Tweed Shire Council's Rural Land Strategy has once again come up for debate in tonight’s meeting. Photo: Scott Powick
Tweed Shire Council's Rural Land Strategy has once again come up for debate in tonight’s meeting. Photo: Scott Powick

Second dwellings on farms would have ‘dire consequences’

TWEED'S rural lands have once again found the spotlight as a talking point dividing council as the topic of debate.

The controversial Rural Land Strategy (RLS) document which aimed to set a blueprint for council policy moving forward was voted in earlier this year.

One of the biggest gripes under the now current strategy was the restricted provisions that mean not all farmers will be able to build a second dwelling for their family's other generations or to provide a second revenue stream.

However, just because something was included in the document does not mean it will come to fruition, the actions points were to be explored as possibilities.


Tweed Shire councillor Warren Polglase.
Tweed Shire councillor Warren Polglase.


In response to the uproar from farmers, Cr Polglase has tabled three notice of motions for tonight's council meeting.

One of which, if passed will mean council amends the Tweed's Local Environment Plan (LEP) to permit with consent dual occupancy detached dwellings as a use on rural properties regardless of lot sizes.


<<READ MORE: Why councillors are divided over Tweed's Rural Land strategy>>


Cr Polglase said if successful, this motion will effectively speed up the process than if just the RLS alone was amended.

"The action points in the RLS still need to be voted on and amended in the LEP to happen," he explained.

Former mayor councillor Katie Milne is staunchly against the motion, claiming if rural properties of any size were allowed to have an additional dwelling it would cause "dire consequences for the rest of the community and for the future of farming in the Tweed".


Former Tweed mayor Kaite Milne. Picture: NIGEL HALLETT
Former Tweed mayor Kaite Milne. Picture: NIGEL HALLETT


"Staff have advised that Cr Polglase's proposal would ultimately allow for 4,691 new rural dwellings at a cost of $11.5M in lost rates that would have to be subsidised by the rest of the community to the tune of a 10 per cent rate increase," Cr Milne said.


<<READ MORE: Farmers wants ignored again in draft strategy>>


"As rates are based on the property alone no rates would be able to be collected for any of these new dwellings, meaning the wider community would be left to foot the bill effectively subsidising these rural landholders.

"While I have sympathy for the rural land holders who would like a second dwelling the cost to the rest of the community, including the pensioners in town who are already struggling to pay their rates is too great, and the future of farming in Tweed would be in real jeopardy."


<<READ MORE: Tweed council defends controversial rural land strategy>>


However Cr Polglase said her assertions were "totally erroneous" as not all rural lots have dwelling entitlements.

"She has made that up … The council has no record of what rural lots have dwelling entitlements," he said.

"A dwelling entitlement is a colloquial term which means having a second dwelling it is allowable with consent and sometimes these dwelling can't get consent because can't meet the requirements.

"They still have to go through the normal processes when you want to build a house but they also have to address to major things other houses don't - set backs for bushfires and envirocycles which is how they handle their waste.

"To say all eligible houses would all get approved is total fabrication."


<<READ MORE: Farmers claim rural strategy complaints fell on deaf ears>>


Cr Polglase has also put forward a separate motion that would create a nine-member Rural Land Industry Advisory Committee consisting of five members engaged in rural activities and four with special qualifications like planning, agronomy or a councillor.

This aims to address another criticism of the RLS process where rural stakeholders claimed they were not adequately consulted.


<<READ MORE: Owners furious over rural land strategy>>


Cr Polglase has also moved in a third motion to amend the RLS by leaving the existing minimum lots size for RU1 category land, seeking an independent panel to review the relevance of the 40h minimum lot size, creating a plan to identify rural area not suitable for agriculture and implement zoning to allow lifestyle owners to purchase and maintain smaller rural parcels.

The motion also includes removing restrictions on RLS which prevent building on sloping land that is in excess of 12 degrees.