OPINION: Australia's new Labor Government has recorded its first backdown, just two weeks into office.
This follows a new streamlined planning approval process adopted by the Victorian Government.
The state's Minister for Agriculture, Mary-Anne Thomas, last week announced an amendment to the Victoria Planning Provisions that exempts farm businesses from requiring a planning permit for on-farm accommodation for up to 10 people.
This will help farm businesses provide suitable on-farm accommodation for their vital seasonal workforces, removing one of the common barriers to the attraction and retention of workers for this industry.
"On-farm accountability will provide more options for farm workers and make it easier for growers to recruit the workers they need for the upcoming harvest," says Thomas.
"These planning changes are about supporting our agriculture sector to thrive."
Minister for Planning Richard Wynne says streamlining the ability for Victorian farmers to provide suitable accommodation for rural workers is common-sense planning that will help secure a critical rural workforce.
On-farm accommodation eliminates the need for seasonal workers to find a place to stay in nearby towns. It removes the often long-distance travel to and from farms, cuts travel expenses and reduces the impact on rural and regional roads.
The planning permit exemption is available exclusively for accommodation for workers engaged in agriculture and must be on at least 40 hectares of land on a property within the Farming Zone. It must meet requirements relating to connections to electricity, water and wastewater treatment.
The Victorian Government says the new planning process will deliver yet another boost for the industry ahead of the peak harvest season and aligns with the Government's comprehensive A$84 million package to support the Victorian agriculture industry as it continues to meet seasonal workforce challenges.
This support includes the A$6 million Seasonal Workforce Accommodation Program, which has backed 13 projects to boost accommodation options, pastoral care and transport services for 2,000 workers in key horticulture areas.
It also includes A$5.2 million in grants through the Agriculture Workforce Plan for new and upgraded accommodation to support 80 businesses.
Increased on-farm accommodation may also contribute to improving broader housing supply issues in regional areas by reducing seasonal demand on housing in rural towns.