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Better late than never: Cutting green tape for farmers

20 April 2012

The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) has supported the commitments made by the Federal Government and now the Opposition to reduce the amount of environmental regulation for businesses, including farm businesses.

NFF President Jock Laurie welcomed the announcement made by the Opposition today and the decision made through COAG last week, saying any move to reduce the overly regulatory nature and often conflicting national and state environmental legislation was a positive step for farmers.

“Farm businesses are tied up in regulatory requirements – be it red or green tape – and the NFF has pushed for many years to reduce the burden on our sector,” Mr Laurie said.

“You only have to look at our submission to the Productivity Commission inquiry into regulatory burdens on primary industry businesses way back in 2006 to note that complex and contradictory legislation, environmental or otherwise, was an enormous issue for farmers, and remains that way.

“There’s a significant cost to farmers associated with complying with these regulations, and a big part of a farmers’ working day is being taken up overcoming hurdles imposed by the three tiers of Government and other bodies looking to regulate how farmers operate.

“Environmental regulation duplication and overlap remain areas of key concern in terms of over-regulation. Farmers wishing to change the uses of their land – be it vegetation changes, dam development or seeking to subdivide – may be required to gain separate Federal and State approvals.

“Matters of national environmental significance are governed under the Federal Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act, while farmers may also be required to have State approval: a completely separate set of guidelines, rules and requirements sometimes for the same species of plant or animal or indeed ecological community.

“As a result, many farmers are reluctant to change their land practices as the regulations are just too onerous, costly and time consuming. A simpler and more flexible system would see improved compliance and better outcomes for both farmers and the environment.

“While both the Government and the Opposition have recognised the need to simplify and add flexibility to environmental approvals and to reduce regulatory overlaps, further detail is required from both parties in order to understand how far they are prepared to go.

“The Prime Minister’s announcement that COAG would focus on reducing environmental regulation, combined with the Leader of the Opposition’s comments today that he too acknowledges this as an area of concern must lead to action. What we’d like to see now is a quicker assessment of straight forward applications for farmers and a streamlining of State and Federal application processes,” Mr Laurie said.

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