This year, like other years, we have travelled across the State, talking to councils about the planning issues facing their municipalities. We have visited more than 35 rural and regional councils and held regional planning seminars at Bendigo and Colac, with further seminars scheduled for Wangaratta this month and Sale in November. During our travels, the changing face of agriculture through the intensification and corporatisation of farming practices and significant overseas investment, and the current pressures facing Victorian agriculture, were common themes.

Most recently, the Shire of Murrindindi’s refusal of Mr Blackmore’s planning application to allow him to continue producing his famous Wagyu beef has brought the planning controls and land use definitions relating to agriculture into sharp focus.

In response to growing concerns about the planning controls applying to rural areas and Mr Blackmore’s planning application, the Victorian Government has announced the Animal Industries Advisory Committee (Advisory Committee). While a purpose of the Advisory Committee will be to consider Mr Blackmore’s planning application, the Government’s announcement makes it clear that the Advisory Committee is expected to hear from a range of stakeholders about the operation of the planning controls relating to agriculture. We expect councils will have an important role to play at the Advisory Committee. We also expect that a range of government departments and special interest groups such as the Victorian Farmers’ Federation will participate in the hearing.

Rural and peri urban councils will already know it is essential that the planning controls remain current to existing and developing trends in agriculture to ensure the backbone of the rural Victorian economy remains sustainable and profitable. With this in mind, councils should consider participating in the Advisory Committee either individually or as an alliance of councils to ensure the Advisory Committee knows what works and what doesn’t at the regulatory coal face.