Lazy Labor restricts agricultural development

Apr 30, 2021

Lazy Labor restricts agricultural development

Apr 30, 2021

HINCHINBROOK MP Nick Dametto has accused the State Labor Government of bureaucratic laziness in its failure to remove an over-the-top requirement preventing the construction of large farm sheds in Queensland. 

Mr Dametto said he and Hinchinbrook Mayor Ramon Jayo had hit a number of road blocks in attempting to identify a workaround to the Queensland Development Code that currently requires overzealous fire suppression systems for simple farm vehicle storage sheds over 500m2. 

“Under the Queensland Development Code, a farmer or landowner looking to build a new shed larger than 500m2 is required to install an on-site water tank with a holding capacity 144,000L. This is to be used in the event of a fire and must be in place before the structure can be certified under the requirements of the current code,” Mr Dametto said. 

“This lazy application of the QDC means sheds that pose a significantly lower risk to life in the event of a fire are being treated in the exact same light as similar size structures in built-up industrial estates. These sheds are solely for machinery storage. There will be no office, attached dwelling or workshop and no hot works or fuel storage. What we’re asking for is an alignment of the National Construction Code (NCC) which provides exemptions to sheds of this size and purpose. With a lower risk to life, there should be no need for these overzealous requirements.” 

Mr Dametto said he understood a change in the rules of the QDC would require a regulatory change and consultation with Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES). 

“For over 12 months, myself and the Mayor have worked with departmental and ministerial staff to find a way forward to progress development in our agricultural sector. The time has now come for the Department of Housing and the Department of Public Works to get busy on the work required to align the NCC and the QDC.  I’ve got farmers and landowners on the phone to me at their wits’ end because they’re trying to expand, trying to increase their productivity and they can’t do it because of this lazy application of the current code,” he said. 

“Shed builders are being held up too. Locals are missing out on work because of the bureaucratic debacle.” 

Hinchinbrook Mayor Ramon Jayo said the current code was impractical for farmers and harvesting contractors. 

“The fact they are not allowed to construct these large sheds without a 144,000L water tank means they have to have multiple sheds that come at considerable extra cost than just the one structure because of fees for the architecture, engineering and building. Everything has to be duplicated because you need two sheds instead of the one,” he said. 

“A 500m2 shed is not a very big shed given the size of machinery that our farmers and harvesting contractors need to protect. A normal harvesting business will have machinery worth $1.5 million and the whole idea is to keep them out of the weather for that seven or eight month period when they’re not in operation during the wet season.” 

Cr Jayo said the current code’s inflexibility on machinery storage sheds was costing jobs and money in the Hebert River District. 

“A lot of farmers are just not going ahead with it because they just can’t afford the duplication in costs of building a multitude of sheds under 500m2. From a pure risk assessment point of view, there is very low risk. There are no ignition sources, the machines themselves have isolation switches. In fact there’s substantially less risk than a dwelling built in the same area.” 

Cr Jayo said he had continuously asked the Department for statistics to support the level of risk they deemed unacceptable for sheds built over 500m2 without a 144,000L water tank. 

“Why are we being treated so different when other states in Australia have acknowledged the risk is minimal and have amended their legislation accordingly,” Cr Jayo said.  

Hawkins Creek farmer Joe Grotelli has plans to build a machinery storage shed but said the fire suppression requirements for a shed over 500m2 were over-the-top. 

“We’re trying to invest money into the community but we keep getting held up,” he said. 

Following meetings over the past six months with representatives from Queensland Fire and Emergency Services, Public Works Minister Mick de Brenni’s office and Fire and Emergency Minister Mark Ryan’s office, Mr Dametto has decided that that the issue can no longer be bounced between ministerial offices and has formally written to Mr de Brenni asking for an urgent change to the QDC.  

“These unworkable regulations are holding back the economic development of our District as well as many other communities across regional Queensland,” Mr Dametto said.