VFF defends right to farm
Tuesday 29 July 2014

THOUSANDS of Victorian farmers are at risk of being forced to apply for planning permits to keep producing food and fibre.

In what the VFF sees as an act of bureaucratic madness the Shire of Campaspe has demanded local beef producer John Watson apply for a Planning Permit to continue operating his farm.

Mr Watson’s family has been farming on the outskirts of Echuca for 90 years and been running about 1500-2000 weaners on their 310 acre property for the past eight years.

Yet Campaspe Shire officers are demanding the Watson family obtain a Planning Permit to run the weaners on their property, arguing the family is engaged in “Intensive Animal husbandry”.

The state’s planning laws (Victorian Planning Provisions) define Intensive Animal Husbandry as: “Land used to keep or breed farm animals, including birds, by importing most food from outside the enclosures”.

Victorian Farmers Federation president Peter Tuohey said the Campaspe Shire was treading on dangerous ground, by demanding the Watsons obtain a permit, when the real issue was the council’s failure to deal with urban encroachment.

“It looks to me like the Shire is trying to exploit a loophole in the planning laws to curb the Watsons’ Right to Farm and push them out,” Mr Tuohey said.

“The Watsons have a pre-existing right. They were there long before the Shire allowed Echuca households to build within 100 metres of the farm.”

“If Campaspe can exploit this loophole, then what’s it mean for other farmers who import the majority of their livestock’s feed?”

“The Shire of Campaspe’s interpretation of ‘Intensive Animal husbandry’ would capture a huge number of dairy farms and others, who import most of their feed.

“The real danger is that we end up seeing this planning law used to stifle the growth of Victorian agriculture.”

Mr Watson said the shire shouldn’t be allowed to get away with demanding he get a planning permit. 

“If they’re (the Shire) allowed to get away with this we’ll see anyone who imports most of their stock’s tucker forced to apply for a planning permit.”

“It’s only because we’re on the outskirts of town that they’re trying to do this.” 

The VFF is examining the Victorian Planning Provision definition of Intensive Animal Husbandry and will be seeking clarification from the Victorian Government on whether the definition needs to be tightened or amended.
“The irony is the Shire of Campaspe’s own Municipal Strategic Statement says: ‘Agricultural production, based on intensive irrigated areas and large tracts of dry land farming, combine to form the largest industry in the Shire’,” Mr Tuohey said.
“Yet here’s the Shire’s officers trying to stifle agriculture’s growth.

“The VFF is calling on the Shire of Campaspe to see reason and find a solution that recognises the Watsons’ and all farmers’ rights.”

Media Contacts:
VFF Member John Watson                                     0428 509 406
Peter Tuohey, VFF President                                 0428 952 425
Tom Whitty, VFF Media Manager                           0417 165 784