The discussion paper outlines the potential land use conflicts associated with intensive agriculture and measures to mitigate these conflicts.
The discussion paper outlines the potential land use conflicts associated with intensive agriculture and measures to mitigate these conflicts. TREVOR VEALE

Hot topic back before council

COFFS Harbour City Council will this week decide if it will proceed with public exhibition of its Intensive Plant Agriculture Discussion Paper.

The discussion paper outlines the potential land use conflicts associated with intensive agriculture and measures to mitigate these conflicts and is just one aspect of their overall Rural Lands Review process.

One measure to mitigate these conflicts could be the requirement for development consent for intensive plant agriculture in Rural Landscape zones because it: 'provides a proactive opportunity to prevent issues before they occur and will support best practice farm management'.

The discussion paper specifically in relation to intensive plant agriculture was up for consideration by council in early December and after much heated debate it was decided to refer it back to the Agricultural Advisory Committee for further consultation with a final timeline of March, 2019.

At the time councillor Sally Townley expressed frustration at further delays on the matter.

"Why are we so afraid of regulation. This (development applications) is just one tool, and it's not going to apply to farms that currently exist," Cr Townley said.

"This recommendation to implement DAs, from our senior professional planning staff, lines up with what other planners are suggesting at Bellingen and Nambucca councils. Why delay?"

Leigh Priestley, who sits on council's Agricultural Advisory Committee (AAC), was also at the December meeting and he described some of the wording in the paper as "biased and inflammatory".

The AAC was appointed by the council in November, 2016 for discussion, comment and input to assist in the development of their Rural Lands Strategy.

Over the years, the council has recognised a number of community concerns in relation to intensive plant agriculture including pollution (air, noise, water); adverse impacts on waterways; spray drift; excessive water use; storage of hazardous chemicals; visual impacts (netting); illegal clearing of native vegetation; lack of employee facilities and accommodation for seasonal workforce; and increased and unmanaged traffic movements and parking.