Regional plan threatens future of local farms ….And farmers don’t even know about it

A group of concerned landholders are warning farmers in the Balonne, Goondiwindi, Maranoa, Southern Downs, Toowoomba, and Western Downs local government regions that the future of their agricultural businesses is being threatened by the proposed draft Darling Downs Regional Plan.

The Basin Sustainability Alliance (BSA), a group concerned about the rapid roll-out of the coal seam gas industry, is concerned that many stakeholders will not look at, or have input into the regional plan, because of how it has been named “Darling Downs”.

“We traditionally think of the ‘Darling Downs’ as the districts close to Toowoomba like Dalby Pittsworth and Chinchilla.   However the State Government’s draft Darling Downs Regional Plan affects a much broader geographical region,” said BSA Vice Chair Wayne Newton.

“People living in and around St George, Dirranbandi, Westmar, Moonie, Goondiwindi, Warwick and Roma may not be aware that their future is being mapped out on this new region plan.”

“We feel that the consultation process is flawed as it people who are directly impacted may not be aware they have the opportunity to make a submission.”

One of the primary concerns for BSA is the way the ‘Priority Agricultural Areas’ (PAA) have been mapped out in the plan, which leave out vast areas of productive agricultural land.

“We understand that one of drivers of this plan is to protect areas of regionally significant agricultural production from resource development, but we worry that it may result in the opposite result and see open slather resource development on the farms that are not in the PAA.

Mr Newton said that BSA was alarmed by the subjective attempt at defining “coexistence” between farmers and CSG companies in the draft plan.

“In our view, coexistence should denote a mutually beneficial arrangement, where both parties come to the table on equal footing, such as a partnership or joint venture.  Under  the regional plan ‘coexistence’ is more about farmers being forced to find ways to accommodate the resource companies.

What’s even more concerning is that the attempt at defining coexistence only seems to apply to those in the Priority Agricultural Areas (PAA).  We are very worried this means that all the farmers outside the PAA will have even less rights.

Mr Newton said the draft plan was putting the ‘cart before the horse’ given that the Government is still in the midst of State-wide planning reform.

This whole regional planning process could be circumvented by the new State Planning Policy which is not being released until early next year.

BSA has numerous other concerns with the regional plan which it is currently putting together in a submission to government.

“We urge all farmers to take a look at the plan and make sure their voice is heard before submissions close on 20 September. “