Water S.O.S Tasmania

A waste of time
Barnaby Drake
Despite these ten very obvious and profound differences, the Council and the planners can see no disparity between trees and potatoes.

LATE last week all those people who submitted input to the previous PAL Act in the Meander Valley received a 2 centimetre thick document from the local council.

It declared that there had been 550 pages of input from 221 people, resulting in a 331 page reply.

The only thing this achieved was a small amendment to the wording of two subsection paragraphs of 3.6.3.x.x.x relating to errors and boundary definitions. Every other point and every other submission has been rejected and the planning department deemed that no change is necessary to the current PAL Act Amendment. We have totally wasted our time.

As far as we can gather, the only effective difference between the new amendment and the old is that the 40 hectare clause has been dropped - not by any desire of the council, but from instructions from higher authority. However, the $1 million clause remains, which effectively nullifies any application for building permission in the rural areas.

The only consideration for an application is that it must be for agricultural purposes and must be accompanied by a farm plan prepared by a ‘suitably qualified person’. With the exception of some tourism, living on the land you own, hobby farms and other pursuits are disallowed.

The answers in the report have been prepared by the Planning Department, and the Amendment is expected to be rubber-stamped at the next Meander Valley Council meeting and submitted to the RPDC. This report on the local input, which has virtually been rejected in its entirety, has been laid out in sections and in three columns. A paraphrase of the question in the first column, a brief stereotyped reply in the second and the action, which in almost every case is to recommend no action to be taken, in the third column. I feel there should be a fourth column added to show the Councillor’s response to the Planners, as to whether or not they accept their recommendations. This would give us a clear indication of where we stand and just who is standing up for our rights.

We have been told that if the planning department does not conform with the government instructions, then we risk that the RPDC will take over this function. In effect it has already happened, and the local planners are reflecting only those views expressed in the PAL Act and nothing of the local inhabitants wishes. All the private and public meetings, petitions and activities of the Action groups have been completely ignored as though they did not happen. Any appeals against a planning decision are to the RPDC. There is no necessity for the Government to take over or amalgamate the councils as these have already become simply an arm of the state government.

This is one step nearer to dictatorship and a Totalitarian State and it would appear that our local council concurs with this point of view.

Throughout the replies, we have been informed that the Government defines plantations as an agricultural crop and states that it should be treated no differently from any other agricultural crop. This has eagerly been seized on by the planning department of the council and has been used to nullify a vast proportion of the objections. Despite the fact that the residents of the area can see a difference, apparently the council takes this at its face value, but when examining the facts, there is a vast difference between a farm and a plantation. Even the Federal Government acknowledges this difference, but the RPDC fails to see it.

Firstly, plantations receive preferential treatment at every level of government, to the exclusion of real agriculture. They are given a one hundred percent tax break at Federal level, which encourages the MIS companies to sell lots in advance for huge profits, and then buy up our productive farmland to satisfy this appetite for money.

Second, plantations are subsidised at State levels, and where other land owners are required to pay Land Tax where they do not live on their property, the new owners are excused this burden.

Third, A PTR or private timber estate only pays a token rate to the local council, thus putting the burden for this subsidy on all the other ratepayers.

Fourth, it is given precedence over every other crop, and does not require planning permission is not subject to all the other rules that control food farmers.

Fifth, it is allowed to pollute its neighbours with cancer-causing aerial sprays, and the neighbour has to make way for this chemical trespass on his own land.

Sixth, plantations are given water rights that the rest of the community does not enjoy, and they are also responsible for the depleted and polluted water in our catchment areas.

Seventh, once a plantation has been established, the fertile land is lost to true agriculture forever, and the soil is ruined and the crop becomes a major polluter, eventually when it is harvested, adding substantially to the greenhouse gases of the planet.

Eighth, plantation timber lots are now traded on the stock exchange.

Ninth, however much you boil them, you can’t eat trees.

Tenth, plantations do not employ people to run them and do not support any local activity or business, plus they create unemployment in the farming and related community.

Despite these ten very obvious and profound differences, the Council and the planners can see no disparity between trees and potatoes.

It is also noteworthy that the amendment has to be submitted to the RPDC by the 31st October - the exact date when the new council is to be declared. This does not allow any new council members to either examine or have any input into the decisions made for them by the outgoing council. This is clearly wrong.

It is also noted that the current amendment has not been shown to the public and is following exactly the same format as the previous one, and from what one can gather from the council replies to questions, is almost a direct copy of the old one and conforms to the requirements of the state government completely. Again, they have been working in secret There is no pretence of listening to or representing the local people.

Local councils are becoming simply an organ of the State.

Democracy is DEAD!