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South East council applies for major land rezoning

Wattle Range Council in the state’s South East is applying to rezone ten parcels of land across the region to create more housing and accommodation, as worker demand continues to grow faster than housing availability.

Jan 23, 2024, updated Jan 23, 2024
Wattle Range Council is applying for a major rezoning to make way for more housing. Photo: Unsplash

Wattle Range Council is applying for a major rezoning to make way for more housing. Photo: Unsplash

The application includes land around Millicent, Penola, Beachport and Glencoe, with public consultation on the proposal set to open in the coming months.

Director of Development Services at Wattle Range Council Emma Clay said the rezoning would make it easier for developers to build upon the land, removing timely application processes needed for land outside of zoning.

“We’ve looked at the land and gone ‘that would be suitable for more intensity, or residential development’. We’re going to zone it that way, but then it’s up to the developers how they develop it,” Clay said.

Director of South East Property Sales and Management Fiona Telfer said the area has been lacking available rentals for years.

“We are filling rentals, there are zero vacancies… so we certainly need more rental properties, it’s a very tight department,” Telfer said.

Andrew Wellington, chief operating officer of The Union Dairy Company (UDC), based in Penola, said the company had recently hired seven new out-of-town employees, all of whom faced difficulty finding a rental.

“There is nowhere to rent. They were actually stuck in a holiday park, until this week, in Mount Gambier.”

Wellington explained the decision had now been made for the employees to remain based in Mount Gambier, instead of Penola.

UDC employees had to live in a Mount Gambier holiday park while looking for a rental. Photo: Union Dairy Company.

“If the introduction point had been in the Penola area, then they would stay in Penola, and Penola would get some economic growth.”

Member for MacKillop Nick McBride said the lack of housing negatively impacts the communities in several ways.

“A shortage of affordable housing has significant personal, financial and economic impacts. It affects the way businesses can operate and makes it difficult to attract workers across vital sectors including agriculture and food processing.”

As InDaily recently reported, one business in the South East purchased an old motel to convert into staff accommodation due to the lack of housing.

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JBS Bordertown plant manager Trevor Schiller told InDaily that employing people permanently was a challenge purely because there was no permanent accommodation.

“People that were willing to move to the district, a big stopper was the fact that there was no suitable housing. It definitely did restrict us.”

The application specifies that productive farming land would be protected during the rezoning process.

All ten rezoning areas have been grouped into one code amendment application, which will shortly be opened for official consultation.

The code amendment application must go through several steps before the project can begin, including being endorsed by the Minister for Planning Nick Champion.

“Like all our regions, there is significant stress on the local property market in the South East, with an increasing population and incredibly low rental vacancies,” Champion said.

A public consultation and response to submissions will follow, before the minister assesses the amendment and decides to adopt or decline it.

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