PLANNING Minister Brad Hazzard has refused to endorse the use of E2 and E3 environment zones on rural land in the LEPs of several North Coast councils.
The minister was asked to intervene by North Coast MPs Thomas George and Don Page because of concerns the zonings could limit agriculture and other uses. The announcement relates specifically to Lismore, Kyogle, Tweed, Byron and Ballina councils.
An LEP (Local Environment Plan) is the legal document councils are required to produce that outlines zonings and controls within a local government area. The E2 Environmental Conservation zone is the highest protection for ecological, scientific, cultural or aesthetic values outside national parks and nature reserves. The E3 Environmental Management zone is for areas that have "special" attributes and require "careful consideration/management".
But Don Page said "these restrictive controls" could reduce property values.
"The NSW Government will act to ensure the rights of existing landowners are protected (and) the government will now review the suitability of these controls, whilst still providing appropriate
protection for the environment," he said.
Minister Hazzard said all proposed environmental overlays (maps) on land that is clearly rural would also be removed.
"Local environmental plans establish good land use planning principles for the entire council area and it's important that planning for other uses such as new housing and employment generation can go ahead while this issue is being resolved," Mr Hazzard said.
"However, this government is not going to stop farmers and other existing landowners from carrying on their businesses through overly restrictive environmental zones."
It is not clear what will replace the E2 and E3 zones or the environmental overlays.
Lismore Mayor Jenny Dowell said the announcement had come as "a bolt from the blue".
"I'm very disappointed about this, to put it mildly. It flies in the face of everything we believed we have achieved through community consultation," she said.
Mayor Dowell said the council had rung the Department of Planning in Grafton and Sydney after seeing Mr Hazzard's media release, but staff there said they knew nothing about it.
Lismore Council had received funding from the Planning Department for mapping the environmental zones to make sure they were accurate.
"The department had told us there were no major concerns with the LEP... It has been developed over several years and been through several drafts. Seventy-five per cent of people who had objected to the first draft didn't object to the second draft, so we thought we had addressed the issues in the revision," Mayor Dowell said.
"In overruling this extensive and expensive process, Brad Hazzard has been lobbied by two North Coast MPs who have listened to a handful of objectors... Staff and councillors have done a fantastic job on this well-balanced document."