A council in regional Victoria has pledged to use a practical approach towards proposed regulations that would empower council employees to regulate the length of grass on private properties and require the removal of “unattractive” items like scrap metal and old vehicles. This decision was made after facing opposition from farmers.
The local government of South Gippsland has recently proposed changes to their general law for the community to provide feedback on. The proposed update includes a maximum height of 30cm for grass, with the goal of improving the overall appearance of the area and decreasing the risk of fires.
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The current version of the draft laws suggest the potential for restricting the height of fodder and forage crops in paddocks.
At a recent council meeting, Scott Rae, a councillor and farmer of beef and sheep, expressed his full support for farmers to voice their concerns.
Rae expressed her dilemma regarding the importance of having laws specific to our community, while also acknowledging the possibility of a lack of understanding among those in the agricultural industry.
Emma Germano, president of the Victorian Farmers Federation and a farmer in south Gippsland, expressed her belief that the proposal was a mistake made by bureaucrats.
She expressed disappointment in the mistake made and the resulting concern in the community. However, she is confident that the council will not prevent farmers from making hay and silage when making decisions.
I believe this was not meant to interfere. It seems to be a mistake.
The intention of the bylaw, according to Mayor Nathan Hersey, was never to restrict the height of fodder crops and forage grasses.
Hersey stated that it was a valuable lesson to ensure the wording is accurate. It was evident that the wording needed to be clarified for the general public to comprehend and meet their expectations. This message has been clearly communicated.
Hersey, a breeder of highland cattle, stated that he had been transporting hay that exceeded the 30cm limit. He also mentioned that the consultation period had been extended until 9 November, after receiving numerous complaints initially.
“It’s not a matter of us simply making these decisions and expecting you to accept them,” he stated. “This is a process that all councils must go through.”
The 30cm regulation has been implemented in the nearby Bass Coast municipality. The La Trobe council has established a minimum height of 50cm for grass and weeds.
The suggestion was warmly received by Jason Heffernan, the chief officer of the Country Fire Authority. He stated that Gippsland is at a higher risk for grass fires during the summer.
“The CFA is pleased to note that municipal councils are proactively addressing fire safety and is eager to learn more about the specific details of the South Gippsland Shire’s plan,” he stated.
The responsibility of fire safety is shared and CFA will keep collaborating with councils in Victoria to ensure readiness for fires.
The suggested changes to local regulations involve punishing landowners for abandoned digging areas, such as an unfinished dam, as well as for incomplete home improvements and not properly storing unattractive materials like scrap metal, machinery, and boats. Hersey stated that a practical approach would be used to restore trust with the public.
“It’s all subjective – what may be unappealing to some may be cherished by others,” he stated. “Police will always have the ability to exercise their judgement with respect to local regulations.”
“In regional Victoria, common sense is highly valued and I believe that we have an abundance of it. We will devise an approach to local laws that is effective and aligns with the community’s expectations.”
Rae expressed appreciation for practical assurances during the council gathering, but issued a cautionary message. He relayed a statement from a promising new politician: “No legislation is enacted without the intention to enforce it.”
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