A council proposal to limit grass height to 30cm has local farmers up in arms, afraid the new law could damage their operations in the agriculture-heavy district.

South Gippsland shire’s draft regulations to preserve the region’s amenity and reduce fire risk limits grass height to 30cm, along with prohibiting unsightly assets on private properties such as scrap metal, unused vehicles or other rubbish.

The Victorian Farmers Federation has blasted the move, saying if it came into effect it would stop farmers from making hay and silage.

“I’m quite certain that when it comes to council actually making any decisions that they’re not going to stop all of the farmers from making hay and silage,” VFF president and South Gippsland farmer Emma Germano said.

“I don’t think that this was intended to meddle. I think it was just an error and a bureaucratic bungle.”

The draft, compiled by council officers, is out for public consultation until November 9.

South Gippsland Mayor and farmer Nathan Hester said he expected the wording to be changed and “clarified” before the council voted on the new law in March 2024.

“I don’t believe the intention ever was to restrict agricultural activity in Gippsland,” he said.

“Agriculture and farming is our biggest industry by far.”

The shire boasts $4.1bn in total output, with the agriculture, forestry and fishery sectors accounting for 20 per cent of the figure.

In a “Your Questions Answered” document on the proposed changes, updated on October 27, the council states unequivocally that the draft rule relating to “excessive vegetation, including grass exceeding 300mm in height” will not impact normal farming practices such as growing hay or fodder.

Mr Hester said several councillors were farmers or from farming families and it was “completely inaccurate” to say they were out of tune with the region’s agricultural base.

The new regulation could also influence fire risk in the state.

Country Fire Authority chief officer Jason Heffernan said he was encouraged to see councils taking a “proactive approach” to fire safety and wanted to understand the full details of South Gippsland’s proposal.

“Fire safety is a shared responsibility and CFA will continue to work with councils across Victoria on fire preparedness,” he said.

“Victorians should understand their local risks, prepare their properties and plan ahead for what they will do in the event of a fire this summer.”

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