THE state government has moved to clarify comments regarding permits to build farm sheds within the Horsham municipality.
A spokesman for Planning Minister Richard Wynne incorrectly told the Wimmera Mail-Times on Friday that Horsham Rural City Council had “misunderstood” legislation when it rescinded a policy which took in rules for building sheds on farmland.
The spokesman retracted those comments on Wednesday.
The council had previously exempted some farm buildings from needing a building permit in 2003. However the policy later conflicted the building code of Australia and Victorian building regulations.
Their ability to seek an exemption remains and the council will assess each case individually by a qualified building surveyor.
At a meeting on April 3, Councillor John Robinson called on the council to exempt class 10 farm buildings from requiring a permit. His motion was laid on the table as the council sought clarity on the definition of a farm building.
The spokesman for Mr Wynne said the council’s actions on March 19 were appropriate and he apologised for the confusion he caused through the previous statements.
“The regulations provide exemptions for certain buildings on farm land where the building is to be used for farming purposes,” he said.
“The council has correctly rescinded an outdated blanket policy, and will assess future exemptions on a case-by-case basis.”
The Mail-Times contacted Mr Wynne’s office on Friday asking for clarity on the class of a farm building, whether the council had the power to exempt class 10 buildings from requiring a building permit and why, and when changes to the regulations occurred.
“The Minister for Planning will ask the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning to work closely with the council on its interpretation of the state legislation, ensuring the highest standards of consistency and transparency for the community,” the responding statement read.
“In the meantime, we would encourage the council to use its powers of discretion on a case by case basis, instead of a one-size-fits-all approach.”
The spokesman told the Mail-Times the council had misunderstood state legislation in relation to the permit exemption for class 10 buildings on farm land.
He said there has been no recent change to the exemption for class 10 buildings on farmland in the Building Act 1993 or the Building Interim Regulations 2017 and with the exception of minor technical changes in 2005 and 2014, regulation 1804 of the Building Interim Regulations 2017 remained unchanged since 1994.
The Mail-Times then asked the spokesman: Was council's initial decision to rescind the policy that exempted some farm buildings from needing a permit because it contradicted state and national regulations correct?
He responded: “No, it wasn’t correct.”
The Mail-Times contacted the spokesman a third time, asking him: “What you are saying is that council did not need to rescind the policy? And if the policy had remained in place it would not be contradicting state and national regulations? And they have power to exempt some farm buildings from needing a permit?”
He responded: “Correct.”
Horsham Mayor Pam Clarke said the council had to comply with changes to building regulations and while it appeared the minister’s spokesman was “saying something against council”, he was repeating the facts of the case.
She said Cr Robinson had misinformed Mr Wynne.