Upper Hunter MP Michael Johnsen welcomes NSW Government's 'historic' legislation to protect farmers' right to farm

TRESPASSERS can expect to face the toughest penalties in Australia, while farmers will enjoy the state's first legislated "right to farm", under a historic piece of law set to be introduced by the NSW Government.

Upper Hunter MP and Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture Michael Johnsen said the legislation was all about sending the clearest possible message: enough is enough.

"Our community has had a gutful of vile attacks against hard-working farming families," he said.

"This ground-breaking piece of legislation, introduced by the NSW Government, will create a clear deterrent to any would-be vigilantes considering unlawfully trespassing on farming properties in our electorate."

The proposed legislation will introduce:

* The strongest penalties in Australia for farm trespass, including three years jail time and up to $22,000 in fines. Currently there is no jail time for trespass;

* New offences and aggravating factors for activities such as trespassing as a group, damaging property and releasing livestock; and

* Legal recognition of a farmer's right to farm, shielding them from nuisance claims.

"Importantly, for the first time, it will also recognise a farmer's inherent right to farm and provide safeguards against nonsense nuisance claims," Mr Johnsen said.

"If you invade a farm in NSW, you'll face three years potential jail time.

"These changes would ensure NSW has the toughest penalties in Australia for farm trespass, including new offences that exist in no other state or territory.

"This legislation will also go further, recognising a farmer's inherent right to farm and providing protections for those facing costly legal action for simply going about their business.

"If you're farming legally and have done so for many years, you're not going to cop a nuisance claim and potential legal action just because some folks from the city moved next door and decided they didn't like the sound of your dairy herd."

The Right to Farm Bill comes on top of regulatory changes recently introduced under the Biosecurity Act 2015, which impose further offences and large financial penalties for farm trespass that breaches on-farm biosecurity plans.

Key points

Penalties

  • Penalties for farm trespass will be increased from fines of up to $5500, to three years jail time and up to $22,000 in fines. Trespassers may also face additional biosecurity fines introduced by the NSW Government in July (this includes $1000 on-the-spot fines and up to $220,000 in fines through court)
  • A new offence will be created for inciting or causing a trespass
  • New aggravating factors for trespassing in a group, damaging property and wilfully or negligently releasing stock. No other state or territory has an offence for group trespass.

Right to farm

  • Recognising for the very first time a farmer's inherent right to farm
  • Establishing a new defence in law for famers going about legal farming practices, shielding them from neighbours suing them for "nuisance claims"
  • This will mean a court won't be able to order an injunction against an activity that is allegedly causing a nuisance such as trucks moving chickens, spray rigs, spraying crops etc