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Victoria’s New Rural Zones_____

Victoria’s New Rural Zones

Planning Minister Matthew Guy today announced the final reformed new rural zones, which will be formally introduced into planning schemes on 5 September 2013.

The new rural zones seek to encourage agricultural use of land, while at the same time providing greater flexibility, where appropriate, to use land for rural industries and employment-generating activities such as tourism, agricultural services and the sale of produce through "farm gate" outlets.

Tourism is a particular focus of the rural zone reforms. While land in the Green Wedge zones will retain its designation for primarily agricultural and open-space purposes, land in other rural zones - including the Rural Conservation Zone - will accommodate a wider range of "stand alone" activities intended to encourage tourism growth and job opportunities in rural Victoria.

While the six rural zones will continue under their existing names, each of them will be amended, to varying extents:
  • TheRural Living Zone will continue to provide for residential use in a rural environment, with a default minimum lot size of 2 hectares (reduced from the 8 hectare minimum currently applicable). The default lot size can be varied from council to council by specification of a different minimum area in a schedule to the zone.
  • The Rural Conservation Zone will retain the purpose of conserving identified natural and environmental assets and resources, but greater flexibility for tourism-related uses will be introduced. Residential hotels and restaurants, currently allowed only if in conjunction with agriculture, rural industry or a winery, will now be allowed as "stand alone" uses, subject to a planning permit. Current limits on bedroom numbers and restaurant patron numbers will be removed.
  • Similarly, within the Farming Zone, restaurants and residential hotels will be allowed as "stand alone" uses under the reforms, subject to a planning permit. Use of land for small-scale rural industry and for primary produce sales outlets will in some cases be allowed without the need for a planning permit.
  • The Rural Activity Zone is being amended to allow a wider range of economic activities - such as small-scale rural industry and rural stores used in conjunction with agriculture - without the need for a planning permit. Hotels and restaurants will be subject to a planning permit, and larger-scale retail uses will be prohibited.
  • Within the Green Wedge Zone, tourism-related uses such as a residential hotel, a restaurant and a function centre will be allowed subject to a planning permit, but those uses must be "in conjunction with" agriculture, outdoor recreation or other typically rural activities. Current restrictions on the intensity of a land use - for example room numbers and restaurant patron numbers - will be removed.
  • Green Wedge A Zone expressly seeks to protect and enhance biodiversity, natural resource, landscape and heritage values. As in the Green Wedge Zone some tourism uses - including restaurants, function centres and group accommodation - will be allowed, subject to a planning permit, where those uses are in conjunction with agriculture, outdoor recreation or other rural activities.
Publication of the new rural zones concludes the State Government's reform of Victoria's planning zones, which has also seen the introduction of new or reformed zones for residential, commercial and industrial land use across Victoria.

Following last Wednesday's release of Victoria's reformed rural zones, corrections have been made by DTPLI which will limit the intensification of tourist uses on land subject to the Green Wedge Zone (GWZ) and Green Wedge A Zone (GWAZ).

In the "corrected" final Green Wedge Zones, controls on the intensity of tourist uses on green wedge land will be maintained: total restaurant and function centre patrons, for example, must not exceed 150; and where a residential hotel is allowed, the number of bedrooms must not exceed 80. Schedules to the zone can reduce, but not increase, these limits from council to council.

Lot size requirements will also be retained for tourist uses in the Green Wedge Zones, so that these facilities can only be established on land which meets the minimum subdivision size requirement applicable under the relevant zone.

The new zones are set to commence on 5 September 2013.

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