Community & Business

17 December, 2023

Lake development gets over the line

VERY poor soil that can’t grow anything and a lack of water for crops was the reason given by Tablelands Regional Councillors when approving a four-lot subdivision on the shores of Lake Tinaroo.

By Robyn Holmes

Lake development gets over the line - feature photo

The approval went against officers’ recommendation to refuse the development, citing its conflict with the planning scheme, especially around the use and development of agricultural or rural land.

The 15-hectare property is located on Welch Road, Barrine and fronts Lake Tinaroo, with landowner Kaye Ireland able to speak directly to the council prior to the decision being made at last month’s meeting.

Ms Ireland said she had tried everything to make the property viable as agricultural land.

“I have tried to grow things – it just doesn’t happen, the soil quality just isn’t there,” she said, also noting also that she did not have access to enough water to successfully grow crops.

Deputy Mayor Cr Kevin Cardew agreed with the landowner and said by allowing it to be divided into four blocks was “not taking away from good agricultural land”.

Cr Bernie Wilce said he, too, knew the soil quality was “extremely poor” and was comforted by the fact the applicant was not going to sell the lots on the open market.

“We had an onsite visit, it’s a beautiful location. The soil is extremely poor and it’s not as if the lots are just going to the retail market – it’s going to family members of the applicant,” he said.

Usually protective of good agricultural land, Cr David Clifton said, in this instance, the land was of such poor quality that it “would not sustain any kind of economic agricultural life”.

“If you stand on the hill of the land and make any kind of judgement on whether it’s agricultural land or not, it doesn’t pass the pub test,” he said.

“As I looked around 360 degrees, there was one horse grazing in the paddock next door. There were no cattle, no signs of any agricultural improvements.

“Although it’s defined as an agricultural zone, (previous) decisions of councils means it’s surrounded by a lot of smaller lot areas and probably, in my view, won’t sustain the classification as agricultural land (in a review of the planning scheme).

“I am a proponent of the right to farm – my assessment here is that the right to farm doesn’t exist.”

Mayor Rod Marti spoke strongly against allowing the land to be subdivided.

“We need to be particularly careful of rural land parcels around Tinaroo, It has much greater sensitivity that other land parcels that are just in land-bound areas,” he said.

“It’s not our job to ensure that everyone can have a waterfront lifestyle or residential block on Lake Tinaroo, Our responsibility is to preserve the integrity of the agricultural land. 

“I know you can see all sorts of infringements on agricultural land that have occurred in the past. We can’t be responsible for what happened in the past but we can be responsible for preserving the integrity, not only of the rural land which this property is, but the rural amenity of the neighbouring land.”

Mayor Marti did not accept the land could not be used for agricultural purposes, saying greenhouses and mushroom farms could operate “perfectly fine in this location”. 

He also argued that having differing land uses in close proximity always ended up in council receiving complaints. 

“This one is particularly important because it’s on Lake Tinaroo – it’s an agricultural reservoir, it’s there for primary industries, it does have recreational uses but they’re a secondary use,” he said.

“It’s our duty to always preserve the rural size land parcels and the rural amenity because that’s the greatest asset of our community and our economy.

“So, these sorts of applications around Tinaroo – it’s a death of a thousand cuts – we might approve this one today but then in five years’ time, someone may come along and wants to split one of the blocks that have already been cut and split that into two. 

“A future council may look and say ‘well if you look over there, someone has already done it’.

“We can’t look back and see the decisions that have been made in the past and use that to justify the decisions we make today.

“Once the application like this is approved, two things are guaranteed – the land will never return to agriculture, it’s gone forever and the second thing is that we will have an increase in these types of applications, especially around Lake Tinaroo, going forward.”

Development Services executive manager Sean Lisle told councillors that there were four objections to the development and explained why officers had refused the application.

“For officers, it’s a policy position – not just the council’s policy position, as expressed in its planning scheme, but supported by State policy through the State Planning Policy and the Regional Plan,” he said. 

The approval was narrowly passed 4-3.


Most Popular