VFF angry: State Government 'broke key election promise'

THE Victorian Farmers Federation has accused the State Government of breaking a key election promise regarding the right to farm.

An amendment introduced to State Parliament last week aims to remove a notice from the Sale of Land Act 1962 for prospective property owners, which warns people if they move into a farming area they could be exposed to noise, smell and dust produced by farming.

Section 32 of the Act ensures it is the responsibility of the buyer to investigate whether their property might be affected by farming.

Federation president Peter Tuohey said he could not believe the government was hailing the legislation as a positive development for farmers.

“The VFF was stunned to see Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh claiming the amendment would be welcomed by us,” he said.

“Once this notice is deleted, we’ll be left with a requirement that real estate agents make a checklist available to potential buyers.” 

Mr Tuohey said new residents could be unaware of what living close to farmland was really like without having to do due diligence, and that lack of understanding could cause disputes.

“It doesn’t matter really where you are, it could be the fringes of Horsham, Melbourne, Ballarat, Traralgon – you’ve been farming there forever and someone buys next to you and they kick up a hell of a fuss,” Mr Tuohey said.

“That’s why section 32 is so important and it needs to be in the Act.”

Before the 2010 state election, the Coalition’s agriculture policy promised Section 32 statements would: “Detail prominent noises and smells to ensure potential owners of rural property acknowledge and accept they exist prior to purchasing.”

Mr Walsh rejected claims the government had broken an election promise and said the amendment was an attempt to remove red tape in real estate transactions.

“I believe the proposed mandatory due diligence checklist is a practical and commonsense outcome both for farmers and for prospective buyers,” he said.

“The Coalition is committed to supporting regional communities, and to having sensible regulation that allows our state’s valuable farming businesses to grow and flourish free of restrictive red tape.”

Mr Walsh said the decision to amend the Act had only been made after a process of consultation with the VFF.

“The VFF was consulted and briefed as the Sale of Land Act amendment was prepared in recent months, and the organisation indicated it would welcome the opportunity to work closely with the government on the development of the due diligence checklist,” he said.

Mr Tuohey disagreed with Mr Walsh’s assessment of the consultation process and said the federation had communicated to the government in no uncertain terms that it opposed the removal of section 32.

“He’s said he had VFF support. Well – wrong,” he said. “I can’t really understand why he said we were happy.”

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