Farm ‘motel’ for foreign workers

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A farm at Boneo has been given permission to build motel type accommodation for foreign farm workers.

The workers will come to Australia under the federal government’s seasonal worker program.

Mornington Peninsula Shire councillors have been told that it is hard to find workers locally and that allowing workers from overseas will “further underpin” the viability of the land for agriculture.

The development approved by shire in May includes eight units with a total of 32 bedrooms, a common study, laundry and amenities block with a kitchen and entertainment area.

A condition of the permit is that the buildings cannot be used as permanent accommodation, private letting or holiday accommodation.

The beige coloured buildings will be set back 40 metres from Limestone Road and 55 metres from Boneo Road.

Although flood prone, the shire’s building department had approved the site.

Despite 11 objections to the plan, shire officers saw it as being “an appropriate response” for use of the green wedge zoned land.

The 65.4-hectare farm near Boneo Primary School is used to grow celery, cos lettuce, Asian vegetables, broccoli and iceberg lettuce.

In a report to councillors, planning services team leader Lucas Gardiner said allowing the building on the farm “also offers the potential to facilitate cross-border and inter-regional relationships to harness emerging economic opportunities by providing overseas workers with temporary accommodation and employment”.

He said the farm “represents a key component of both the wider green wedge purpose and more local characteristic of Boneo sought to be maintained”.

“Furthermore, the purpose of the approval sought within the application is to provide accommodation for seasonal workers that will only further underpin the long-term viability and productivity of the existing agricultural operation and preserve the important rural character,” Mr Gardiner said.

“The proposal therefore represents an innovative response to staff shortages relevant to agricultural and land management practices which … strengthen the productivity of the existing crop raising operation while harnessing emerging economic opportunities.”

Mr Gardiner said the site for the buildings (“temporary, moveable structures”) was “ideal” and “well set back” from neighbouring properties and screened by existing hedges.

First published in the Southern Peninsula News – 6 August 2019

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