Time extension on strategy consultation: a closer look

June 19th, 2024Time extension on strategy consultation: a closer look

The consultation period on Hepburn Shire Council’s draft Township Structure Plans and Rural Hepburn strategy has been extended to June 26.

The consultation period on Hepburn Shire Council’s draft Township Structure Plans and Rural Hepburn strategy has been extended to June 26.

The draft documents were released on May 1 with the original consultation period ending on June 12.
Mayor Cr Brian Hood thanked everyone who had already lodged their submissions.

“We know there is a lot of detail and so we’ve decided to extend the consultation period so we can gain more insights from the community.

“Though the deadline is extended by a fortnight, it will still give us time to fully consider that feedback and work to adopt the strategy in early September.

“I encourage every resident to access the information via council’s ‘Participate Hepburn’ page. This is a
once-in-a-generation planning strategy that will guide development for many years to come.”

Cr Hood said all the submissions would be considered by councillors and he assured the community
that all feedback was being taken into account “and (we) will continue to do so before we consider possible adoption”.

A council media release said the Rural Hepburn strategy provided a comprehensive planning and action framework for the use and development of private rural land.

“It will provide a safeguard for rural land. Initial community feedback reaffirms that agricultural land is
highly valued, contributes significant economic benefits, that conservation and biodiversity are important, and that rural tourism is a significant growth contributor,” the release said.

“The strategy proposes to introduce contemporary and clearer planning provisions, so getting feedback from community on these options is important.”

CEO Bradley Thomas said community engagement had been integral in providing further local knowledge.

“The small, but highly skilled strategic planning team have gathered great insights from the community and submissions to date, which they will review and provide recommendations to councillors.”

The council has held face-to-face meetings in each of its townships, which attracted many interested
individuals. Online there have been thousands of visits to the Participate Hepburn site, and almost 500 people have completed the survey.

“We have all these farms around us, a form of food security for the town, and that should never
be taken for granted. We have really good soil, really good water, and can just throw seeds on the
ground and food will grow for us. To destroy that is ludicrous.”

These are the words of Vasko Drogriski, one of the “very active” members of grassroots community group Pastures not Pavements.

The Daylesford and Hepburn Springs group’s aims are threefold. To stop plans to rezone land in East Street from farmland to residential, to stop extensions to Daylesford’s town boundary and also stop the rezoning of another parcel of farmland to industrial.

“The hopes of the group are that the extension of the town boundary gets dropped and the council also puts aside the rezoning of farmland to residential. There is not sufficient evidence for it to be warranted and these are very big modifications to the town.

“We are just saying if there is no urgent need for it, why do it now? Why not just step back, look at it again in 10 or 15 years’ time and if there is any such need, reassess then and have another discussion with the town.”

Mr Drogriski, a builder, said councillors were listening and understood it was an important issue for
the community but “we don’t know which way they are going to vote”.

“They are certainly hearing this is a serious thing for the town and people are quite unanimous about it. That message is getting through.”

If the plans do make it through council, despite opposition, Mr Drogriski said the group would continue to fight.

“The next stage would be the planning scheme amendment and we have been collecting evidence and
if we have to, we will take that to the minister.

There is evidence of improper consultation, flaws in the plans themselves and insufficient evidence for some of the changes they are proposing.

“The community, including our group have done a lot work in terms of fleshing out and exploring options and we think we have some very good viable options we want the council to look at and consider seriously.

“We have a lot of expertise and experience and some of us have been here 20, 30 or 40 years. I am a building designer myself so I have some insight into where housing is possible and it doesn’t need to go on a farm which is sitting on top of a spring that flows into one of our main tourist attractions, the Lake.

“There is a lot of space for housing within the town boundary and there are viable alternatives which will keep the town as it is and how people and tourists like it.”

Mr Drogriski said the shire’s councillors needed to leave a legacy of “retaining the beauty and structure of this town – why any councillor would want to leave a legacy of destroying a big heritage beats me. If you want to leave a legacy, leave a good one.”

He said farmer Ned Powell, whose East Street property is in the firing line for rezoning, was “probably
partly overwhelmed but also actively engaged in the fight”.

“It is not just Ned, it is his uncles and his aunty who own the property together, who have been dragged into something they don’t want. But Ned is in there batting for his whole family because he sees his future in farming, and he wants to be that next generation with his kids who want to farm that property.

“I think he is also inspired by the support he is getting from the community. It has been a fantastic community effort, and it shows me for the first time in the 20 years I have been here how supportive the community is of our farmers and the farmland around own town.

“I have seen how much people value the farmland, the open spaces, the rural edge. And that has been fantastic.”

Words: Donna Kelly | Image: Wayne Hammond

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