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Letter to Minister Dick

By February 12, 2020 No Comments

The Hon. Cameron Dick MP
Minister for State Development, Manufacturing,
Industry and Planning
PO Box 15009
CITY EAST QLD 4002

Dear Minister

RE: INTRODUCTION OF A TEMPORARY LOCAL PLANNING INSTRUMENT (TLPI) No 1 of 2019 OVER THE MAREEBA SHIRE COUNCIL SHIRE PLAN.

I write to express my, and my community’s disappointment and exasperation at your unfortunate action in respect of the capacity of my Council to function according to the needs and wants of our community, whilst always respecting the integrity and potential of our rural land and landscape.

I attach a copy of the report that was tabled at our last meeting and the appropriate minute, for your information.

Your action was ill advised and based upon a seriously flawed document unfit for the purpose of advice to a Minister of the Crown. Further, your failure to offer me the opportunity to provide a contrary opinion or to refute the detail of the document reinforces the view that the decision was rushed and that you may well have had an ulterior motive – that being the restriction of any development west of the range, which may have an impact on the carrying capacity of the Kuranda Range Road.

The facts of the matter follow:
The Statement of Reasons, details five (5) approvals given since April 2018 as the basis for the decision.

  1. The Reever and Ocean Pty Ltd subdivision (5 into 49 lots) in Kuranda was properly made under the superseded 2004 Planning Scheme. It was assessed under the Code established by the State Governments Regional Plan which was specifically included in the MSC Planning Scheme as a requirement of the State at the time. Council approved the application as it could be conditioned to meet the Code, as required by the Planning Act.
    You claim in your Statement of Reasons that no less than 80 complainants urged you to call in this application and to refuse it. You failed to do so, as it was clear that there was no justification for such action. Your charge that the Council was at fault in this matter, given your failure as a Minister to deal with the matter is folly and gives cause to question the substance and the motivation of the entire Statement of Reasons.
  2. The Cowe and Smith subdivision (1 into 2 lots). This parcel was split into two 51 hectare lots roughly along a creek. The property is surrounded by smaller Rural Residential lots and is not considered to be good quality agricultural land. The productive capacity of the land by grazing beef cattle has not been reduced by the subdivision. Council agreed to this subdivision and very sensibly agreed to the boundary following a ridgeline between two deeply incised rainforest creeks as a natural boundary.
  3. The Rasmussen subdivision (1 into 3 lots) saw a large remaining parcel of 714 hectares and two smaller parcels of 56 and 51 hectares. The boundary between the two smaller lots and the larger lot was agreed by Council following an inspection and the boundaries were established to once again very sensibly use a creek as a natural boundary. Council could have insisted on the two smaller lots both being of 60 hectares each, however, such a decision would have taken reasonable quality agricultural land from the 714 hectare lot simply to achieve the 60 hectare target. This is an acceptable outcome under the plan. The lots excised were marginal land and had no effect on the agriculture capacity of the remaining lot.
  4.  The Reid subdivision (1 into 2 lots) was a small 5.16 hectare lot bounded by low density Residential lots on three sides and Rural Residential to its north east. Even in its full size it was too small for agricultural use and the area is essentially used for Rural Residential purposes.5. The Dixon subdivision (1 into 2 lots) again was a small lot, 3.5 hectares, that had an existing approval for commercial use, was surrounded by small lots and could in no way be identified as good quality agricultural land. To subdivide it into two lots would have no impact on any agricultural endeavours.

There has been reference to the 17 subdivisions approved by Council prior to your April 2018 letter. I will not detail what the basis of our decision was for all of these however if you look at each one you will find that in each case there was justification for the approval.

In these cases, the following factors will be found:
There was a practical division already in place i.e.: a road or creek, and/or;
The land could not be classed as good agricultural land and/or;
The original lot was already smaller than the 60 hectares and/or;
The lots were in close proximity to existing rural residential lots.

Council is very cognisant of the need to preserve good agricultural land. Agriculture is the main economic driving force of the Shire’s economy and will not be compromised by Council. Agriculture has been established in the region for over a century and all the productive land is being used to its full potential. The Mareeba Shire Council covers an area of 53,000 km; the vast majority of which is zoned rural and those areas of land suitable for agriculture have long since been developed and settled. Council has been careful to limit subdivision activity to land areas unsuited to agriculture and convenient to the changing needs of our growing community.

There have been numerous occasions when land owners have been advised not to lodge applications as Council will not approve them as they would see the fragmentation of viable agricultural land or may impact on agricultural production. When on occasion these individuals have persisted and have lodged applications in spite of advice, they have been refused. The attached refusal decision notices are several examples showing Council’s strong commitment to the protection of agricultural land.

Regrettably your Statement of Reasons indicates that neither you; nor your advisor has any clear understanding of the land form, the geography or the community of the Mareeba Shire Council. Neither do you have any understanding of historical settlement patterns or the changing demographic profile of our community. This lack of basic understanding reinforces our deep concern about what is considered to be a most unfortunate attack on the integrity of our Council.

As Councillors, we are long term residents of the Shire, well aware of the importance of our agricultural base which we will never place in jeopardy. Your decision to impose the TLPI on our planning scheme is a blunt instrument, applied for the wrong purpose and designed to correct a problem which does not exist. It will have a negative impact on the development of our Shire for years to come.

I will be travelling to Brisbane and will be available to meet with you in person on either the afternoon of the 24th February or the morning of the 25th and in the event that such a meeting is not possible, I offer an invitation for you to visit in person and I will personally offer you a Cook’s tour of those areas of which you express concern so that we might enter into a rational discussion, with a view to withdrawal of the TLPI.

Yours faithfully

TOM GILMORE
MAYOR – MAREEBA SHIRE COUNCIL

Footnote: By way of interest, both Douglas Shire and Cairns Regional Council areas enjoy the privilege of 40 ha minimum lot sizes in rural areas; both of which comply with the Far North Queensland Regional Plan.