A recent Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) hearing has found the Victorian Code Of Practice for the Greyhound Industry “perpetuates misconceptions”, ” contrasts markedly with The Environment Protection Authority’s Noise Control Guidelines”, adopts baseless standards in its objectives; and “has no standing in the Planning Scheme”, even though the ambition contained in the Code’s Foreword is for statutory recognition of the Code in the Victoria Planning Provisions (VPP).
Greyhound Racing Victoria (GRV) prepared the Code of Practice for the Greyhound Industry to assist the development of a consistent approach to the location, management and regulation of greyhound premises in Victoria, and as recenlty as March 2008, revised and adopted the code as its standard for dealing with “Greyhound Premises and The Keeping and Welfare of Greyhounds.
The code sets out principles for design, siting, construction, operation and management of the various types of greyhound premises, recognising the needs of the industry as well as the wider community, especially the amenity of neighbours.
According to the GRV, the code has dual purposes. First, the code is intended as a check list for councils to use when assessing whether a planning permit is required for the establishment of greyhound premises as well as for verification that new complying proposals do not require a planning permit. Second, GRV intends to use the code as the basis for assessment of premises where greyhounds are kept in accordance with its Rules.
Orders were recently handed down by Margaret Baird, VCAT Senior Member; who heard an appeal by Geoff White against a planning permit issued by Macedon Shire Council for Justin and Natalie Perkins to use and develop their residential property on the edge of Romsey township for animal keeping involving five racing greyhounds. Mr White’s grounds for objection were “primarily because of noise associated with the use” of the kennels.
Under Macedon Shire local law a land owner may keep four dogs on lots over 4,000 square metres without requiring a planning permit. This application was for just one more greyhound.
However, Ms Baird set aside the prior decision to grant the planning permit and directed that no permit be issued.
In handing down the order, Ms Baird; acknowledged that the applicants complied with the minimum buffer distance of 10 metres from the boundary for their kennels in the GRV Code of Practice, but that “The separation distance cited in the Environment Protection Authority’s Noise Control Guidelines contrasts markedly with that contained in the Code of Practice for the Greyhound Industry. The Code has no standing in the Planning Scheme.”
Ms Baird further adds, “It is an industry-based code to be applied to new premises. It adopts setbacks from the nearest dwelling for both kennels and exercise facilities for up to five dogs as 10 metres. It is very significant in my view that little is said in the Code about the nature of the kennel structure and associated acoustic measures to be used in construction/finishes, although reference is made to compliance with State Environment Protection Policy (Control of Noise from Industry, Trade and Commerce) No. N-1 (SEPPN-1).”
In relation to considering the potential for noise emissions associated with kennels, Ms Baird found that “it should first be said that although dense cypress trees abut the site’s western and southern boundaries, these do not provide noise barriers. It is a common misconception that this planting will limit noise. The Code of Practice for the Greyhound Industry arguably perpetuates this misconception where on page 23, under Element 5 – Noise Emissions, it states the following “Noise attenuation methods such as the use of earth banks, and/or vegetation, and/or manually constructed sound barriers should be used where practicable”. Rather, the cypress row is of greater assistance as a visual barrier and issues of visibility are not in contention in this proceeding.”
Ms Baird further critcised the Code and questioned where and how it had arrived at some of the standards included.
“I am unsure as to the basis of the Code’s standards that have as their key objective to “minimise noise impact on adjoining property”.
Some of Ms Baird’s queries included:
- Why has 10 metres been adopted?
- What assumptions are made in relation to the acoustic qualities of kennel structures and any openings within the structures?
- How can one reconcile the fact that minimum distances from nearest dwellings for larger kennels in the Code vary considerably from the guidance provided by the EPA’s Guidelines?
In denying the application, Ms Baird found that, “In this context, I find it impossible to reach a conclusion that, simply because the Code refers to 10 metres and the Whites’ residence is 35 metres or more from the kennels, then an acceptable outcome is achieved.”