To: Victorian Planning Panel
re: Greater Shepparton Planning Scheme: Proposed Amendment C121

Presented at Panel hearing : 20 October 2011

The Environmental Farmers Network (EFN) represents farmers in south-east Australia interested in sustainable farming in a social, environmental and economic sense. We represent mostly commercial farmers very concerned about: the impact of climate change on farms, people and landscapes; loss of farm biodiversity; and, the loss of farmland and relatively natural areas to urban expansion.

This morning I intend to address Amendment C121 to the Greater Shepparton Planning Scheme at a macro level of broad strategic policy that our group considers applicable state-wide.

It is important to protect our productive land, especially highly improved irrigation land and the supporting irrigation and salinity infrastructure with-in the region.
This farming land is far too valuable to this and future generations to allow subdivision for lifestyle properties. Every-one talks about food security but we fail to address long term strategies. 

The subdivision of land for life-style properties also inflates the property market and makes it very difficult for much needed younger farmers to “get a start”. Now more than ever, an aging farming community needs to foster the next generation of farmers, not put up further barriers. 

Current rural zones have fostered the growth of ongoing tension between farming practices and home owners. Farmers have a right to farm and need certainty.
We have examples of homes with-in 10 meters of newly planted orchards all the result of very recent subdivisions and building permits.

The Strategy (as exhibited) offers further protection to our natural resources, remnant vegetation and bio-diversity.  Lifestyle subdivisions have adversely impacted our environment and in particular bio-diversity.
Subdivisions inevitably take in the most attractive portion of farmland which is often rich in valuable remnant vegetation and adjacent to rivers and streams.

 If on-going population growth is seen as desirable or inevitable, higher density living in country cities, towns and villages should be encouraged, as is happening around the world. We cannot allow urban sprawl to take precedence over sound long term planning for population growth.

Dispersed lifestyle subdivisions all add to the overall costs of government services required to be provided. Road upgrades, school busses, waste collection to mention a few. Black Saturday highlighted the problems of providing emergency services to dispersed subdivisions.

Opposition to the Strategy appears to be predominately from those with pecuniary interests and certainly not the least from aging landholders intent on boosting savings for retirement.

The planned changes to rural zones (as exhibited) are a long overdue strategy to protect productive farming land, the right to farm, our natural resources and biodiversity.

We strongly support the exhibited lot sizes and are disappointed with Greater Shepparton City Council action to withdraw earlier support for this change prior to the Panel Hearing.

John Pettigrew


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