The Member for Oxley, Melinda Pavey MP, urges Bellingen Shire Council to carefully consider the ramifications of increasing local regulatory requirements on blueberry farms.
This comes as Bellingen Council prepares to meet tomorrow and consider a motion, which reads in part: “Resolves to prepare a planning proposal specifying that development consent is required for the establishment of blueberry farms in Zones RU1, RU2, RU4 and E4, unless the farm complies with the following criteria, in which case it will be considered as a form of ‘exempt development’”.
Mrs Pavey said blueberry farming is a growth industry and has brought much-needed new investment and employment to the mid-north coast region.
“Everyone knows that our region has a competitive advantage in agriculture – we have the natural resources and climate to consistently produce products that are in-demand in both domestic and export markets, and the successful blueberry industry is an excellent example.
“And, in order to develop in accord with the community’s needs, the industry has developed a Code of Practice.
“With this in mind, I have concerns about the impact and possible precedents that this motion may have on blueberries in particular, and horticulture in general, in our region.
“Governments do not always need to regulate, prescribe and require consent.
"In fact, regulations should be the last resort. Codes of Practise and Community Charters can easily deliver good, balanced outcomes without stifling, costly, red-tape prescriptions - that may also have un-intended consequences.
“Further, an established and proven legal and planning framework is already in place for managing rural lands, which negates any case for impromptu and makeshift changes to zoning rules.
“I urge Council to work with the blueberry and horticulture industry, and the NSW Department of Primary Industries, to develop a clear, simple, effective and efficient proposal that reflects the interests of the broad community,” Mrs Pavey said.
Bellingen Shire Council Recommendation in full:
1. Resolves to prepare a planning proposal specifying that development consent is required for the establishment of blueberry farms in Zones RU1, RU2, RU4 and E4, unless the farm complies with the following criteria, in which case it will be considered as a form of ‘’exempt development’’.
Blueberry farming is exempt development if it complies with following criteria.
- Blueberry plants & associated infrastructure (such as poles and netting) are located a minimum of 200m from any dwelling (not including a dwelling on the same property) and a minimum of 50m from any property boundary not held in the same ownership.
- Blueberry plants & associated infrastructure (such as poles and netting) are located the following minimum distances away from watercourses, based upon the Strahler method of stream ordering.
Stream Order Minimum distance either side of watercourse
1st order 10 metres
2nd order 20 metres
3rd order 30m
4th order and greater 40m
- Where it is necessary to apply the setback distances specified in subclause b), and those setbacks are vegetated, the setback distances must be retained in their vegetated state, with the exception of the removal of any non-native species.
- Blueberry plants & associated infrastructure such as poles and netting are not located within any area mapped as ‘’core koala habitat’’ in any adopted Koala Plan of Management.
- Any netting proposed for the protection of the crop must be black.
2. Resolves to forward the Planning Proposal to the Department of Planning & Environment in accordance with Section 56(1) of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 and request the issuing of a Gateway Determination to allow for the exhibition of the proposed amendment.
3. Resolves to advise the NSW Minister for Planning & Environment that it considers the proposed amendment to be of minor significance and that it intends to use its delegations to permit the General Manager to make the Local Environmental Plan.
4. Endorses the Engagement Strategy that has been proposed in this report for the public exhibition of the Planning Proposal.