Mornington Shire rejects VFF’s calls for planning officers

The Southern Farmer
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PROTECT IT: The Mornington Peninsula Shire Green Wedge zone creates $1 billion for the local agricultural industry. The VFF wants the shire to do more to protect the area from urban encroachment.

THE Mornington Peninsula Shire has rejected calls by the VFF to employ two dedicated agricultural planning officers.

The Peninsula branch of the Victorian Farmers Federation formally asked that the Green Wedge (GW), parcels of non-urban land outside the urban growth boundary, be protected to help defend the area’s $1 billion local agriculture industry.

Instead, the Mornington Peninsula Shire have said they would “pro-actively audit the compliance” of dwelling plans in the zone.

Last month, farmers from across the region attended parliament house to launch an awareness campaign – further highlighting the value of Peninsula agriculture in hope of securing its future against urban encroachment.

“The Green Wedge zone is a rural zone, not a residential zone,” Peninsula VFF branch president, Eddie Matt, said.

“We are disappointed the council didn’t implement our recommendations, but we will just try again next budget.

“It’s an on-going issue.”

Currently, 70 per cent of the Mornington Peninsula Shire is listed as being in the Green Wedge – and the VFF intends it to remain so.

They are concerned planning decisions are not being made with sustainable agriculture in mind.

“We are Melbourne’s food bowl – one vegetable farm alone sends eight trucks each day to Melbourne for domestic consumption and export.

“Despite this, the Green Wedge on the Peninsula is under constant assault from land uses that are not specified as purposes of the zone.”

There has also been concerns the Mornington Peninsula Shire are not enforcing their own planning applications – Southern Farmer, April, Page 3, “Enforce planning, Mornington Peninsula Shire told”.

Earlier this year, a local property owner came forward saying he had numerous examples of Green Wedge building applications that included an ag business – one of the requirements of the zone – but that, years later, no business was operating.

“These planning applications are quite deliberate,” he said.

“They know that to have a home approved on their 10 acre block in the Green Wedge, they need to have an agricultural purpose.

“What they are doing, of course, is lodging the application, accepting permit conditions requiring a genuine agricultural activity, building the home and then forgetting about the rest – and the council just aren’t doing anything about it.”

In response, Paul Lewis, manager of planning compliance at the Mornington Peninsula Shire, said they had heard the VFF submission.

“Council strongly supports the role of agriculture in the Green Wedge,” Mr Lewis said.

“Currently, council is pro-actively auditing the compliance of Farm Management Plans attached to dwelling permits throughout the Green Wedge zone.”

Determined to fight on, Mr Matt said the VFF would continue to “chip away at the edges”.

“We will have to eat money soon if they don’t do something – if we don’t have this local supply chain, where is our food going to come from?”

More farming news and stories can be read in the September, 2018 print edition of The Southern Farmer or click here to access digital editions.