Article by: Hari Yellina
Businesses who operate roadside fruit stands and pick-your-own farms are concerned that new laws proposed by the New South Wales government may force them to close their doors. Despite assertions from NSW Planning that they are striving to make farming simpler, not harder, this is the case. Farmstays, cafes, restaurants, retreats, roadside markets, and modest wedding reception sites are all examples of agritourism companies that NSW Planning claims will be made easier for farmers to start. Around the state, there are hundreds of roadside shops and about 30 pick-your-own farms. Measures to address concerns about parking congestion and road safety are included in the policy, but farmers believe the laws would limit them to only 50 visitors per day and only open for 10 days a year.
People were “pulling their hair out” about the ideas, according to John Galbraith, who runs a family business, Pine Creek Orchard in Bilpin in the Blue Mountains, which has been in operation for 50 years. If he had to limit the number of days he is open to just 10 per year and the amount of customers he can serve to 50 per day, his business would not be feasible. “On Saturdays and Sundays, we’re open for about seven months of the year.” “We’d have anything from 200 to 1,000 people a day, and parking can be a problem at times, but it’s up to the customers to park legally, and there’s plenty of legal parking.” Another law stipulates that businesses must be of a specific size.
“They’re claiming that until you have a 25-hectare farm, you can’t run a pick-your-own.” “Our farm is merely 16 hectares, but it has proven to be a profitable venture.” Pick-your-own sales account for half of Paula Charnock’s revenue at Hillside Harvest in Orange, in NSW’s Central West, and the changes could put her out of business. “When they’re attempting to bring in something that they clearly don’t comprehend,” she said, “it’s a really terrible reality.” Instead of reducing red tape, these measures will necessitate her company to ask for special exemptions for fruit picking. “As far as approvals go, we’ve never had to apply for or fill out anything like that before,” she said.
The revisions have been clarified by a spokeswoman for the Department of Planning and Environment, according to the ABC. The proposed changes, according to the statement, are aimed at making it easier for farmers to start small-scale, low-impact companies on their farms without having to submit a development application, which is presently needed. “At this time, there are no exempt and compliant development pathways that allow pick-your-own fruit enterprises on rural designated land simply.” “These amendments are aimed at allowing landowners to engage in these activities without having to show they have lawful authorisation or submit a development application,” the statement stated. “Under the Act, new qualifying enterprises, such as “pick-your-own fruit” firms, will be able to establish themselves as an exempt or compliant development.”
“The modifications will have no effect on farms that are presently gathering fruit under existing approvals.” However, any new firms that exceed the final policy’s pre-set conditions would be required to submit a development application, as they are currently. “Only if the reforms make it simpler to allow pick-your-own fruit operations will they be implemented.” Farmers disagree with this assertion, claiming that the problem is that no one has permissions because none were required when many of these firms were founded. They claim that if these modifications are accepted, most existing pick-your-own and roadside stalls will close.