– Cr Rich’s moment of truth looms

THERE are some sticking points with the South Gippsland Shire Council’s planning opus, the Housing and Settlement strategy, known as Amendment C90.
And some of them are bound to be discussed on Wednesday, July 25 when the matter is listed for decision by council.
But they are relatively few and far between despite the fact that the amendment impacts hundreds of privately-owned parcels of land and dozens of small townships and settlements throughout the shire.
Prominent among those sticking points, however, is an objection by the owners of a 403.7 hectare grazing property at Walkerville, adjacent to the Promontory Views Estate.
The amendment doesn’t provide for the expansion of the township boundary of Walkerville so they can subdivide 40 hectares of their property into large residential allotments.
The owner of that property is Ansevata Nominees of which South Gippsland Shire Councillor, Jeremey Rich, is a director.
Amendment C90 does not recommend an expansion of any of the settlements in the Walkerville area.
It recommends as follows:
“Maintain Walkerville – Promontory View Estate, Walkerville North and Walkerville South as principally unserviced holiday destinations. Discourage any further commercial development in the Walkerville – Promontory Views Estate area, Walkerville North and Walkerville South apart from non-retail commercial facilities which are aimed at the tourist market and which could be readily confined to a house or residential property.”
In Attachment 2.1.3 to the agenda for the July 25 council meeting, a shire officer’s report makes direct reference to a submission by Jacques Rich, Cr Rich’s father, on behalf of Ansevata Nominees.
It summarises the grounds for Ansevata’s objection; the amendment cannot go ahead until the retarding basin area is independently surveyed, the council should first take action to “prevent septic effluent discharging into the dam” and notes the submitter wants to subdivide the land into residential allotments.
In response to the submission, the officer’s report recommends no change to Walkerville under Amendment C90 on the grounds that:
“Amendment C90 is not rezoning any land at Walkerville. Any issues relating to application of the Public Use Zone to land north-west of Promontory View Estate (retarding basin) are not relevant to assessment of the Amendment. They could be dealt with by a separate General or site specific amendment; – Issues relating to effluent disposal and water quality in a nearby dam to the Promontory View Estate are not relevant to assessment of Amendment C90… and South Gippsland Water (SGW), not Council, is the authority responsible for provision of reticulated water and sewerage services.”
Fifty public submissions about the Walkerville framework plans were received, 49 in favour of retaining the existing settlement boundaries. Some, for example, wanted greater control exercised over the design of buildings so they fitted better into the landscape but the shire said “the most appropriate method for this detailed type of control is in a Design and Development Overlay, not inclusion in the Amendment C90 settlement policies”.
Only the Rich family submission opposed the amendment in its present form.
Cr Rich has previously declared a conflict of interest in Planning Scheme Amendment C90, when he exempted himself from a councillors’ briefing meeting on March 7 this year.
But he failed to declare a conflict of interest in the same issue at the South Gippsland Shire Council’s Public Presentation Day on Wednesday, April 18 and again on Wednesday, April 26 when he participated in the debate and ultimately voted with four other councillors, Crs Hill, Skinner, McEwen and Argento, to defer consideration of Amendment C90 to next week’s council meeting on a 5:4 vote.
The Mayor Cr Lorraine Brunt said at the time that it was conceivable that if Cr Rich had absented himself from the meeting, the vote would have been tied 4:4 and she would have used her casting vote as Mayor to adopt the amendment and seek the appointment of an independent panel by the Planning Minister.
Such a recommendation is on the agenda again this time, and with the State Government appointed Municipal Monitor Peter Stephenson likely to be present, it will be of interest to see whether Cr Rich declares a conflict of interest this time.
There are of course several other sticking points, one of them relating to privately owned land at Port Welshpool, about which Cr Ray Argento has expressed some concern.
The owners of a 13.8 hectare grazing property in Lasseters Road Port Welshpool have objected to their land being included in the amendment claiming it would extinguish their right to apply for development permits potentially for subdivision and/or housing.
But the shire recommendation notes that “the combined effect of inundation risk, bushfire risk, landscape, zoning and the size of the property (greater than 4.1ha and less than 40ha) creates a situation in which development of a dwelling is not supported by the Planning Scheme”.
The amendment was deferred at the April meeting “to provide councillors with further time to consider submissions and other matters relating to the municipal statement”. Whether they are ready to make a decision now is to be decided next Wednesday but will they do it with or without Cr Rich’s participation?
All will be revealed but the matter could well be overshadowed by another pressing matter set down for decision at the same meeting, the use of land at Leongatha South for motorcycle racing.