RED tape for rural councils, farmers and tourism operators has been eased under statewide reforms to protect farm land and encourage business.
Many of the amended six rural zones will apply across the south-west where there has previously been issues with applications for housing on lots of less than 40 hectares and tourism proposals in farming zones.
Further reforms are likely by early next year to protect agricultural production land and give councils a say on which areas are deemed high value and those that are subject to planning overlays.
Planning Minister Matthew Guy said councils would find it easier to consider applications for ventures on farms, including machinery repair businesses, and remove the need for permits for primary produce sales, rural stores and other suitable industries in rural activity zones.
Permit thresholds for extensions to farm outbuildings including dairy sheds has been doubled to 100 square metres and farm gate sales will be encouraged.
Councils will have greater ability to determine smaller lifestyle lots in rural living zones where land has already been taken out of agricultural production.
The government reforms will also allow a range of activities in the farm zone, subject to gaining a permit, including industry, motor racing tracks, primary and secondary schools, landscape and trade supplies and caravan and camping parks.
Mr Guy said the reforms would allow greater consideration of tourism ventures.
Previous planning laws which required “in conjunction” tests for agricultural use have been removed from rural conservation zones to encourage tourism and job growth.
Corangamite Shire mayor Chris O’Connor said the planning changes appeared to provide more flexibility particularly around rural zones.
He expected they would open up new opportunities for development.
“There’s potentially opportunities for new income streams and it gives farmers an opportunity to look at some new enterprises not previously available in the farm zone,” Cr O’Connor said.
He welcomed the decision to allow some development on farm lots of less than 40 hectares.
“We can potentially look at accommodating more light commercial developments closer to towns and some commonsense stuff around tourism enterprises.”
Corangamite Shire, in particular, will have to decide on several proposals for up-market accommodation ventures in the Great Ocean precinct.
But the Victorian Farmers’ Federation is concerned by changes to assist tourism in rural zones.
“The government’s reforms have helped fill in part of the planning puzzle, but there are pieces still missing,” VFF land management chairman Gerald Leach said.
The VFF opposes the government’s decision to allow tourism that is not “in conjunction” with agricultural uses in the farm zone.
“We’re fine with winery restaurants and farm tourism that are linked to agriculture, but the government wants to end that link,” Mr Leach said.
‘‘That risks creating more conflict between farmers and tourism operators in what is meant to be a commercial farming zone.”