The Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association today called on parties contesting the March 15 election to adopt a reform to planning procedures that would establish the bona fides of the planning authority towards an application before significant costs are incurred.

The farmers want the default position to be for a plan to be approved unless it can be shown to be failing in some respect.

“We want planning authorities to give applications the initial nod, an in-principle approval at the first stage, so that the farmer can proceed with the detailed application with a default position that the development will be approved,” TFGA chief executive Jan Davis said.

“Farmers are required to provide supporting information to planning authorities invariably at significant cost; so it is not unreasonable for the authority to provide an ‘in-principle’ approval commitment to the proposal prior to these costs being incurred.

“We are not asking for special treatment. However, if a proposal requires the investment of significant funds by way of preparation of reports and the like, then a proponent needs to have a reasonable indication that the project has a good chance of approval subject to meeting the appropriate conditions,” she said.

“An ‘in-principle’ approval sends the right signals and allows the costs to be incurred with a degree of confidence.”

Ms Davis said the TFGA did not support the current arrangement that sees a proponent incur significant costs preparing reports only to have the application refused.

“This is not a sound way to do business and acts as a disincentive to investment around the state,” Ms Davis said. The idea that a so-called ‘social licence’ was required for all proposals also missed the point.

“We would contend that if a proposal has obtained approval by following the required steps under the appropriate planning regime then it has the necessary licence.

“If the community has concerns about the process then that is an issue to be resolved by the normal democratic process. It should not be a trigger for protest and a campaign to intimidate the proponent into walking away from a development,” Ms Davis said.

“It is time that we streamlined our planning systems in Tasmania and gave confidence to people to invest and create jobs.

“The agricultural sector is the pre-eminent economic driver in the state. Farmers need certainty that investment in the industry will be welcomed and nurtured by a planning system that works positively,” Ms Davis said.
TFGA chief executive Jan Davis