Port Albert reprieve

IT’S taken three years, but Port Albert has finally been exempted from draconian building regulations on what may be flood-prone land.

State Planning Minister Matthew Guy has approved an exemption for Port Albert from flood overlays included in Amendment C33 to the Wellington Planning Scheme.

The decision has been seen as a win for the local community, which was concerned proposed flood overlays would hinder development and impact the future of the town.

In responding to community unrest surrounding the introduction of the amendment, Mr Guy instigated a review of the flood overlays for Port Albert.

Following consideration of the amendment, a panel report and the submissions from local residents, the minister approved the amendment for revised flood overlays for the Wellington Shire, with the exception of Port Albert.

The decision means flood overlays will not be applied to residential and commercial land in Port Albert.

The need for Amendment C33 to the Wellington Planning Scheme came as a result of flood limits being established by the East and West Gippsland Catchment Management Authorities, based on various studies as well as aerial photography and video footage of floods in 2007.

The amendment included the applying of varying levels of control to flood-prone land with planning permits required for new developments.

In 2010, the amendment was opened to public submissions and reviewed by an independent planning panel.

Wellington Shire Council approved the amendment in April 2011 and submitted it to the Planning Minister for final approval. It has taken until now for a decision to be made.

Gippsland South MLA Peter Ryan said the flood overlay was threatening the future of the historic township.

“Development at Port Albert, which was threatened by this restrictive flood overlay, can once again proceed following the decision to exempt the township from Amendment C33,” he said.

“Amendment C33 had caused significant concern for residents of Port Albert, with locals claiming it hindered development and reduced property values, with many fearing it would impact tourism, the economy and the survival of township.

“In 2010, I called on the former Labor government to exempt Port Albert from this restrictive flood overlay, however Labor failed to respond to the overwhelming will of the community.

“I am proud the Victorian Coalition government has listened to the community and exempted Port Albert from Amendment C33, a decision that will no doubt come as a great relief to locals.”

Mr Ryan said the original CMA recommendation was that any new dwellings would need to accommodate anticipated sea level rise, storm surge and-or one-in-100 year flooding before it would grant approval for permits.

“This recommendation meant the minimum height requirement for any new dwelling would have been 2.97 metres above ground level. This was problematic for Port Albert as areas of the township are covered by a design and development overlay which restricts building heights to no greater than the Port Albert Hotel, which is 7.5m high,” Mr Ryan said.

Wellington Shire mayor Scott Rossetti said council would be briefed further about the minister’s decision early next month before any appropriate measures in response.

“(The amendment) will result in the best available flood information being formally included in the Wellington Planning Scheme after an extensive community consultation and independent planning panel process,” he said.