Farmers rush to break 40ha rule

TWEED farmers angry that they have been stopped from subdividing rural land into lots less than 40 hectares (100 acres) plan to hold the new State Government to promises that the policy will be reviewed.

“The Coalition assured us prior to the election there was going to be an overhaul of the 40-hectare rule,” said chairman of the Tweed Combined Rural Industries Association Col Brooks.

“We will make sure they keep that promise. We will certainly be keeping a careful eye on making sure they do.

“We will be watching to see some progress in that direction and holding them to account.”

Mr Brooks said Tweed Shire Council planning staff had for years insisted that breaking rural subdivisions into lots less then 40 hectares was not allowed under NSW planning laws, but farmers were puzzled because new rural residential subdivisions were going ahead in nearby council areas such as Lismore and Richmond River Shire.

Only last month Lismore councillors approved a controversial new acreage subdivision at Macleans Ridges south of the city.

“It's still happening in other shires, and the 40-hectare rule doesn't fit in with a lot of agriculture,” Mr Brooks said.

“It's seen the loss of more agricultural land to lifestyle living than when we didn't have the rule.

“When people couldn't get their five or 10 acres they have been forced to buy 100 acres or more.”

Prior to Saturday's election, farmers stepped up their battle against the rule which has stopped them from dividing often unproductive blocks of rural land.

At the time, long-time campaigner against the restrictions, Byangum farmer Mike Yarrow, said farmers were taking an active interest in the policies of candidates and wanted to know “who not to vote for” in the election.

Mr Yarrow warned many “have had enough” of being poorly treated.

Mr Brooks also revealed the Tweed Combined Rural Industries Association president had written to state politicians in a bid to get “something in writing” promising a change or review of the policy.

He said many farmers who barely made an income were saddled with large areas of land which they could not use productively or subdivide.