South-west towns should adopt European-style planning to protect farmland

TOWNS in western Victoria should adopt European-style planning to protect farmland from sprawling subdivisions, Nationals MP David O’Brien says. 

The upper house MP is pushing for reform, arguing rural lifestyle homes should be more clustered. 

“If you look at European communities they maximise their agricultural land and minimise their urban footprint,” Mr O’Brien told The Standard. 

Grouping more homes could also boost rural populations and tackle social isolation. 

Planning Minister Matthew Guy is expected to visit Hamilton and Horsham to investigate the concept. 

“With a 200-acre (81ha) property that’s been carved up into 20-acre (8ha) rural residential blocks — I’d rather see the (dwellings) together to preserve 180 acres (73ha) in a single farm property,” Mr O’Brien said. “I’ve spoken with James Purcell and Chris O’Connor from Moyne Shire and Corangamite Shire respectively.” 

The issue was raised in Parliament question time on Thursday, with Mr O’Brien nominating Penshurst as a town where the reforms could work. 

He said the decision would ultimately rely on communities for it to go forward. 

Mr O’Brien said the Australian desire for large blocks was a product of European migrants seeking wealth. 

“I don’t want to criticise the mentality, it’s a reflection of our history,” he said. 

But Moyne Shire mayor James Purcell voiced doubt, saying his council’s priority was to get people living in towns rather than “rural hamlets”. 

“It’s not the way people in Australia want to live,” Cr Purcell said. 

“Our farms are bigger and they’re not necessarily in blocks … we have a lot of outpaddocks.” 

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