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When farm land and the future collide

Dear Editor

Our traditional farm land is under escalating pressure.

It is coming from population growth. The metropolitan weight gain is bursting the urban seams.  The peri-urban fringes are ever-hungry for space and are marching for more.

But the surging population is not the only pressure point.

Paddocks once home to grazing cattle, plump orchards and fields of wheat to the horizon are now hosting wind turbines, quarries or solar panels.  Fine – on the face of it.

But we are witness to neighbouring farmers fighting for their rights – the right to a traditional farm and lifestyle – versus a new enterprise, or housing estate.

Competition for land use is fierce.  It is aggressive.  And it’s also the new norm.

Yet, thanks to the population growth, land for food production has never been more important. It is why we need to review the planning laws and legislation to protect the right to farm.

Early submissions to the Parliamentary Committee looking into the Sustainability and Operational Challenges of Rural and Regional Councils have called for a return of the Planning Flying Squads introduced by the previous Liberal Government, then dumped by Dan.  The Squads helped Councils bogged down with planning issues – providing real help on real problems.

Awkward and poorly considered environmental overlays need review – as do the clunky, often unworkable, native vegetation laws. They are a monolithic blob of nauseating bureaucracy.

None of this is to provide farmers with cart blanche to do whatever they like.  Quite the opposite – farmers need the environment in beautiful shape – and want to keep it that way.

Put simply, our impact on food producers needs to be kept to a minimum.

Legislators have an important role in planning for changes in land use, population growth and legitimate new activities.

They walk a mighty fine line on an increasingly high tight rope.  The balance bar must be loaded with respect, honesty, compassion, understanding and common sense.

When farm land and the future collide – there’s food for thought.