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Non-viable Farming Land

24 July 2018

The Hon. J.A. DARLEY (15:03): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, representing the Minister for Planning, a question regarding non-viable farming land.

Leave granted.

The Hon. J.A. DARLEY: When the Planning, Development and Infrastructure Act was proposed in 2016, the environment and food production areas were established with the intention to protect our vital food and agricultural areas in this state. Protecting these areas protects our food security, economic growth and local jobs.

However, a number of issues have now made broadacre farms that are used for cropping or grazing non-viable in the peri-urban areas within certain areas of the EFPAs, such as in the Barossa region. These issues include land area of properties being too small to enable viable operations, access restrictions to land, limited access to irrigation water, and restrictions on the operation of some farming practices for properties adjacent to housing or sensitive crops.

Owners of these properties find that they are stuck between a rock and a hard place, as their land has become non-viable for farming and there is little value in the land for anything else, especially as land cannot be subdivided for residential or other purposes. There is also very little potential for the land to be subdivided for agricultural purposes, because of the lack of access to underground water. Essentially, their livelihood has been severely damaged and the value of their land has dramatically declined. Given the above, my questions to the minister are:

1. What consideration has been given to landowners in this position?

2. Has any consideration being given to providing a reasonable and equitable exit strategy for these owners?

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY (Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment) (15:05): I thank the honourable member for his question. I think the best solution would be for me to take that on notice and refer it to the minister in the other chamber and bring back a reply.


Answer to Question

16 October 2018

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY (Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment): The Minister for Planning has provided the following advice:

The Environment and Food Production Areas (EFPAs) were introduced to aid the protection and longevity of vital agricultural lands surrounding metropolitan Adelaide, from threat of urban development and sprawl, by reducing the ability for landowners to divide land for residential purposes.

This is in addition to the Character Preservation (Barossa Valley) Act 2012 and Character Preservation (McLaren Vale) Act 2012 (the preservation acts).

Land Division and Grace Periods

It is important to note that land division within the EFPA will continue to be assessed against the provisions contained in the current zones within a council's development plan.

The minimum allotment sizes stipulated within those zones continue to apply, and applications will therefore continue to be assessed on merit. The changes introduced by the EFPA relate only to land division creating allotments for residential purposes, which are now prohibited subject to certain grace periods.

In rural living areas in the EFPA, the Planning, Development and Infrastructure Act 2016(PDI Act) provides a two-year grace period until 1 April 2019 to allow lodgement and approval of land division applications to create residential allotments. Applications can be lodged up until 1 April 2019 and will be considered through the normal assessment process.

The PDI Act also deals with 'Preserving Existing Authorisations and Rights' for any purpose anywhere in the EFPA where an approval was granted before 1 April 2017. This also allows for a two-year grace period to complete works and satisfy any conditions associated with an approved division.

Amending the EFPA

Landowners can make a case that their land is not viable for farming. The PDI Act sets out a process for the State Planning Commission (commission) to hear such requests that seek to amend the EFPA.

This involves the commission conducting an inquiry against a set of criteria, at least every five years or upon request.

Following an inquiry, the commission provides a report to the Minister for Planning on the outcomes of the inquiry. The commission may vary the EFPA, by notice published in the Gazette and SA Planning Portal. The notice is laid before both houses of parliament, where it may be disallowed.

The department will seek direction from the commission at its meeting on 20 September 2018 in relation to establishing a clear and consistent process for landowners wishing to review or vary the EFPA. A clear process will improve the manner in which requests to review or vary the EFPA are received and considered by the commission, which is currently on a case by case basis.

Review of Character Preservation Acts

The EFPA works in a similar manner to the preservation acts in the Barossa and McLaren Vale, which have been in operation since 2012. Both preservation acts were recently reviewed to assess:

family, social, economic and environmental impacts;

the impact on councils within the district;

any changes to the district as a result of the preservation acts;

any actions that may have been undertaken to address any negative impacts on the preservation acts.

Consultation occurred between October 2017 and February 2018. Submissions were received from the local government sector, members of parliament, peak bodies, industry groups and individual community members. The Outcomes Report was tabled in parliament on 19 June 2018.

As a recommendation of the Outcomes Report, the commission will seek to improve policies and processes in the development and implementation of the state's new Planning and Design Code.

This could provide greater certainty to assist primary producers in EFPA's with an emphasis on value-adding and tourism to provide additional income streams, especially in areas considered 'non-viable' for production purposes.