COUNCIL MEETING: Bundaberg Regional Council Mayor Jack Dempsey.
COUNCIL MEETING: Bundaberg Regional Council Mayor Jack Dempsey.

Farmer’s rights in council spotlight with new policy

IN A move to provide planning clarity, the Bundaberg Regional Council has announced their proposed policy for agricultural buffers.

After today’s ordinary council meeting, Bundaberg Mayor Jack Dempsey said the proposed policy meant “for the first time a Queensland council will be protecting farmer’s rights, particularly in relation to buffers”.

He said the council was moving to alleviate inconsistencies in relation to planning issues involving urbanisation and the agricultural sector.

Mr Dempsey said these inconsistencies varied from noise, dust, smell, lights and operations.

The council’s group manager of development Michael Ellery said the agricultural buffer was a vegetative buffer that manages the interface between residential and agricultural development, usually along property boundaries.

“It’s important because it gives certainty with both residents of those areas, plus the farmers that are working next door to them, that they can both do what they want to do without interfering with each other’s enjoyment of life,” he said.

“Under the current state planning policy arrangements there’s a general requirement to provide buffers but there’s no real guidance provided to developers or farmers about what those buffers should look like.

“Earlier this year council engaged consultants to give us some off-the-shelf solution that would allow developers and farmers, and anybody else who’s interested, that they could employ to develop a buffer depending on what type of agriculture was going on.”

Mr Ellery said their policy offered different solutions for varying situations; whether it be cane, orchards, small crops, nut farms or cane railways.

“Each scenario requires a different solution and we’re trying to make it easier for people to have a solution that’s backed by science, that will help address those issues,” he said.

“The old approach, the standard approach would be to provide a 40m wide buffer usually down the middle of that, 20m of that would be planted with trees and shrubs.

“Now our policy suggests different solutions depending on what’s happening next door.

“There’ll be recommendations about the types of plants to be used, how densely they should be planted and how they should be maintained so they can reach maturity and provide that protection that we’re looking for.”

Mr Dempsey said consultation had already occurred with UDIA Bundaberg Branch, Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers, Bundaberg and Isis Canegrowers.

“Last term of council I made a commitment to be able to bring forward local laws and local changes, particularly in relation to protecting our agricultural sector and one of the issues identified was agricultural buffer zones …,” he said.

The buffers are designed to protect the farmer’s rights while giving developers clear direction on what they need to do in the future.

“We believe this will be a great advantage, a significant advantage for the Bundaberg region to attract further investment into the future,” he said.

“Not just from our local farmers, but other people who are thinking of investing the area...

“It’ll make it easier for everybody because everyone’s participated in the consultation originally.”

Mr Ellery believes this policy will make farming and urban development more viable in the appropriate areas and reduce conflict for farmers and developers to “do what they do best”.

He said public consultation on the proposed policy will start “shortly” and last for 20 days.

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