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Grain producer groups have unified to oppose a flawed planning application which would diminish export capacity for the nation’s grain supply chain and wealth generation for rural communities and the national economy.

Grain Producers Australia and GrainGrowers have backed calls by the Victorian Farmers’ Federation Grains Council to reject the Planning Application submitted by the Hamilton Group, to build office space at the Geelong Port.

GrainGrowers CEO Shona Gawel, said in 2020 an Independent Advisory Committee recommended not granting a permit for the office development at 50 Mackey Street, North Geelong, and the same must happen now.

“This decision three years ago rightly recognised the Port of Geelong’s important role as a significant regional and State infrastructure asset – and that protecting it must hold primacy over all other policies, against which the application is assessed,” she said.

“This development was specifically highlighted, in the 2020 Independent review of the Victorian Ports System, as an example that the current approach to buffer controls for incompatible uses in the land surrounding the ports requires further strengthening.

“These core facts must be recognised again now in the Victorian Government rejecting this latest Planning Application, by the Hamilton Group.”

GPA Southern Director, Andrew Weidemann AM, said the alignment of the three grain producer groups sent the Victorian Government and Minister for Planning, Sonya Kilkenny MP, a firm message about blocking the application.

“Grain Producers Australia, GrainGrowers and the VFF have all united to urge the Victorian Government, to oppose this inappropriate development at the Geelong Port, which threatens grain exports,” he said.

“The organisations which collectively represent grain farmers across Australia are deeply concerned about the risks this development poses to crucial grain exports, and the impacts on key infrastructure that connects grain producers in Victoria and southern NSW to global export markets.

“The Australian grain industry is an economic powerhouse, underpinning local and national prosperity, with $22 billion in exports each year. Urban encroachment around ports poses a serious threat to the future of Australia’s grain exports and the sustainability of producers.

“This decision is short-sighted and non-strategic and that’s why we’re urging Minister Kilkenny to do the right thing and reject this application.”

VFF Grains Vice President Ryan Milgate said he was also concerned the consultation process by the Department of Transport and Planning was not genuine, with the decision apparently already made.

“What’s the point of consulting farmers about the impacts on our livelihoods, and the consequences we’ll have to live with, if the decision’s already been made?” he said.

“About 40 per cent of the State’s grain is exported out of the Geelong Port and during harvest and exporting season there’s about 250 trucks per day going in and out of that facility.

“We have serious concerns about safety issues if more people are going to be located at the port, but also the non-strategic approach, which limits future expansion and economic growth.

“You can build an office space almost anywhere there’s a bit of dirt, but you can’t float a boat up the main street of Geelong to load grain for export markets.”

In making submissions to the Victorian Department of Transport and Planning, the three grower groups have focused on several key points.

· The Port of Geelong is the key location for Victoria’s bulk grain exports, with over 2 million tonnes exported from the GrainCorp terminal alone in 2020-21, representing 44pc of total grain exports.

· The proposed large-scale office is likely to constrain port operations and limit more intensive grain export operations in the future.

· The proposed permit requirements of a minimum of 60pc of net leasable floor area for uses associated with port operations or industry are vaguely worded allowing significant discretion for the developer and lacking enforceability or compliance mechanisms.

· Similarly, increased traffic movements around the site will have a detrimental impact on the operation of the road network and encroach on and constrain port operations.

Grain producers and other concerned groups are being urged to contact the Victoria Planning Minister, to support the proposal’s rejection. HERE



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