Bendigo has thrown its weight behind intensive animal industries and called on the Victorian government to enforce uniform, state-wide regulations to protect operators from encroaching residential development.
The city is arguing that the current “ad hoc approach” to planning – with different rules for different municipalities – is “confusing” and “leads to uncertainty for the sector and for people wanting to build a house”.
Speaking to the Bendigo Advertiser earlier this week, Mayor Rod Fyffe likened the council’s push to protect existing broiler farms and piggeries to the ‘right to farm’ movement.
Cr Fyffe said the council had a strong commitment to maintaining and supporting intensive animal industries and would like to see further investment in the Bendigo area – “provided it is humane”.
On Wednesday night the Greater Bendigo City Council voted endorsed to the city’s submission to the State Government’s Animal Industries Advisory Committee, established by the minister for planning to provide advice on appropriate planning provisions for the sector.
“The sector is one of the major employment industries across the City of Greater Bendigo employing around 2,000 people directly and indirectly,” Cr Fyffe said.
"Intensive Animal Industries make up most of our local food production and processing sector, which is worth about $500 million in total output to the Greater Bendigo economy,"Mayor Rod Fyffe
“There is capacity and private sector support to further expand this sector to create more jobs for our community.
“To aid this, council believes it is vital that the sector be given certainty through the Victoria’s land planning system.”
Cr Fyffe said he understood the concerns of residents who lived near intensive animal farms.
“Which is why getting the planning right, and creating buffer zones is so important,” he said.
“Our economic development unit is the leader in this field, we’ve worked with community and with businesses to try and develop buffers that are appropriate, that are workable and that allow that kind of farming to go ahead.
“But if you’re moving from one part of the state to another you need to know that the laws will be applied in the same way.”
The council’s submission states that once established operators should not be subject to uncertainty due to issues like protecting biosecurity and amenity complaints from adjoining landholders.
It adds that planning provisions in the farming zone should clearly show the land has been designated for primary industry production and that uses such as dwellings need to be restricted within the buffer distances of existing intensive animal operations.
The submission argues that minimum buffers should be uniform across the state as such action would assist “everyone” with property owners knowing where they can and cannot build a dwelling.
“The potential to apply an absolute prohibition (on new dwellings) in close proximity should be considered,” the submission states, adding that work undertaken by the City has found such a move in Greater Bendigo will hardly impact any landowners in the Farming Zone.
Prior to the establishment of the advisory committee, the city was proposing a Planning Scheme Amendment requiring a planning permit in the Farming Zone within 500m of a broiler shed and 700m of a piggery.
Of the 600 parcels of land located within the zone, just four could not locate a house more than 500m from the existing intensive animal industry operation.