As many Victorians prepared to sit down for roast turkey and a slice of ham over the festive season, the Discussion Paper released on 21 December 2015 by the Animal Industries Advisory Committee (Advisory Committee) is a timely reminder of where our food comes from and the issues many food producers are facing across Victoria.

In September last year, our eAlert advised that the Victorian Government had announced that the Advisory Committee would consider whether the planning framework relating to animal industries is meeting the needs of farmers, councils and the community. Lester Townshend (Chair), Hugh Millar, Katherine Navarro and Lucinda Petersen have now been appointed to the Advisory Committee.

The Discussion Paper raises 16 issues relating to animal industries that the Advisory Committee intends to consider, including:

  1. whether local policies need to provide clearer direction by identifying appropriate areas for intensive agriculture
  2. removing the reference to encouraging dwellings within the Farming Zone
  3. changing the definitions of ‘Extensive animal husbandry’ and ‘Intensive animal husbandry’
  4. creating new definitions for animal specific industries
  5. including buffer distances within planning schemes between dwellings and intensive animal operations
  6. limiting the rights of third parties to object to intensive animal operations
  7. reviewing the role that codes of practice play in the planning process and whether additional codes are required
  8. the role of councils and the Environment Protection Authority as enforcement bodies.

Depending on the Advisory Committee’s recommendations, the strategic and land uses issues for rural councils could be significant and require considerable additional strategic work to be undertaken. We think any recommendations requiring councils to undertake further strategic work should consider how this strategic work will be funded and implemented.

Submissions are required to be lodged with the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning by close of business on 5 February 2016, and public hearings are expected to commence in late February. The opportunity to make a submission to the Advisory Committee provides an important opportunity for rural councils to raise their concerns and have them considered. Councils should note that the timeframe is very short given the time of year and we suspect many councils may have difficulties preparing a submission and reporting the matter to Council (if required) within this timeframe.