Nambucca Shire horticulture regulation rescission motion passes and compromise struck

Charlie Higgins addresses the council at the Valla Beach Community Hall
Charlie Higgins addresses the council at the Valla Beach Community Hall

A motion to undo recent recommendations for horticultural regulation in the Shire was passed at the last council meeting.

The motion was brought to last week’s council meeting in Valla Beach by Crs Ainsworth, Hoban and Wilson.

Cr John Ainsworth’s reasons for the rescission motion included a need for the agricultural industry to have certainty for the future, and a current Local Environment Plan (LEP) review by state government which could potentially override any decisions made by council.

A huge contingent of locals with an interest in the matter filled the public gallery at the Valla Beach community Hall.

Charlie Higgins spoke for the motion on behalf of the Nambucca Area Macadamia Growers Association.

Cr David Jones said he was concerned that the regulations could have the potential to impose restrictions on agriculture involving the indigenous macadamia tree.

“The real situation here is blueberries,” Cr Jones said.

“But I feel that these regulations would have resolved one of the issues that has come up here several times—and that is land-use conflict.”

Cr Susan Jenvey spoke passionately against the rescission motion on multiple grounds including that horticultural self-regulation isn’t adequate in regards to pesticide, fungicide and water-use.

This rescission motion is an attempt to shut down wide-ranging debate on an area where we should be being realistic, and practical.

Cr Susan Jenvey

“By not establishing that consent is required in the set up phase, by not owning the fact that we are coastal rural where many people for many years have sought to live here, we are saying to the organic dairy farmer: you don't count.

“We are saying to the farm stay accommodation—if their business is impacted—you don't count, to the house built in 1970, 24 metres from a boundary on rural land, you don't count.

“We are saying to the organic industry, which is growing at 14.5 percent per year, you don't count.”

The decision to rescind went to the wire with Crs Ainsworth, Finlayson, Reed and Wilson voting for and Crs Jenvey, Jones, Smyth and Ballangarry against.

Cr Brian Finlayson had sought legal advice regarding his agricultural interests and decided that this time he would be eligible to vote.

As the vote was tied, Mayor Rhonda Hoban cast her deciding vote and passed the rescission motion, to loud applause from the gallery.

Another motion was then moved by Cr Ainsworth which acted as a compromise, limiting the extent of regulation to R5 (large lot residential) only, and suggesting the instigation of a Development Control Plan as opposed to requiring costly and often time-consuming Development Applications.

“Lots of land zoned as RU1 or RU2 probably won’t be developed for 50 to 60 years,” Cr Ainsworth said.

“It makes no sense to sterilise this land.

“By only addressing R5 land, we will give the industry some confidence.”

That motion was passed with Crs Smyth and Jenvey indicating that they supported it in the absence of anything else.

“I will support this because we have nothing else on the floor and I don’t want this to fall over,” Cr Smyth said.

“But people are quite rightly worried about the poison, about the 18ft poles and netting.

“Our whole community needs to be involved in this discussion now.”