EPA boost raises farmer concerns

Wednesday 18 January 2017

NEW environmental reforms being considered by the Victorian Government could lead to inflamed tensions between farmers and other residents in rural communities.

Under a planned overhaul of the Environmental Protection Authority Act, the EPA would be given new powers and a multi-million dollar funding boost to investigate environmental complaints, which has drawn concern from the state’s peak farmer group.

The Victorian Farmers Federation has warned the proposed reforms, which include expanding the EPA presence into local councils across the state, are ripe for abuse if environmental officers are given the resources to investigate every complaint made in farming zones.

“There’s a real concern that people who don’t understand the nature of commercial farming could make complaints just because they don’t like the smell, or they don’t like the noise or the dust,” VFF President David Jochinke said.

“We don’t want a system that lets people make nuisance complaints if farmers are already following the law, so the Government needs to give us peace of mind that this won’t occur by outlining strict guidelines for investigating complaints.”

Mr Jochinke said farmers should be trusted to comply with current environmental laws and argued the current framework being championed by the Government could infringe on a farmer’s right to farm.

“It’s in the farmers’ best interest to do the right thing on their land, and we don’t need more laws to watch over us and see that we manage our land appropriately,” he said.

“Farmers are concerned their right to farm could be taken away if any person is able to ring up their local EPA officer and tell them to investigate smells or noises they don’t like.”

The VFF has vowed to work with the Government to refine the proposal to minimise possible impacts on farmers.

“Commercial farming businesses, operating within industry guidelines, need to be supported so they can continue to grow the food and fibre required by all Victorians and which is a keystone of our economy,” Mr Jochinke said.

Media Contacts:

David Jochinke, VFF President: 0427 834 524

Ashley Mackinnon, VFF Public Affairs Officer: 0417 165 784