Farmland protections may restrict farmers as much as miners

James Nason, 27/09/2011

Hidden in the detail of draft Strategic Cropping Land legislation in Queensland are controls that will not only restrict what mining companies can do in protected areas but also what farmers who own the land can do as well.

Earlier this year Queensland became the first state to develop draft legislation to protect farmland deemed to be of vital importance for future food production from high-impact mining developments.

When then deputy premier Paul Lucas met with landholders who were calling for greater protections of farmland from mining at Dalby in 2007, he said the Government would consider it, but warned that greater restrictions could also apply to farmers as well as miners if protective legislation was developed.

It was a case of “be careful what you wish for”, and landholders studying the detail of the draft legislation are beginning to see what he meant.

Property Rights Australia chair Joanne Rea says the legislation contains controls that will restrict the construction of new buildings and some agricultural development on many farms.

In an analysis posted on the Just Grounds Online community website, she said the legislation would only allow one dwelling per lot, and would restrict new sheds for the support of agriculture to 750m2.

“Swimming pools, tennis courts and golf courses-not allowed,” she said. “Most on-farm activity that is not strictly agricultural is banned.”

A prominent regional mayor has expressed similar concerns.

Ron Bellingham, mayor of Southern Downs regional council that takes in the Warwick and Stanthorpe regions, has urged the community to “take a good hard look” at the legislation while it is still open for public consultation.

“We applaud the intent of this new policy to protect our best agricultural land from heavy industry like mining,” Cr Bellingham said.

“However, when you look at the fine print, it has major implications for what producers themselves can do with their land and for Council’s planning schemes.”

“It effectively removes local decision making for anything other than basic farming activities.

“We’re asking the community to take an interest in this because we think it will effectively ban a whole range of activities which are quite common in this area today.”

The proposed policy applies to farming land only, not towns and urban areas, and restricts new buildings and developments, except in exempt categories.

“It appears to allow some things that you are appropriate on strategic cropping land, such as animal keeping, intensive horticulture and cropping, but our concern is that it bans everything else,” the Mayor explained.

While animal keeping is allowed, this essentially only applies where no new buildings need to be built. So feedlots and free range pig or chook farms would be okay; poultry sheds and piggeries would not.

• The opportunity for public comment on the draft legislation closes this Friday, September 30.The draft Strategic Cropping Land legislation is open for for public submissions until Setpember 30. The draft policy can be viewed here 

RELATED STORY: Landholder group challenges claim SCL will restrict farm development


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