RURAL Councils Victoria chairman Rob Gersch has labelled new rural planning zone reforms a step forward for local government.
Minister for Planning Matthew Guy released the State Government's final rural zone proposals on Wednesday.
Victoria's six rural zones include the Farming Zone, Rural Living Zone, Rural Activities Zone, two Green Wedge Zones and the Rural Conservation Zone, which cover the vast geographic majority of the state.
Mr Guy said the new rural zones would make it easier to start and operate rural industries and gave rural and regional councils greater flexibility to manage their own municipalities.
Cr Gersch said Wimmera councils welcomed the autonomy the reforms provided.
"Planning is a complex issue for local governments," he said. "In the past councils have been hamstrung. Now they have a lot more flexibility."
Mr Guy said the reforms would hand planning power back to councils.
"These reforms will allow each council to tailor its rural zones to match its own strategic intent and the directions of each Regional Growth Plan," he said.
"They allow rural councils to get on with sensible decision making rather than getting caught up in convoluted planning processes."
He said the changes would boost investment and population growth in rural and regional Victoria.
Key changes include:
Encouraging agricultural use of land, particularly in the farming and green wedge zones.
Allowing councils to consider more 'off farm' income streams on farms, such as farm machinery repair businesses.
Removing the need for a permit for primary produce sales, rural stores and most rural industries in the Rural Activities Zone.
Cr Gersch said councils lobbied for the changes.
"Most councils put in submissions. Rural Councils Victoria put in a submission as well," he said.
"The government recognises that councils are in the best place to decide on local issues."
Victorian Farmers Federation land management chairman Gerald Leach said the reforms delivered valuable amendments for farmers, but fell short in key areas.
Mr Leach said he was concerned the government had not heeded the VFF's calls to remove red tape for intensive industries and that it would not allow horticulturalists and other farmers to build or expand storage buildings beyond 100 square metres without a permit.