Truffle farm build rejected

Plans to build a home in support of a two-acre truffle orchard in Lauriston have been rejected.

Building on a small Farm Zone property has been rejected to support what Macedon Ranges Shire Council has described as “de facto hobby farming”.

Plans were to build a home in support of a two-hectare truffle orchard and seasonal grazing on 17 hectares in Lauriston.

While no permit was required for the farming activities, building a home there would contravene the Farm Zone’s minimum 40ha build requirement.

State-wide Farm Zone build rules intend to limit fragmentation and loss of farmland to development.

The plan did not gain the council approval it needed to proceed and was rejected again at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal this month.

Council said the proposed agricultural use was not sufficient to justify a permanent house on the site.

The council believed the home was the primary intended use and expressed concern it was in danger of proceeding without the agricultural component if it was approved. They also said it was “too large” and planned for an area where it was discouraged.

The applicant challenged all of the council’s grounds for refusal. They said the building was necessary to assist with establishment, maintenance, security and harvesting. They were unwilling to begin the truffiere without a home on site.

Farm plans outlined a vision for “an intensely managed and highly profitable small farm” for production of European black truffles.

“The land is of a low-to-average agricultural quality ranking and has somewhat limited capacity for farm production,” the applicant argued.

Part of the property is also expected to soon have a Trust for Nature covenant, which would require ongoing conservation management.

While the VCAT senior member, Margaret Baird, agreed the proposed truffiere operation “could develop into a genuine farming activity and contribute positively”, she was not persuaded a dwelling was justified.

“A dwelling would be convenient, could assist with security and offer some efficiencies. However, a dwelling is not the only way to monitor and secure the property,” she said.

“The scheme highlights the higher and highest agricultural land, but also is clear that protecting productive land is not limited to the highest quality land.

“The proposal would result in the incremental loss of productive land and has the potential to lead to a rural living outcome.”

No permit was issued for a home to be built at the site.