Council threat to ban hippies

ANY MOVE by Kyogle Council to block the establishment of multiple occupancy (MO) communities would be an ‘attack on the alternative lifestyle’, former Kyogle councillor and MO resident Peter Lewis has said.

At Monday’s council meeting a motion, put forward by Cr Ernie Bennett, instructing council staff to prepare a report looking at the ‘pros and cons’ of MOs within the local government area was passed.

Mr Bennett said MOs were often used by their occupants to avoid paying land rates.

An MO is a land-sharing agreement between people living on land which has not been subdivided. It is covered under the State Environmental Planning Policy.

MOs are usually set up on former farming land where residents each pay a share of a single set of land rates.

Mr Lewis and his partner Linda Woodrow, a well known author, have lived on an MO at Blackhorse Creek, near Kyogle, for 27 years with 24 other shareholders.

He said MOs should not be done away with because they were important population drivers and the council would get no more rates from the land if the MO were still operating as a farm.

“There are indirect benefits from the different mix of people MOs attract,” Mr Lewis said.

“They do attract people who are interested in an alternative lifestyle and they make a significant economic contribution to Kyogle.”

Mr Lewis said the argument about land rates was moot because rates only made up one per cent of the council’s funds.

The Federal Government gave the council money based on its population and the council should be looking at ways to increase that number, he said.

Mr Bennett defended his position saying he supported diversity, but the people he knew living on MOs were not ‘hippies’ anyway.

“I know of a doctor living on an MO,” he said.

“We should all pay our way and some of these people are building million-dollar homes and are not contributing their fair share to infrastructure through rates.”

Mr Bennett said it was unfair when others struggled to meet their rate payments, that those living on MOs paid very little.

Director of planning and environmental services John Hession said very few applications to set up an MO within the local government area proceeded once the applicant understood what was involved in the process.

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