Swan Valley planning change feared

Grape expectations: The Bill and Plan lack a ‘right to farm’ element, says Rita Saffioti.
Grape expectations: The Bill and Plan lack a ‘right to farm’ element, says Rita Saffioti.

WEST Swan MLA Rita Saffioti has claimed The Swan Valley Protection Bill 2016 has created significant uncertainty and confusion about the future of the area.

The Bill was introduced to State Parliament last week and passed by Planning Minister Donna Faragher.

The intention of the legislation was to repeal the Swan Valley Planning Act 1995 and provide a new planning framework.

Ms Saffioti said while she welcomed the focus on maintaining the rural character of the Swan Valley, there were a number of concerns regarding the content of the Bill.

ALSO READ: Sweet taste of success for Swan Valley-based chocolatiers

“The minister is asking for the Parliament to support legislation without the details of the development plan being |finalised,” she said. “In a sense, she is asking Parliament to sign a blank cheque.”

Ms Faragher said the Bill was introduced to provide the legal mechanism through which to establish the Development Plan; the draft of which was released for public comment between October 2015 and February this year.

“One of the biggest concerns of the current legislation has been the lack of consistency in decision making,” she said.

“We are fixing this by providing a simpler, contemporary framework for the regulation of development in the Swan Valley to more effectively protect the valley’s rural character.”

However, Ms Saffioti said the Protection Bill had taken away residents’ |voices.

“The abolition of the Swan Valley Planning Committee, with no real |replacement, will mean that the many different voices of the valley will have no real place to be heard,” she said.

“The committee has significant local knowledge and expertise and without a dedicated board the many interests in the valley will not be properly represented.

“The valley will just be treated like any other part of the metropolitan area, without its own voice.”

Ms Faragher said she was in favour of another committee being appointed.

“I am also supportive of a consultative committee being established by the City of Swan. The Department of Planning will continue to discuss this with the City over the coming months,” she said.

Acting Swan chief executive Jim Coten said the City was awaiting advice from the |Department of Planning in regards to the outcomes from the public consultation |period for the Development Plan.

He also said if residents were concerned they should approach their councillor. “Residents have a place to voice their opinions on planning matters through the City of Swan council,” he said.

“These elected members will continue to represent their community and to make decisions based on the best outcome for the region. Residents can contact the City or their Ward Councillor to discuss any matters that are important to them.”

Ms Saffioti was also concerned that the draft plan and legislation did not address many of the obstructions for agriculture in the valley, such as land tax, water supply and right to farm issues.

“The Bill and Plan do not provide any practical support to address many of the challenges in undertaking agricultural pursuits in the valley, in particular viticulture,” she said.

“There is no ‘right to farm’ element, there is nothing to address the water shortages and water allocation issues and they have not addressed the cost challenges to leasing properties such as land tax.

“There is little planned investment for the area, including no supporting funding to improve road and public transport to services the region.”

Ms Faragher said the Government was committed to ensuring the best outcome was reached.

It had always recognised the importance of the Swan Valley and its rural character.

“It was a Liberal Government that introduced the original legislation in 1995 and a Liberal National Government introducing a new Protection Bill in 2016.”