This week the Queensland Farmers’ Federation (QFF) formally released the ‘Planning and Regulatory Approaches to On-Farm Composting in Queensland’ report. The research was co-funded with the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and sought to review local government planning schemes with respect to the regulation of on-farm composting and to identify local government areas where on-farm composting may be constrained by local planning requirements. Analysis of 78 local planning schemes within the report identified an inconsistent approach to the regulation of on-farm composting activities with many Queensland councils still defining on-farm composting as high impact or noxious industries.
The recovery of organic by-products and resource streams on-farm is critical. Soil erosion was the first land degradation problem to become readily apparent in Queensland with cycles of intense and episodic rainfall, drought and the inherent instability of many soils. The return of valuable nutrients and humus back to soil as part of a holistic and effective resource management strategy for agriculture is being supported through new policy and regulatory drivers from the Queensland Government.
Queensland’s agricultural sector has an established history of managing its waste streams effectively, ranging from innovative value-add products on-farm to combat food waste through to organics and nutrient recycling, and bioenergy production. A circular economy approach in agriculture centres on the production of agriculture commodities using the minimum amount of external resources, closing nutrient loops, and reducing wastes and contaminant releases to the environment. On-farm composting is a critical tool for achieving a circular economy approach.
There is a strong case for a more consistent approach that provides exemptions for small scale on-farm composting activities that compliment agricultural production. The Report recommends exempting the making and use of organic compost on farms from the development approval processes by local government so that they are consistent with the provisions of the Environmental Protection Regulations, an exemption outcome that was successfully prosecuted by QFF last year. We now mean to work towards amending the Planning Regulation 2017 to ease or, where possible, eliminate these identified constraints on agricultural composting.