into the new”‘Landscape Conservation Zone”.

The new “Rural Zone” was, in effect, to create a manageable transitional zone between residential and agricultural zoning and importantly protects the “right to farm” in key agricultural area.

The Government stated that: “The Rural Zone importantly acknowledges that significant areas of Tasmania’s rural land provide a variety of other activities beyond [purely] agriculture, all of which significantly contribute to Tasmania’s economic growth.”

These are activities such as viticulture, grazing and horticulture. Many small holdings or hobby farms created under the existing “Environmental Living Zone” have been left stranded. This zone was established for rural living development in areas characterised by native vegetation cover but has now been suspended without a clear transitional zone.

In some cases, those zones have gone to the new Rural Living Zone while others have gone to the new Landscape Conservation Zone. This rezoning translation, which is the role of local council, was recently criticized in Parliament by Labor member for Franklin Dean Winter, saying that it was more complex and difficult for councils to administer.

He made this statement after the Huon Valley Council decided to seek to withdraw their initial plan and ask the Minister to start again. According to recently elected Huon Valley Councillor Mark Jessop, it has been very difficult for many councillors who operate around larger cities to get the urban and rural interface right under the new planning scheme.

“Clearer guidance from the Government on how to translate the zoning definitions would have saved land-owners and councils a lot of grief, Mr Jessop said. “It is a difficult balancing act between allowing normal farming activity and meeting other strategic land use objectives that councils have.

“Some councils have used the LCZ in a very narrow sense by either not recommending it’s use or being very prescribed, while other councils have used it as a major strategic planning exercise to bring in other issues including Natural Asset Values and threatened species protection.

“Sadly, each council has had to interpret some fairly vague guidelines which have resulted in inconsistency across council.”

“The government needs to quickly clarify some of these issues, or the vision of having a consistent and more efficient statewide planning system is at risk as councils apply the new zones in different ways.”

One such landowner was recently issued an infringement notice from their local council for removing excessive vegetation from their 5ha property in a historical bushfire zone. “Under the provision of state planning scheme, the removal or clearance of native vegetation is a prohibited development, the landowner said.

“Were I to cut down a eucalypt tree leaning over my fence, or growing in my drainage channel, it would be deemed an offence. “It doesn’t matter how dangerous or hazardous a native tree is, too bad, it’s part of the biodiversity.”

Information on new zoning regulations and applications is at