Sale of Land Amendment Bill 2014

I rise to speak on the Sale of Land Amendment Bill 2014. Whilst Labor does not oppose the bill, it does have some reservations that I would like to put on the record. I would also like to highlight the objections made by the Victorian Farmers Federation. The bill amends the Sale of Land Act 1962 to re-enact, reform and modernise provisions relating particularly to section 32, which is a pretty important section when it comes to the sale of land, particularly in rural and regional areas and in the green wedge edges of this state.

I would like to refer to the Victorian Farmers Federation statements that were made in its press releases on 5 February, in which the federation said it was very concerned that there had been a backflip by this government on its 2010 election commitments to strengthen the right to farm. Removing section 32, which this bill does, eliminates the requirement to provide notice warnings for those buying property adjacent to farming areas that they may be exposed to the noise, smell and dust that is normally produced by agricultural activities. The provision of this information would fall back on — and this might sound like an oxymoron — the goodwill of the real estate agents out there selling land. They would have to notify those that are potentially buying property about those issues that may be in the area in which they are looking to purchase.

My electorate covers an area of ever-expanding outer suburbs that encroach more and more on farmland and are constantly being rezoned so that we have new housing estates abutting traditional farmland.

I have in mind a particular area in my electorate called Plumpton, which in some circles is referred to as Taylors Hill West, as a more upper-class name, but the traditional name of the area is Plumpton when you look on the map. I think Plumpton is a lovely name, because it represents the great fruit bowl that was the traditional area, particularly the grapes.

There are ever-growing estates backing onto this land, and by not having sufficient warnings in place, which a section 32 statement provided, you have unsuspecting buyers coming into the market to purchase land adjacent to, or perhaps backing onto, existing farmland without the prospective purchaser knowing this. Some of the buyers of these new estates would spend a weekend out there having a look. The farm may not be in action; it may not be producing or cultivating on days when houses on these estates are open for inspection.

They could be buying off the plan and not have been given warnings about some of the facts when it comes to things like noise or significant smells from adjacent properties that could be quite close to their property.

In time, what do you get? You get residents forming groups that are antifarming and opposed to an industry that has been there for a long time and which has made a great contribution to the local economy through its commercial agricultural businesses. A residents group springs up and says, ‘We weren’t consulted. We weren’t told’, and this is what we want to avoid. There needs to be more information, not less. There needs to be an understanding and an openness when people are purchasing land in areas that abut established farming concerns in rural and regional areas.

There is concern about the removal of and changes to section 32 statements. The Victorian Farmers Federation has not been backward in coming forward.

It has put forward its views on the changes through the medium of press releases.

The most controversial issues in the bill include the removal of four generic warnings relating to planning controls, commercial agriculture production, the growth areas infrastructure contribution and the availability of essential services. There will no longer be a requirement for the vendor to provide information about things like electricity, gas and water supply, sewerage and telephone services. Only services that are not connected will be required to be listed.

I am aware of circumstances where people, particularly young couples, have bought land that is inside the urban growth boundary in the outer suburbs or interface areas and have not properly looked into the contracts.

The land they have purchased does not have a house built on it and they have not realised that some essential services are not connected or that they need to stump up the money to have power poles put in to get power to the property. In those circumstances buyers need to be given more information, not less. I do not think a reliance on the real estate agent selling the land should be the premise on which all generic warnings are removed when we know that when it comes to land sales it is all about the money, it is all about the commission. Real estate agents are not necessarily going to reveal all the difficulties that come with the land and the surrounding areas.

In summary, while we do not oppose this legislation, we note the Victorian Farmers Federation’s objections and we note that this is not an exercise in cutting red tape but an exercise in stealing away information from those who, at the time they are purchasing land, need more information, not less.