Farmers say rule changes to pick-your-own businesses and roadside stalls could send them broke

Businesses that run roadside fruit stalls and pick-your-own farms fear new regulations proposed by the New South Wales Government could shut them down.

That is despite claims by NSW Planning that they are trying to make it easier for farmers, not harder.

NSW Planning has released a draft policy that, it says, will make it easier for farmers to start agritourism businesses such as farmstays, cafes, restaurants, retreats, roadside stalls and small wedding reception venues.

There are hundreds of roadside stalls around the state and around 30 pick-your-own businesses.

Included in the policy are measures to address concerns about parking congestion and road safety, but farmers say those regulations would limit them to just 50 people a day and open just 10 days a year. 

‘It could put us out of business’

John Galbraith, who runs a family business, Pine Creek Orchard at Bilpin in the Blue Mountains and has been operating for 50 years, said people were “pulling their hair out” about the proposals. 

Prepping for peaches and plums
John Galbraith says cutting his opening days to just 10 a year would end his business.(Sofie Wainwright)

His own business would not be viable if he had to reduce the number of days he is open to just 10 a year and restrict the number of people to 50 a day.

“We’re open for about seven months of the year on Saturdays and Sundays.”

Another regulation stipulating businesses must be of a certain size is also a serious problem.

“They’re saying that you can’t operate a pick-your-own unless you have a 25-hectare farm.”

“Our farm is only 16 hectares and has been a viable enterprise.”

A hand picking fruit off a tree
Pick-your-own fruit businesses in NSW worried about NSW Planning proposals.(ABC Central West: Xanthe Gregory)

At Paula Charnock’s Hillside Harvest at Orange in the Central West of NSW, pick-your-own sales generate half of their income each year, and the changes could also put her out of business.

Instead of cutting red tape, these changes will force her business to apply for special fruit-picking exemptions.

“As far as approvals go, there’s never been anything like that, that we’ve had to apply for or fill in before,” she said.

NSW Planning explains changes 

Apples on display at a road side fruit stall
Roadside fruit stalls are getting caught up in proposed rule changes addressing safety concerns about parking.(ABC Rural: David Claughton)

A spokesperson for the Department of Planning and Environment has issued a clarification to the ABC about the changes. 

The statement said the proposed changes were about making it easier for farmers to set up small-scale and low-impact businesses on their farms without the need for a development application, which it said was currently required.

“At the moment, there are no exempt and complying development pathways to easily allow pick-your-own fruit activities on rural zoned land.”

“These reforms are about giving landowners the option to undertake these activities without having to demonstrate they have lawful approval or get a development application,” the statement said

“Those farms already operating fruit picking under existing approvals will not be impacted by the changes. But any new businesses that go above the pre-set conditions in the final policy would need to get a development application, as they must do now.

“The reforms will only proceed if they make it easier to allow pick-your-own fruit activities.”

Farmers are not convinced by that statement and said the problem is that no-one had approvals as none were needed when many of these businesses were established.

If these changes are approved, they say most existing pick-your-own and roadside stalls will go out of business.

Posted , updated 

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