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Farmers told feedback crucial for rural zone changes

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
The Shire of Augusta-Margaret River.
Camera IconThe Shire of Augusta-Margaret River. Credit: Warren Hately/Augusta-Margaret River Times

Shire planners have moved to allay fears about proposed changes to agricultural zoning and say feedback from farmers and residents is crucial.

With the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River’s draft local planning scheme 2 closing to consultation at the end of this month after two extensions, submissions were encouraged according to sustainable development and infrastructure director Nick Logan.

“The shire is committed to a thorough consultation with input from the entire community, so in addition to the submission process, we are using a range of methods to engage with the community and obtain their feedback, including meetings with specific stakeholders, drop-in sessions and town-hall style meetings,” he said.

“Through our consultation process, we want to properly consider the implications of the draft scheme so it can be furthered refined to create a planning scheme that delivers the best long-term outcomes for our community.”

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Concerns about flagged changes to do away with “priority agriculture” zoning came to a head during last month’s annual electors meeting when delegates moved three motions to hone planners’ focus on the contribution of agriculture and the need to consult with farmers and not just conservationists.

Scott River residents were particularly concerned about changes where farming-related zoning would all be categorised under the single “rural” zone.

Spokesman Todd Giles from the Witchcliffe Community Association said rural landholders were very concerned.

“(We are) led to believe priority agriculture overrules environmental conservation, but the alarm bell here is environmental conservation overrules rural zoning,” he said.

“If Augusta-Margaret River shire farmers wish to retain priority agricultural, we suggest you submit a submission quoting that we do not want this zoning change.”

Shire planning and regulatory services manager Matt Cuthbert sought to smooth out those concerns.

“The draft LPS2 includes provisions applicable to the rural zone, which like the current scheme, aim to balance environmental sustainability of future developments with the economic realities of agriculture,” he said.

“Farmers are the custodians of significant environmental assets in the shire so we’re working with them to ensure the LPS2 achieves the shared goal of creating a sustainable and prosperous agricultural sector.”

Mr Logan said the new rural category was following a classification trend set by the State Government’s revised scheme rules using standardised zone names.

“There are some differences between the current LPS1 and draft LPS2 that are detailed in the draft scheme which provide greater clarity around matters taken into account when there’s a change to a more intensive land use in agricultural areas,” Mr Logan said.

“These changes don’t impact the continued use of agricultural land as it is currently being used.”

Submissions close on Wednesday, February 28.

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