Planning, Development and Infrastructure (State Planning Commission) Amendment Bill

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY (Leader of the Opposition) (20:13): Obtained leave and introduced a bill for an act to amend the Planning and Development Act 2016. Read a first time.

Second Reading

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY (Leader of the Opposition) (20:14): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The brief explanation for my introducing this bill today is that we have a new planning commission. The Development Act was repealed in early 2016 to make way for the State Planning Commission. Members will remember we were here for some days and sat for some weeks debating that new bill. It was a move we had been calling for prior to the last state election, so we were happy in a lot of ways to support that bill.

The commission is essentially responsible for preparing planning policies that set out the state's overarching goals and/or requirements for the state planning system. Consistent with these broad policies, it also prepares regional plans that are long-term visions for a region. Under these sit a Planning and Design Code, also prepared by the commission, which deals with specific zoning and defining land issues.

In summary, the commission is hugely influential on what South Australia's landscape will look like in the long term. The act makes a point of installing a commission with expertise in an array of disciplines. It is expected that these areas of expertise will impact on the direction of development policies put forward for the minister's approval.

For several years, alongside debates around developing land for housing, conflicts between mining and farming have been playing out. Primary production is extremely important to our economy. In fact, one in five people employed in this state are in the food production or manufacturing sector. Mining also has great potential and is very important to our state's economy.

I have participated in many of these debates over how we can quantify the value of primary production land in order to protect it, and there is no silver bullet. As we know, the Hon. Robert Brokenshire has a Right to Farm Bill before parliament, and he is potentially progressing the debate before parliament rises prior to the next election. The bill seeks to exempt farmers from nuisance complaints and other prosecutions where behaviour is part of normal farming activity. It also seeks to ensure that prime agricultural farming land is not lost to mining interests and highly productive land be zoned off.

In my deliberations over this bill and various policy suggestions, I have come to the decision that we need a top-down policy approach. I believe that, given the state's reliance on our primary industries and the interface that those industries have with both developed and developable land, the commission should include at least one member with agricultural expertise. As well as dealing with the bigger picture, primary industry in South Australia must play a huge role in that picture.

The commission also has a lower level of responsibility in the development system, and issues such as buffer zones and spray drift are very common. The commission should also arguably have a greater balance towards farming and the regions when dealing with wind farm developments. These are just a few examples.

Some may argue that the minister, when entering specific planning agreements for a particular area of the state, must install a joint planning board, which may have relevant expertise outside of the commission. However, these arrangements funnel down from the broad statewide policies and are arguably too far down the food chain for there to be enough real influence from an agricultural perspective.

The collusion of such expertise on the commission would be a simple legislative change and I believe a good decision if we are to value our primary industries at a state economic level. This is an industry that would be most affected by planning policy, especially in the peri-urban areas and as our regions expand, and economically stands to lose the most if we make poor decisions.

I wanted to introduce this bill immediately, rather than making this an election commitment, because I wanted to make our position clear before we rise for the election. That position is that primary producers in our regions need to be protected at the highest policy level. How this legislation and the Right to Farm Bill the Hon. Robert Brokenshire has proposed may complement each other is still unclear. Those details need to be teased out through any committee stage, if the Hon. Robert Brokenshire progresses his bill, but the state Liberals are committed to the regions and, whatever the election result is, I hope we can work through this to deliver some protection and security for our farmers.

Regarding change of land use, I have just been made aware of a couple of circumstances in the Barossa near the protection zone where you have a change of land use that has gone from broadacre agriculture to viticulture. There was an example this year that I think was quite alarming. We had a lot of summer rain in January and February this year, so we had weeds that appeared on a farmer's property that are declared weeds, and it is an offence not to control those weeds. It is against the law.

That farmer is surrounded on three sides by vineyards and it is an offence to use the chemicals you need to use to control the weeds that are an offence to have on your property within a certain distance of grape vines. So, you were not able to spray because the change of land use had rendered your property, not unviable, but certainly much more difficult to manage.

Just recently, we have had another decision in the Barossa Valley where there is a change of land use and the land is going to viticulture, and the decision, the rezoning or the change of land use says, 'The broadacre farmer must have the buffer zone on his side of the boundary,' so it effectively renders a couple of hundred metres of his property, not worthless, but much more difficult to manage by virtue of a change of land use on the other side of the fence. It is the opposition's view that we need to have some very high-level input at a planning commission level from an agricultural and farming point of view, and to make sure we have somebody with expertise from a high-level policy point of view so that it feeds right down through the hierarchy of the planning commission.

I have always had this personal view, and I think it is shared by most people in the Liberal Party and most people in society, that you should be able to do whatever you want on your property as long as it does not impact on the way your neighbour (he or she) goes about their daily business. What we are seeing are changes of land use, whether it is urban encroachment, urban development, or it is simple: a farmer who is changing from sheep to chardonnay, or steers to shiraz, and the farmer who has not changed has to bear the buffer zone. I think that is inequitable and those decisions need to have some input from a very high level. With those few words, I commend the bill to the chamber.

Debate adjourned on motion of the Hon. S.G. Wade.

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