SHEARING contractors and farmers have welcomed a planning permit exemption aimed at encouraging on-farm accommodation for up to 10 people on Victorian farms.
Under a new streamlined planning approval process adopted by the Victorian Government, Victorian farmers can now invest in worker accommodation on their farms without the need for a planning permit,
Minister for Agriculture Mary-Anne Thomas yesterday announced an amendment to the Victoria Planning Provisions that exempts farm businesses from requiring a planning permit for on-farm accommodation for up to 10 people.
The government said on-farm accommodation eliminates the need for seasonal workers to find a place to stay in nearby towns, removing the often long-distance travel to and from farms, cutting travel expenses and reducing the impact on rural and regional roads.
The planning permit exemption is available exclusively for accommodation for workers engaged in agriculture and must be on at least 40 hectares of land on a property within the Farming Zone. It must meet requirements relating to connections to electricity, water and wastewater treatment.
Good accommodation would boost industry attractiveness – SCAA
Secretary of the Shearing Contractors Association of Australia Jason Letchford said the body certainly supported any initiatives that would result in more and improved on-farm accommodation options.
“Good, free, accommodation is one of the corner-stone ‘conditions’ of the shearing industry ‘conditions’ dating back to 1910.
“Good accommodation was part of the ‘attraction’ to work in the industry as it allowed workers to effectively live without paying rent elsewhere,” he said.
“Investing in on-farm accommodation will go be significant in bolstering the attractiveness of the industry, for workers.”
Victorian Farmers Federation Livestock president Steve Harrison said the planning permit exemption is a great initiative and would potentially increase the camp-out facilities for wool industry workers on farms, including interstate and overseas shearers.
Ms Thomas said on-farm accommodation will provide more options for farm workers and make it easier for growers to recruit the workers they need for the upcoming harvest.
“These planning changes are about supporting our agriculture sector to thrive.”
Minister for Planning Richard Wynne said streamlining the ability for Victorian farmers to provide suitable accommodation for rural workers is common-sense planning that will help secure a critical rural workforce, supporting our farmers and Victorian agriculture.
The government said the new planning process will deliver another boost for the horticultural industry ahead of the peak harvest season and aligns with the its $84 million package to support the Victorian agriculture industry meet seasonal workforce challenges. This support includes the $6 million Seasonal Workforce Accommodation Program, which has backed 13 projects to boost accommodation options, pastoral care and transport services for 2,000 workers in key horticulture areas.
It also includes $5.2 million in grants through the Agriculture Workforce Plan for new and upgraded accommodation to support 80 businesses.
The government said increased on-farm accommodation may also contribute to improving broader housing supply issues in regional areas by reducing seasonal demand on housing in rural towns. This complements the Victorian Government’s commitment to tackle housing shortages and other barriers to regional workforce attraction through the $5 million Regional Workforce Pilots, the government said.
Click here for more details on the rural worker accommodation initiative.