Farming Advisory Group Simon Loader City of Greater Geelong
Introduction • Describe what a Farming Advisory Group is and its origins • Describe when and how a Farming Advisory Group operates • Describe the benefits of using a Farming Advisory Group • Discuss the policy background that drove the creation of the Farming Advisory Group • Discuss the checklists which have been developed to assist the Farming Advisory Group process
Farming Advisory Group • A Farming Advisory Group is a number of community members with a certain level of experience or qualification in agriculture or farming who provide advice to Council when determining applications relating to subdivision of rural land or the development of a dwelling on rural land • Geelong Regional Commission established a Farming Advisory Committee in the 1970’s - 1980’s • In 1994 the newly amalgamated City of Greater Geelong became the sole responsible authority for planning decisions • At this time the City of Greater Geelong adopted the use of the Farming Advisory Committee and conducted an expression of interest process for new members
Farming Advisory Groups • A number of the farmers who were part of the Geelong Regional Commission’s Farming Advisory Group were invited to submit an application for the Council group Verification of the applicants experience and qualifications to be part of the group needs to be undertaken • The group can then be convened on a needs basis with no requirement for regularly scheduled meetings • There is no need for a period of appointment for members of the group, members can leave and new members can join as desired • The City of Greater Geelong group currently consists of six (6) members and are volunteers who are not paid for their time
When, how & why is it used? • The group is used sporadically based upon its need, generally 2-3 meetings are convened per year with a number of files being heard • A minimum of three (3) members is generally required for a meeting to proceed in order to ensure a number of views are represented • When selecting the panel members, staff are conscious of the location of the application and avoid selecting a panel member from the same area to avoid conflict of interest • A full suite of the application information is sent to each of the panel members prior to the meeting • Panel members are requested to identify any conflict of interests prior to the meeting being held
When, how & why is it used? cont. • The Farming Advisory Group was originally set up to assist planners determining applications for subdivision of rural land • The Farming Advisory Group eventually morphed to also deal with applications for dwellings on rural allotments • Generally speaking planners lack the ability to determine if the intensity of a particular farming operation is to a degree that warrants the need for a dwelling or subdivision • In addition to this the panel members have the expertise to determine whether a proposed farming operation is viable in the sense that it may be and under or over use of the land • The Farming Advisory Group have no other role in the decision making process than simply providing advice
Benefits? • Planners are able to rely on the expertise and qualifications of community members to assist in the decision making process • Staff are essentially up-skilling by attending the meetings as they pick up some of the base knowledge from the panel members which assists them to make a decision • The meetings help planners better understand the issues surrounding farming and certain types of farming operations which helps them better communicate with the applicant who is sometimes a farmer themselves
Policy • Historically the Greater Geelong region had endured pressure on rural land due to subdivisions and dwellings on rural allotments which was generally driven by ageing farmers wishing to down size the farm or seeking income from the sale of surplus land • Rural Land Use Strategy developed in 1997 which identified the diverse rural land within the municipality which made specific reference to the Farming Advisory Group and their role in the decision making process • The Geelong Municipality has a diversity of rural land uses which was demonstrated in the Land Systems Plan prepared as part of the Rural Land Use Strategy 1997
Policy • Rural Land Use Strategy updated in 2007 which coincided with the change of the Rural Zone to the Farming Zone • Prior to the introduction of the new format Planning Scheme, the City of Greater Geelong had a policy of one dwelling as of right with each tenement (ownership of land at December 1975). • Currently Council has a very strong local policy which is well equipped to combat the applications for subdivision and the development of dwellings and now mirrors the simplified minium lot size map in the Schedule to the Farming Zone
Checklists The City of Greater Geelong identified in recent years that to improve the quality of applications relating to subdivision of rural land or development of dwellings on rural land that checklists would assist to inform applicants of the information needed to accompany an application of this type. This also assisted in having the appropriate level of information to take to the Farming Advisory Group in order for them to make an informed decision on the proposal being suggested.
Final Observations While tools such as the Farming Advisory Group and Checklists are helpful in the pre-assessment and assessment process it would be fruitless without thorough, clear and concise local policy dealing with rural land issues. The City of Greater Geelong possesses incredibly strong and clear local policy dealing with dwellings on and subdivision of rural lots. Ultimately it is this policy which allows us to continue to protect our rural land from urban encroachment.