Saturday, March 03, 2012

hail netting - are you with us?

report from the roundtable - 28 feb

At this week's council meeting I moved a motion about hail netting and our planning scheme. My motion sought to obtain letters of support from MPs and Agriculture Associations to assist council in its efforts to see planning scheme changes via Minister for Planning, Matthew Guy.

It was a follow on from the unfortunate comments made by Minister Walsh in relation to the Yarra Ranges Planning Scheme (see blog 5 Jan) and hail netting.

The motion:
That council write to all Local MPs and agricultural associations...seeking letters of support to be sent to the Minister for Planning, requesting his government to urgently respond to the issues previously flagged by council and to seek amendments to the planning scheme fo facilitate:
- Horticultural structures
- Value adding of farm produce
- Accomodation in the green wedge (in conjuction with natural systems)
- Festivals and events.

I thought it was important to continue to advocate for changes given the issue is an important one for growers in the Yarra Ranges and particularly while there's current government interest in the planning scheme.

I've been disappointed by the government response which encourages council to undertake a Planning Scheme Amendment process, this is costly and time consuming and given we have already extensively consulted over this issue with the development of our Green Wedge Management Plan, it's an impractical and expensive way forward.

The government's lack of response and support is disappointing given back in 2010 the Coalition (as well as the government of the day) supported key recommendations from the Inquiry into Sustainable Development of Agribusiness in Outer Suburban Melbourne, which deal with removing the requirement to obtain a planning permit to install netting (recommendation 39) and remove restrictions on the proportion of land able to be covered with netting (recommendation 40). The Inquiry showed these are issues much broader than Yarra Ranges and need addressing, it would be a very positive move of government to be proactive and act on these recommendations, they continue to be very important to Yarra Ranges growers.

It was extraordinary to read that Minister for Planning, Matthew Guy, believed council had "again endorsed" our Horticultural Structures Policy in 2008 through Planning Scheme Amendment C81. C81 was a policy neutral amendment, what C81 did was restructure the Local Planning Policy Framework into an easier to follow format, eliminate repetition and rewrite it into plain English. It did not consider the policy content of the scheme, that was not the purpose of the amendment and the Minister should know that.

We need to work together to get a good result for our growers, as a council we are willing to collaborate. We are well aware, as is the government, of what's required, we need to unite to see the changes we need in the Planning Scheme without the expensive and time consuming Planning Scheme Amendment process.

I'm pleased to report councillors supported my motion unanimously, let's hope the local MPs do too.

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