Community & Lifestyle

Victorian farmers seek bigger role in ‘right to farm’ planning changes

Sheep Central, October 12, 2016

Ewes and lambsVICTORIA’S peak farmer body is calling for a greater role in a shakeup of ‘right to farm’ regulations forecast by the State Government today.

The Victorian Farmers Federation is calling for “a seat at the table” before the government makes any moves to shake up the state’s planning regulations following the Animal Industries Advisory Committee report released today.

The VFF has also vowed to make sure the Victorian Government made good on its promise to cut red tape across the agriculture sector and protect a primary producer’s right to farm.

The Victorian Government today released the AIAC report and its response to the document, claiming clearer rules for farming would be introduced in Victoria’s planning provisions to give certainty to property owners, councils and the community as part of the Andrews Labor Government’s ongoing work to support animal industries.

To balance support for farming industries and the community, the government said its planning reforms would include new land definitions, no increases to red tape and more support for councils to allow for efficient application processing and rule enforcement. Click here to get Sheep Central story links sent to your email inbox.

The government said its response to the committee’s findings would include:

  • Support for council’s strategic planning work through access to specialist expertise and improving data
  • Clearer rules though new land definitions which reflect modern farming
  • Code reforms to help councils make well-informed and clear decisions
  • Working with councils and the EPA towards effective enforcement of planning decisions

Among its 12 recommended actions, the Andrews Government has proposed:

– establishing an implementation reference group to facilitate continued improvement in planning for sustainable animal industries

– introducing clear land use definitions for animal industries into the Victoria Planning Provisions

– developing a new code of practice for animal industries and a more consistent approach to determining separation distances for various animal industries and production systems

Minister for Agriculture Jaala Pulford said Victoria was going from a one-size-fits-all approach to a tailored and well-thought out method that takes into account industry and size of the farm business.

“Global demand for Victoria’s food and fibre products is growing and we’re making sure our industries have the support they need to expand, while considering the impacts of farming on people and the environment.”

Minister for Planning Richard Wynne said with the government’s support, the industry and community will have clearer rules and rural councils will have access to the technical expertise needed to make decisions.

“Changes to planning rules need careful consideration because they impact property owners, business and surrounding residents, we’re confident we have struck a balance with our changes.”

VFF says primary producers are main stakeholders

VFF president David Jochinke said the planning system affects the whole farming sector, yet there is still much to be considered before implementing any recommendations in this report.

“Primary producers are the foremost stakeholders of this process. It is vital that the main focus on amending the system is removing ambiguity and protecting a farmer’s right to farm”.

The VFF said in responding to the report, the government supported, either fully or in principle, 31 of the Committee’s 37 recommendations, including a permit requirement for all pig, egg and poultry production, and additional support for local councils in making planning decisions.

Mr Jochinke said the farmer group had concerns that some of the committee’s recommendations could place unnecessary red tape on farm production.

“We need the government to recognise that farming zones are, by nature, areas used for production purposes and we have concerns that the report’s recommendations could make the system more complicated.

“It is critical that people understand that this is the area designated to produce the food and fibre to meet the needs of a growing population,” he said.

Mr Jochinke said the VFF was concerned the committee’s classification of intensive and extensive industries, based on energy consumption by livestock, was needlessly ambiguous.

“We already have clear land use terms in place for industries – like pigs, eggs, chickens and feedlots – so there’s no need for these ambiguous definitions of intensive or extensive farming to continue,” he said.

“This is a prime example of where the Government can slash red tape to benefit the farming sector and we urge them to do so.”

The Labor Government set up the Animal Industries Advisory Committee last year to review planning rules and find ways to bring the planning system in line with modern farming practices and community expectations. The committee’s work included broad consultation and public hearings, drawing 146 submissions and made 37 recommendations.

Victoria’s animal industries make a significant contribution to the Victorian economy, employing around 52,000 people on-farm and in processing and worth more than $8.1 billion in total agricultural value.

Click here for the Animal Industries Advisory Committee’s final report and the Victorian Government’s full response.


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