Bellingen considers its blueberry future

FARMING BLUES: Oxley MP Melinda Pavey has called on Bellingen Shire Council not to impose restrictions on the growth of the blueberry industry on the Coffs Coast.
FARMING BLUES: Oxley MP Melinda Pavey has called on Bellingen Shire Council not to impose restrictions on the growth of the blueberry industry on the Coffs Coast. Frank Redward

BELLINGEN Shire Council has been asked to carefully consider the ramifications of increasing regulations on blueberry farms in the shire.

State Member for Oxley Melinda Pavey made the call as the council prepares to meet tomorrow to consider a controversial motion that if approved could impact on the industry's future in the shire.

The council motion that's been tabled reads in part that the council: "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 was a growth industry and has brought much-needed new investment and employment to the Mid North Coast.

"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," she said.

"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 and prescribe, in fact regulations should be the last resort. Codes of Practice and Community Charters can easily deliver good, balanced outcomes without imposing stifling, costly red-tape prescriptions that may also have unintended 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."

Topics:  bellingen bellingen shire council blueberries blueberry farming melinda pavey regulations

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