The Colac Otway Shire council has faced local outrage over the proposed new laws that will place “draconian” restrictions on how farmers manage their land. The council encompasses some of the great Western district farming areas of Colac, Cressy and Beeac, including the popular coastal destinations of Wye River and Apollo Bay. The Shire has brought in the new laws to keep it in step with the Department of Environment and Primary Industries plans to remap the biodiversity and native vegetation maps across Victoria, leading some to warn that other councils may follow suit.
The Weekly Times notes that the proposed overlays on private property “can restrict ploughing of native grass, removal of fallen tree limbs for use as firewood, timber harvesting from purpose-planted native trees and even removal of rocks.” What is perhaps the most galling about the proposed rules is that it in fact punishes farmers who have striven to be good conservationists by planting and caring for native species on their properties, and yet those who have stripped the land back will have no restrictions placed on them at all. Local Beech Forest cattle breeder and business man, Ray Cooper, explains that farmers have been less considerate in their treatment of the land “won’t end up having these overlays because they don’t have the native trees.”
Beeac farmer and former president of the Colac Shire, John Daffy, states that this is a prohibitive intrusion into private citizens’ lives.
What it means is they’ve got control of your property…Their fines are so prohibitive that you could be nearly forced off your property…
Concern has been so great that Daffy has formed a local action group to try and prevent the changes. Yesterday’s deadline for the public outcry to the proposed changes illustrated that
Furthermore, it will affect the local economy, as farmers and businesses will be driven to trade in different areas as the new law will make it “very, very difficult for people to do business.” The Institute of Public Affairs has written before on the impact that native vegetation and environmental laws have: please read them here and here. The end result of making the good conservationist practices that Australian farmers are renowned for prohibitively expensive and overly regulated, will be to actively discourage the preservation of native species. Perhaps more importantly though, it will decimate local farming communities, as people flee to make an easier, less micro-managed, career and businesses elsewhere.