There is a concerning disconnect in the general public’s (and government’s) understanding (and even acceptance) of the role that agriculture has in supplying food, fibre and foliage to meet critical human needs. In many local government areas, farmers are experiencing encroachment by commercial and residential land uses and attrition of existing buffer zones because of poor urban planning. One significant area of concern for farmers pertains to the operation of irrigation pumps, vehicles and other equipment while being held to an unrealistic noise standard. This lack of information about the agriculture sector is threatening its social licence to operate and inherent ‘right to farm’.
The Queensland Farmers’ Federation (QFF) recently engaged GHD Pty Ltd (GHD) to investigate the current regulations and policy settings pertaining to noise and noise nuisance as could be applied to the undertaking of agricultural activities in the state. The investigation identified that the criteria expressed in the relevant Environmental Protection (Noise) Policy 2019 and Section 440T of the Environmental Protection Act 1994, was primarily created to provide guidance on pumps located in urban areas (particularly swimming pool pumps and spa blowers). Thereby setting the agriculture sector up to fail by applying a one size fits all standard. And while the defences available under the Environmental Protection Act remain available even if a council makes its own local regulation, these defences are not always clear and the ongoing requirements for legal advice and representation in these matters is imposing a substantial and unsustainable financial cost onto the agricultural sector.
As land use changes for rural zoned properties are ongoing, and access timing and restrictions relating to irrigated water and electricity tariffs place further financial burden on the sector, the current noise situation is likely to escalate. With a multiple land use framework utilised successfully in South Australia, QFF is calling on the government to consider this framework option, amend the relevant sections of the legislation (both primary and subordinate) and facilitate a sensible approach to the noise emissions from essential agricultural activities in regional areas.