State still working on intensive agriculture laws: Premier

No decision yet on intensive agriculture laws: Premier


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The Premier has told the Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) annual conference changes to intensive agriculture laws are still a little way off.

Premier Daniel Andrews has told the Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) annual conference the government was taking its time in determining new rules, around intensive farming, to ensure it got it right.

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 Mr Andrews said the government was still working through the recommendations of the Animal Industries Advisory Committee and would not rush into a decision.

“We will have more to say about that soon, not in a week or two, but soon,” Mr Andrews said.

“I think you can make quick decisions, which aren't very good.

“We did see that a few years ago - we need a better system, it will just take a little longer to get there.”

His comments come as the Victorian Civil and Administration Tribunal (VCAT) has again ruled on another “right to farm” case.

Colin Pace and Marion McDonnell lost their application for a permit for a free range piggery, at Badaginnie, when VCAT upheld a decision by the Benalla Rural City Council to refuse an intensive animal husbandry permit.

VCAT members Michael Nelthorpe and Greg Sharpley said intensive agricultural practices needed to be appropriately located  – “and industry buffer distances and standards are met”.

The tribunal members found the applicants had not persuaded them the proposed buffer distances were appropriate.

“We have found environmental management plan (EMP) lacks rigour and detail that we consider is essential to satisfy us that the piggery will operate without unreasonable adverse impacts on adjoining properties and the environment,” the members said.

“We consider that it does not satisfactorily address issues of odor, nutrient balance and stormwater.”

Mr Pace and Ms McDonnell have run between 200-400 pigs on the 28ha farm for the past five years.

VCAT relied on an earlier decision, in which a 8.8ha Wandin North free-range piggery was found to be an intensive farm, because it imported more than half of the animals’ nutritional requirements.

Outgoing VFF president Peter Touhey told the conference the right to farm was critical to growth and diversity of many operations.

”When John Watson and David Blackmore asked the VFF to support them in their fights against their local councils, we believed their problems were systematic of the growth of many farming operations,” Mr Touhey said.

Local and state government regulations would continue to be an impediment on growth.

“The VFF’s involvement led to an inquiry into the determination of extensive and intensive farming operations.

“More importantly, it showed that farmers have rights as much as anybody, and if you’re a city-dweller who moves into a farming zone, expect to see, hear and smell things you may not like.”

Mr Andrews said the government was taking its time in making a decision.

He said intensive agriculture was different to concerns in the inner city.

“If someone buys a house next door to a pub, in Fitzroy, for example, and spends all their time complaining about noise, I don't think that is necessarily at the top of my list,” Mr Andrews said.

“It’s real, but it’s not a priority concern.”

He said he wanted to ensure farming communities were provided with greater certainty.

“We want to provide the certainty and clarity and make sure we want to make sure local government is empowered and a partner, so we get the best economic outcomes,” he said.

“At the same time, I am sure there are lots of people in the room who would not like to see a one size fits all and find the value of their land is maintained, not just today in farming terms, but over a longer period of time.

“I am confident we will get there.”

VFF CONFERENCE: Outgoing Victorian Farmers Federation president Peter Touhey, introduces Premier Daniel Andrews, to the conference. Picture: Andrew Miller.

VFF CONFERENCE: Outgoing Victorian Farmers Federation president Peter Touhey, introduces Premier Daniel Andrews, to the conference. Picture: Andrew Miller.

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