THE Planning Minister has hit out at Ballarat East MP Geoff Howard, accusing him of deliberately misleading residents over the controversial zoning issue in Buninyong.
In a visit to Ballarat, Matthew Guy met residents and the city council to discuss the issue, which he said had only eventuated due to a misleading mail-out by Mr Howard.
“I don’t think there has been confusion. I think they (residents) have been deliberately mislead. Their local member of Parliament sent out a direct mail that was factually wrong and set out to deliberately mislead people.
“His behaviour has been reprehensible. It is quite unfathomable that he would lie or mislead the community to the extent that he has.
“He has been there a long time. I think he is tired and has had his day. He is clearly just making up things as he goes along.”
Mr Howard believed his campaigning on the issue had been vindicated by the City of Ballarat passing a motion on Wednesday night asking for the area’s zoning to be adjusted.
“Anything I have done has been in good faith and when I first heard the planning zones had been changed and were going against council recommendations, I drew that to the attention of the shadow planning minister, Brian Tee, and then to the Buninyong people and they were rightly concerned,” he said.
“They (the government) have bungled and they won’t admit they have bungled.”
The issue began when the Victorian government changed zoning across the state, adjusting Buninyong from a Residential One Zone to a General Residential Zone (GRZ).
But, according to Mr Guy, while GRZ has a 300-square-metre minimum lot size, a council policy overrides the zoning. This meant council policy would still guide council decisions to have lot sizes of at least 800 square metres, he said.
The change drew a huge public outcry last month with residents who believed it meant a minimum lot size was not protected by council and could lead to increased subdivision and mass development in their village.
Mr Guy said this had been the situation since the early 1990s meaning, in practice, there was no change.
However, he also said if the community wanted further planning protection to ensure there was no possibility of smaller lots, he would pass a mandatory minimum subdivision amendment.
Council are said to be considering this proposal overnight which would mean, by law, that no lots could be created in Buninyong of less than 800 square metres regardless of any other proposal.
Mr Howard said the fact a council overlay still overruled the zoning changes made the whole situation more confusing and questioned the purpose of the new zones.
A change to a Neighbourhood Residential Zone, which has been recommended by the City of Ballarat, would be changed as soon as possible, according to Mr Guy.