VICTORIAN Planning Minister Matthew Guy this week announced approval of changes to the State's rural and green wedge zones, completing a suite of major reforms to land use zones in Victoria that have included new residential and commercial zones and amended industrial zones.
The amended rural and green wedge zones, to be gazetted on September 5, aim to support agricultural activity, allow more tourism related uses and support population retention to sustain rural communities through the removal of unnecessary conditions and land use restrictions and the introduction of additional permit exemptions.
The amended zones cover the vast geographic majority of the state and will continue under their existing names, comprising the Farming Zone, Rural Living Zone, Rural Activities Zone, Green Wedge Zone, Green Wedge A Zone and the Rural Conservation Zone.
Mr Guy said the purpose of the new rural zones is to make it easier to start and operate rural industries and to give rural and regional councils much greater flexibility in managing their own municipalities.
"These reforms allow rural councils to get on with sensible local decision making rather than getting caught up in convoluted planning processes. The new zones will be positive for jobs, investment and population growth in rural and regional Victoria," the Minister said.
Mr Guy said the reforms also seek to generate increased tourism opportunities and deliver on the Victorian Competition and Efficiency Commission's 2011 report, 'Unlocking Victorian Tourism', whilst continuing to protect green wedge land.
According to the government, key changes include:
- Encouraging agricultural use of land, particularly in the Farming and Green Wedge Zones;
- Allowing councils to consider more 'off farm' income streams on farms, such as farm machinery repair businesses;
- Increasing the permit threshold for extensions to farm out-buildings, such as work sheds, shearing sheds and dairy facilities from 50 square metres to 100 square metres;
- Removing the need for a permit for primary produce sales, rural stores and most rural industries in the Rural Activities Zone;
- Removing restrictions on crop structures, to ensure protection from hail and other elements;
- Allowing councils the ability to determine smaller lifestyle lots in the Rural Living Zone where land has already been taken out of agricultural production;
- Allowing greater consideration of tourism uses in all but Green Wedge Zones; and
- Promoting farm gate sales such as the sale of fruit, vegetables and other produce.
The 'in conjunction' test for agricultural use will remain in the two Green Wedge Zones but has been removed from the Rural Conservation Zone in order to encourage tourism and job growth across rural Victoria.
"This zone reform is essential for the modernisation of our planning structures for rural and regional Victoria, and completes the Coalition Government's election commitment to reform planning zones," Mr Guy said.
"The Coalition Government has been through a long period of detailed consultation in forming these reformed zone structures and is now confident that we have found the right balance between job and population growth and conservation and farming land protection rights."
The Reformed Zones Ministerial Advisory Committee, which was established in November last year to review the proposed zone reforms, was largely supportive of the government's proposals but made 23 recommendations to improve the proposed rural zones and address any unintended consequences in a report submitted earlier this year.
The government, in its response to the Committee's report, agreed to nine of the recommendations, agreed in part to a further nine recommendations and did not agree with the remaining five recommendations.
More information is available from <http://www.dpcd.vic.gov.au/planning/theplanningsystem/improving-the-system/new-zones-for-victoria/new-and-improved-rural-zones>.