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.
‘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.’