Councillors debate the future of agriculture on Coffs Coast
A REPORT by senior council staff has recommended development applications for intensive agriculture as one measure to alleviate potential land use conflicts.
The report was considered by councillors at their Thursday meeting as part of their updated Local Growth Management Strategy - a document that governs how council plans for population growth over the next 20 years.
After some heated debate it was resolved to bring the report (the Intensive Plant Agricultural Discussion Paper) back to the Agricultural Advisory Committee (ACC) for further consultation.
Community consultation conducted while preparing the paper reflected a number of concerns associated with intensive plant agriculture including pollution (air, noise, water); adverse impacts on waterways; spray drift; excessive water use; storage of hazardous chemicals; visual impacts (netting); illegal clearing of native vegetation; lack of employee facilities and accommodation for seasonal workforce; and increased and unmanaged traffic movements and parking.
The report also suggests that one of the benefits of requiring development consent for Intensive Plant Agriculture is that it 'provides a proactive opportunity to prevent issues before they occur and will support best practice farm management'.
Leigh Priestley, who sits on council's Agricultural Advisory Committee (AAC), was at last week's meeting and he described the wording in the report as "biased and inflammatory".
But councillor Sally Townley expressed frustration at further delays on the matter.
"Why are we so afraid of regulation. This (development applications) is just one tool, and it's not going to apply to farms that currently exist.
"This recommendation to implement DAs, from our senior professional planning staff, lines up with what other planners are suggesting at Bellingen and Nambucca councils. Why delay?"
Other councillors expressed concern that a number of state bodies already exist to manage the process.
"We are usurping the powers that be - we are saying you're not right, you're policy should be over-rided. I think that's arrogant and sending out a message to farmers that they aren't appreciated," said Councillor Michael Adendorff.
Despite deciding to refer the Intensive Plant Agricultural Discussion Paper back to the advisory committee it was decided to proceed to public consultation with Chapter 5 Rural Lands.
The chapter is currently on exhibition until February 28. Follow this link