Buyer beware – Small lot rural land sale challenges Council and our Green Wedge


The web site: realestate.com.au is spruiking a Kangaroo Ground property for sale. It should come with a buyers’ warning.

190 Watery Gully Rd in Nillumbik’s Green Wedge has a long history of council and VCAT development application refusals. Potential buyers expecting to build their lifestyle ‘dream home’ need to take heed.

The lot, described imaginatively as: ‘Residential Land’ in the advertisement, is less than an acre in size and zoned Rural Conservation (RCZ3). In this zone dwellings need a planning permit which are by no means guaranteed.

190 Watery Gully Rd is NOT residential land under our Planning Scheme.

Years ago, set aside for a local primary school, it’s small area makes it an anomaly surrounded as it is by rural properties, most more than 20 times its size. The subdivision minimum size for land in the RCZ3 is 8 hectares (20 acres). 190 Watery Gully Rd is an undersized lot.

In the last decade, development applications affecting 190 Watery Gully Rd have been refused three times by council and by VCAT: Member Carew in 2010; Member Rae in 2011; and Senior Member Bennett in 2021. The 2011 refusal was for a dwelling application (VCAT reference P53/2011, David Rae).

In his written determination Rae made two pertinent points:

“When considered as a whole, the policy context (of the planning scheme) in my view, clearly discourages small-scale rural residential development in this area, particularly development which may have a detrimental impact on landscape and environmental values” (para 7)

“The provisions and policies of the planning scheme provide a very strong discouragement to the development of lots of this type for rural residential development” (para 43)

Inaccurate property sales promotions can mislead hopeful buyers, pressure council planners, and ultimately undermine our Green Wedge by encouraging trends toward more residential development. Ensuring that the Section 32 contains relevant planning information such as VCAT refusals, should be mandatory. But councillors have a key role in this too.

The problem is bigger than just one small lot for sale. There are multiple hundreds of small lots across our rural landscape, each one potentially capable of a dwelling application. An unfortunate legacy of history, there development would permanently alter the open character of our Green Wedge. Leaving it to VCAT or to the ‘buyer beware’ opt-out, is not any solution.

How could our Councillors help protect our Green Wedge from this small lots threat?

  • They could ask for an officer briefing including options for council action.
  • They could advocate for a minimum lot size for dwellings in our Green Wedge.
  • They could review clauses 22.02 and 22.03 (old scheme) which discouraged small lot development until it lapsed in 2009.
  • They could make the 2019 Green Wedge Management Plan fit for purpose by reviewing key actions recommended by the community panel but deliberately ignored by the council of the day, including action on small lots.

Greg Johnson (FoN President)
14th August, 2022