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Byron Shire
June 13, 2021

Byron Council vote to protect farmland from State government onslaught

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A new ‘Agritourism’ policy proposed by the State Government will compromise regionally significant farming and food production by stealth, Byron Council says.

The draft policy, put forward by the Department of Planning, involves changing planning laws to make it easier for farmers to use their land for tourism purposes such as farm stays, farm gate activities, and events like functions and weddings.

In some cases farmers would not require any permission to engage in these activities either from Council or the State Government.

In a scathing report, Council’s Place Activation Coordinator, Rob van Iersel, said that while the policy was designed to provide farmers with alternative income sources the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach was potentially damaging for Byron.

‘The combination of land values and existing rural settlement patterns will result in the raft of changes incentivising non-farming uses rather than supporting farmers to increase their productivity,’ he said.

‘It is also concerning to note that the proposals appear to be in conflict with a recent options paper, issued by the NSW Agricultural Commissioner, relating to agricultural land use planning.

Byron Shire Council have raised concerns over the failure of state government to protect farming land. Google maps

‘That options paper stresses the importance of protecting farm land and the right to farm, which could easily be undermined by the Agritourism proposal, particularly in areas like Byron with ‘tree-changers’ moving into rural areas for lifestyle rather than farming, who would likely prefer to take up a tourist use of the land than a farming use of the land.

Councillors voted unanimously in favour of Mr van Iersel’s recommendations, which included voicing their strong opposition to the changes.

This added to the submission filed with the Department last month in which staff formally requested that Byron be excluded from the policy until a ‘a full review of impacts – intended and unintended – can be completed’.

The council resolution also noted that the chances would likely result in an ‘increase in requirements for compliance/enforcement on a range of tourism land use activity, the costs for which cannot be recouped by additional application fees’.

Councillor Alan Hunter said that the Shire shouldn’t be bundled in with the rest of the state.

‘Our requirements for extra activities in the hinterland are different to elsewhere, such as New England where there’s quite intensive farming and more could be done to enhance tourism.’

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  1. I read with scepticism this story that Council felt compelled to vote unanimously to express concern with the State government’s proposed Agritourism policy which will “compromise regionally significant farming and food production by stealth “
    Talk about inconsistency in Council policy statements and policy direction!
    Simon Richardson’s recent parting salvo was to push through the vote and forge ahead with finalising a DA for the Council’s massive industrial solar farm development at Dingo Lane within the iconic Myocum farmlands.
    As soon as it’s approved, other private landowners will have a strong case to put forward many more massive solar farms in the historic Myocum farming valley.
    Many of the surrounding farmland landowners have been approached to develop similar facilities to the one proposed by Council at Dingo Lane.
    The fact that Council’s own business case financial reports say it’s a bad deal for ratepayers as argued by three councillors at a recent meeting, Council insists it will saddle ratepayers with a $12M debt which will take years to pay off.
    If the solar rebates go pear shaped over time as expected, the debt may never be paid off.

    The fact that the same facility could be built much cheaper as a joint venture by Byron Council out west with an appropriate like minded western NSW council and get an outcome which is much better value for money and still achieve the desired lower emissions outcome so desired by Council is irrelevant apparently.

    At the same time the valuable Council block could be sold for use as farmlands as its zoning has intended.

    But as Simon once shouted at me in an email….we just want to see the valley filled with solar panels because the “tourists and locals will really love the added interest of seeing lots of solar panels in the valley”….go figure….and this week they are concerned with State Government policy which puts farmlands at risk of inappropriate development…a sad case of flip, flop policy on the run.
    Change in mayor….no change in the Council’s inconsistent approach on key policy.

    Please demand during the upcoming DA process for the Dingo Lane facility that IF Council is determined to borrow big and build a solar facility to help with a worthy net zero emissions target….they should build a cheaper, more efficient, superior value for money facility in joint venture with a like minded western NSW council, and build it out west before the Myocum valley farmlands are decimated in visual amenity and value as a food producing farming resource.

    Solar in the Myocum Valley!?!?….and how many sunny days did we get recently between December and March….not many.
    Build out west where the land is flat, flood free and the sun always shines…makes too much sense for our Council to seriously consider apparently.


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