The push for an agricultural representative on the State Planning Commission has taken another step forward, after Opposition agriculture spokesperson David Ridgway introduced the Planning, Development and Infrastructure Amendment Bill into the Legislative Council.
Mr Ridgway said the state Liberals had moved to give primary producers representation on SA’s peak planning body because primary industries were worth $18.6 billion and formed the backbone of the economy.
Earlier this year, a once-in-30-year reform of SA’s entire planning system occurred, but Mr Ridgway claimed agriculture was overlooked.
As it stands, the Planning Commission has six members experienced in economics, planning, development, environmental policy and local government, but Mr Ridgway said the intention of the bill amendment is to add an additional member with a background in agriculture to help with finding solutions to challenges faced by primary producers.
“So many planning issues directly affect the livelihoods of our farmers and primary producers, especially decisions about zoning and land use,” he said.
"It is undoubtedly a complex area and farmers have to grapple with the additional complexities of buffer zones, pest animal and weed control and, in a number of instances, just nuisance complaints.
“There are a number of instances in which the interaction between farmers and neighbouring properties have resulted in a dispute.”
A spokesperson for Planning Minister John Rau said agriculture was a critical driver of the SA economy and there were many industries and businesses that had specific needs in relation to the planning system.
“These will need to be considered by the State Planning Commission in developing the new strategy and planning rules for our state,” he said.
“Agriculture is only one category among various categories of land uses that must be accounted for in the planning system.
“Given the breadth of issues the commission will be required to address in its delivery of the new planning system, the act was written to enable the commission to appoint additional expert members for specific matters. This is a better way of providing relevant expertise.”
State parliament will not sit again until next year and because the Labor government did not support the amendment, Mr Ridgway believes progress could slow down unless a Liberal government was elected.
“Our food sector employs one in five South Australians, and for this reason our primary producers must be represented on our state’s peak planning body,” he said.
“Our primary producers must have a voice in SA's planning system to deliver a better outcome in the future.”