28/09/2004 - 22:00

Wetland flight heating up

28/09/2004 - 22:00

Bookmark

Upgrade your subscription to use this feature.

Draft policy and legislation designed to protect wetlands has drawn strong criticism from industry bodies, which call it yet another intrusion on property rights for which land owners are not being compensated.

Wetland flight heating up

Draft policy and legislation designed to protect wetlands has drawn strong criticism from industry bodies, which call it yet another intrusion on property rights for which land owners are not being compensated.

After a rally in Perth two weeks ago against the erosion of property rights and a series of public meetings addressing the issue, the Pastoralists and Graziers’ Association last week met with the Environmental Protection Authority to discuss the Draft environmental Protection (Swan Coastal Plain Wetlands) Policy and Regulations.

PGA private property rights committee chairman Craig Underwood told WA Business News the recent public meetings had drawn an exceptional turnout and that the PGA was committed to protecting private property rights.

Mr Underwood criticised the wetlands protection legislation, saying the definition of a wetland was too broad and that it was essentially acquisition by stealth of pastoral land.

“The definition is so wide that in some cases entire properties could be wetlands.  We reject being the environmental offset for mistakes that have been made in the city in relation to environmental planning,” he said.

“The PGA believes the state should identify bio-diverse hot spots that are of particular importance and acquire them by paying over-the-fence prices.

“The State then ends up with a valuable asset and the property rights of the owner are respected.

“When you put these (wetlands) zonings on a property, it has the immediate effect of a capital write down and a property can be devalued by 50 per cent, which can then put a mortgage in doubt

“These are people’s life savings and family legacies we are talking about.”

Mr Underwood said 30 percent of effected land owners had not yet received notice that their land would be effected.

“If land owners don’t appeal or submit against the zoning, they are deemed to have agreed with it,” he said.

Mr Underwood said no social or economic factors had been investigated in determining the policy and that the Government’s triple bottom line was only employed when it suited them.

Environmental Protection Authority chairman Wally Cox said a number of submissions had been received in relation to the draft policy and regulations and these were being considered.

“The policy is about trying to protect the last of the conservation class wetlands,” Dr Cox said.

“We have had a massive loss of wetlands, and if people want to contest the classification of their land they need to lodge a submission to the EPA with a cogent argument as to why the portion of their land should not be zoned as a wetland area.

“An independent consultant will then inspect the land and determine the environmental value.”

With submissions originally due to close on September 24, Dr Cox conceded that not all effected land owners had been notified.

He said the deadline for submissions had been extended until October 15.

“The effect the policy will have is that farmers won’t be able to fill, drain or clear land that is zoned as a wetland,” Dr Cox said.

“We disagree with the views of the PGA but we are seeking comments to improve the legislation and anyone who has issues is encouraged to make a submission,” he added.

ATA Environmental consultant Paul Vander Mozel said the concept of reviewing and updating the wetlands policy was a good idea, but the process could have been better.

“A lot of wetlands not previously protected will now be protected, but some of the criteria employed are flawed,” Dr Van der Moezel said.

“There is no compensation clause, and if things are to be protected for the wellbeing of Western Australian, they should be paid for by Western Australia, not land owners.

“No one wants to buy the land once it has been rezoned, and the policy as it is doesn’t provide for compensation.”

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

Subscription Options