Community & Environment |
Nillumbik Pro Active Landowners

State Planning Minister Dumps Unpopular Nillumbik Laws

1 |



21 February 2017

For Immediate Release

Residents in the area of North East Melbourne hardest hit by the Black Saturday fires of February 2009 have had another emphatic victory against the former Nillumbik Shire Council today, having received notice that on 12 February 2017 The Victorian Planning Minister, Richard Wynne, determined not to approve sweeping Shire wide planning law amendments which would have made bushfire preparations for landowners virtually impossible. They are now demanding urgent sweeping changes to even harsher State sanctioned native vegetation clearing laws which are currently under review.

In a move set to relieve widespread anger and anxiety, the former Council’s plans to impose strict environmental laws which would have made land clearing for bushfire safety complicated, expensive or impossible, have now been dropped altogether. The proposed planning scheme amendment involved was called “Nillumbik Proposed Planning Scheme Amendment C81”.

The move by the Planning Minister comes after the Nillumbik Shire Council adopted Amendment C81 early in2016, which then passed to his office for final determination and possible implementation, which will now not proceed. The laws were part of a suite of changes which included now abandoned Proposed Planning Scheme Amendment C101, so both C101 and now C81 no longer exist.
The actions of staunchly green Council officers and the former Council to ram through the laws incensed local landowners who rapidly formed a 2,000 strong group called “Nillumbik Pro Active Landowners” (PALS) and began a yearlong campaign to have the laws scrapped.

“The proposed Planning Scheme Amendment C81, now legally abolished in its entirety thanks to the Planning Minister’s decision on 12 February, news of which we received today, would have had disastrous consequences for the Shire and for the entire North East areas of Greater Melbourne, as it would have required landowners to obtain planning permits via costly and complicated applications to be allowed to clear their land for bushfire mitigation purposes” said Damian Crock, the Nillumbik PALS Working Group Chair and resident of Kangaroo Ground.
“It was a case where the unrepresentative green groups in Nillumbik, who until the recent elections clearly had undue influence in Council matters, had sought to influence the Council to ram through these laws and had prevailed on the former Council to approve them. “ he said. “Rather than listening to landowner concerns, Council officers and the former Council itself persisted and sought to have the laws brought in despite widespread opposition of the vast majority of landowners who would be impacted by the laws. We always remained cautiously optimistic that the Planning Minister would appreciate that the laws would have bad planning outcomes, a fact which has been borne out in his letter to Mayor of the Nillumbik Shire dated 12 February 2017 a copy of which we received today.”

“The result will be a huge weight off landowners minds in Nillumbik and in surrounding Shires who are at constant threat from bushfires started in or which may move through our district” said Crock. “While it doesn’t automatically mean that fire danger is lessened, it removes the absurdly dangerous imposition of localplanning permit requirements which would delay or prevent responsible land management by landowners in removing vegetation”
In notifying the Nillumbik Shire of his final determination, Planning Minister The Hon Richard Wynne wrote:

“The amendment seeks to implement the Nillumbik Landscape Character Assessment 2009 and the
Green Wedge Management Plan 2010-2025 by applying the Significant Landscape Overlay to all nonurban land in the municipality, excluding the Kinglake National Park.
After careful consideration, I have decided to refuse to approve Amendment C81. The spatial
application and content of the Schedules to the Significant Landscape Overlay are an inadequate
application of the Victorian Planning Provisions with respect to the purpose, geographic application
and form and content.
Overall, I am not satisfied that the amendment would result in a good planning outcome because the amendment includes duplications, contradictions and inconsistencies with a number of existing provisions within the Nillumbik Planning Scheme.”

"The Nillumbik Shire Council planning department and many of the former councillors were simply not listening to and certainly not hearing the irate protests of the vast majority of landowners and ratepayers" said Crock, who chairs the landowner group founded by now Nillumbik Deputy Mayor Karen Egan. The hastily convened and now thousands-strong group of incensed landowners dubbed "Nillumbik PALs" (Pro Active Landowners) see the determination by the Planning Minister as a major step in redressing balance in the responsible management of non-urban property.

“Our concerns extended to a feared collapse in property values for land burdened with a collection of planning overlays, with the potential to wipe out generations of farming families and small business operators. These fears are now somewhat diminished although the scourge of draconian state-wide native vegetation permitted clearing regulations, current under review by the State Government, also must be confronted and addressed. The protection of human life must be prioritised above sensible environmental protection” said Crock

"One of the most overwhelming fears of our landowners and residents is the huge and lethal build-up of fuel loads which in the dreaded event of bushfire could lead to a massive loss of human and animal lives and untold property losses, which the State sanctioned regime still threatens".

For communities still grappling with the crippling effects from Black Saturday, that eventuality is one that we simply can't sit by and have happen. We have the State Government in its 2015 Strategic Bushfire Management Plan recommending that “bad bushfires often start on private land so fuel management on private land is an important strategy for reducing bushfire risk” and the proposed State regime changes fly in the face of that critical strategy.

Proposed Planning Amendments C81 and C101 were bad policy based on flawed community engagement and a poor understanding of what is needed in peri-urban and rural areas to keep communities safe and prosperous. “We feel validated and encouraged that most residents of Nillumbik, VCAT and now the Minister for Planning have recognised and responded to this and abandoned these bad proposed planning amendments” said Narelle Campbell, a key member of the PALS Working Group who has driven the fight to see the amendments scrapped.

“We are grateful that our councillors have fulfilled their election commitments to us in dealing so swiftly and positively with this serious issue. We are encouraged that the Minister for Planning has been so responsive to our local community and to our local council."Nillumbik PALS remain cautiously optimistic that The Minister for Planning will be equally responsive in working with us, and stakeholders across rural and regional Victoria in achieving a safe and appropriate outcome in response to the dangerous biodiversity and native vegetation clearing regulation review DELWP have been developing in conjunction with environmental lobbying interests." she said

“Protecting human life and property is the highest priority in bushfire management planning and the State
Government runs the very real risk of compromising just that.” said Crock

Damian Crock will be available for comment and photos in the Nillumbik Shire offices on Tuesday 21 February 2017 from 6.30pm
When: Tuesday 21 February 2017 from 6.30pm
Where: Nillumbik Shire Council offices, 34 Civic Drive Greensborough
For media enquiries call Damian Crock on 0412 066 666
Or email:
-ENDS- 21 February 2017