A Riverina farmer is reserving his judgement on whether a new appointee to protect rights to farm will be more than just another bureaucrat.
As part of an election commitment, the NSW Nationals have announced an agriculture commissioner who would be appointed as “an advocate for better planning reforms and act as a guide to the government on reducing unnecessary red tape”.
Alan Brown, a local farmer and chairman of the NSW Farmer’s Association, said it was an interesting concept.
“It’s a matter of the person who is put in there and if they are sensible or if it will be just another bureaucrat,” he said.
“They will need to be proactive in getting out there and representing farmers and making sure people understand what right to farm means and people moving into regional understand what goes on.
“There is a whole raft of issues when you get an urban dweller interfacing with agriculture and people who have no idea but live in the country.”
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Mr Brown said out-of-hours operations, noise, dust and animal husbandry are just some of the factors that people who aren’t from agriculture backgrounds don’t realise.
“I have seen many times on council where people move in and start complaining,” he said.
“The commissioner would need to be able to counterbalance this as well as animal liberation lobbies and allowing farmers more latitude in the right to farm.”
Mr Brown said the devil lies in the detail and he will wait to see how effective it is.
The appointee will work with the Office of the Small Business Commissioner and alongside planning authorities to strengthen standards development and zoning methods and make recommendations to the government.
Minister for Primary Industries, Niall Blair said increased urbanisation means that some efficient production practices are now under threat from people who complain loudly about farming noises and smells.
“These complaints could end up in court where well-funded activists use legal tactics to drag out the process, making it unaffordable and unworkable for farmers, agricultural processors, fishers and foresters to do their job,” he said.
“As our farmers battle one of the worst droughts on record the last thing we want is for them to have to worry about fending off nuisance claims from environmental activists, ‘tree change’ new neighbours and ad-hoc rule changes by local councils.
“We will be the voice and create the noise for farmers when their rights are being questioned – we are standing up for farmers.”