Saturday, April 13, 2024

Planning change to boost farm builds

Farmers across Victoria can now invest in worker accommodation on their farms without the need for a planning permit, under a new streamlined planning approval process adopted by the Victorian Government.

Minister for Agriculture, Mary-Anne Thomas today announced an amendment to the Victoria Planning Provisions that exempts farm businesses from requiring a planning permit for on-farm accommodation for up to 10 people.

“On-farm accommodation will provide more options for farm workers and make it easier for growers to recruit the workers they need for the upcoming harvest. These planning changes are about supporting our agriculture sector to thrive,” said Minister Thomas.

She said on-farm accommodation would eliminate the need for seasonal workers to find a place to stay in nearby towns.

“It removes the often long-distance travel to and from farms, cuts travel expenses and reduces the impact on rural and regional roads,” the Minister said.

The planning permit exemption is available exclusively for accommodation for workers engaged in agriculture and must be on at least 40 hectares of land on a property within the Farming Zone. It must meet requirements relating to connections to electricity, water and wastewater treatment.

“Streamlining the ability for Victorian farmers to provide suitable accommodation for rural workers is common-sense planning that will help secure a critical rural workforce, supporting our farmers and Victorian agriculture,” said Minister for Planning, Richard Wynne.

Minister Thomas said the new planning process will deliver a boost for the industry ahead of the peak harvest season and aligns with the Government’s comprehensive $84 million package to support the Victorian agriculture industry as it continues to meet seasonal workforce challenges.

This support includes the $6 million Seasonal Workforce Accommodation Program, which has backed 13 projects to boost accommodation options, pastoral care and transport services for 2,000 workers in key horticulture areas.

It also includes $5.2 million in grants through the Agriculture Workforce Plan for new and upgraded accommodation to support 80 businesses.

Increased on-farm accommodation may also contribute to improving broader housing supply issues in regional areas by reducing seasonal demand on housing in rural towns, said Minister Thomas.

It complements the Victorian Government’s commitment to tackle housing shortages and other barriers to regional workforce attraction through the $5 million Regional Workforce Pilots.

The Robinvale pilot will be delivered in partnership with the Seasonal Workforce Accommodation Action Team led by the Swan Hill Rural City Council, which has been established to encourage investment solutions for seasonal workforce accommodation and ensure greater COVID safety compliance.

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