Briefing paper


In the lead up to the 2015 State election it was reported in The Land that the Coalition Government and NSW Farmers had entered into “an unprecedented” memorandum of understanding. Among the “key commitments” entered into were the reform of biodiversity laws and consideration of “proposals for a Right to Farm policy during 2015”.

In July 2014, at its annual conference, NSW Farmers passed a motion calling for “right to farm” legislation. Based on an article by Graham Brown, a NSW Farmers’ executive councillor, that argument seems to have two main aspects:

  • primarily, granting immunity to farmers from litigation involving nuisance complaints, in particular those arising from the interface between the “smelly, sometimes noisy” realities of farming and “expanding urban centres”; and
  • secondarily, providing protection from regulatory imposition by governments, State and local, referred to as “hindrances” to land use, including the placing by local councils of e-zones over agricultural property.

The article by Graham Brown concluded:

"In the face of extractive issues, expanding urban centres and red and green tape on-farm, protecting and promoting our farmers’ ability to conduct business, manage the landscape, provide environmental stewardship and grow food, must be supported in legislation."

The case was expressly adopted on 23 June 2015 by Robert Brown MLC of the Shooters and Fishers Party. He spoke in favour of “right to farm” policy and, calling for a parliamentary inquiry into the issue, Mr Brown argued that:

"The increasing trend of urban sprawl has presented some grim implications when the interests of agriculture clash with the lifestyle expectations of semi-rural property owners on the fringes of urban areas, or indeed in whole regions of New South Wales."

This e-brief discusses the history and purpose of “right to farm” laws and their application in the US and Canada. The position in Australia is also discussed, as is the question of the place of such laws in the broader context of the system of planning legislation. 

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