Growers encouraged to pick up tools to navigate urban encroachment

As the great Aussie ‘quarter-acre block dream’ and inner city housing affordability put even greater pressure on the city fringes, understanding the issues around peri-urban land use planning and its impacts on horticulture is increasingly important. The concept of agricultural land ‘awaiting urban development’ via an ad hoc process of conversion is often regarded as an inevitable outcome of population and economic growth.

The nursery industry is among the horticultural industries affected by the expansion of cities into traditional agricultural growing areas. As urban expansion continues to grow, horticultural industries find themselves, sharing the environment with lifestyle farmers and non-rural residents. The issue is particularly important to many intensive agricultural industries and has been on the government planning radar as a result of land use conflict in peri-urban areas.

Conflict can arise over such things as noise from dogs, trucks and farm equipment; odour from fertilisers and sprays; health concerns about spray drift; access to water; and visual intrusion from things such as hail netting.

While growers face the challenge of continuing to make a living in an increasingly urbanised environment, planners must balance the demands of population growth with the need to maintain agricultural businesses, protect the environment and ensure food supply.

The responsibility for assessing development and subdivision proposals generally falls on local government who, by their own admission, are in many cases under resourced and not well placed to address the issues. Input from existing landholders would serve to assist planners in their decisions. To help growers understand and address issues related to peri-urban planning, a study was commissioned in 2007 as part of the HAL across industry funded program.

The project comprised a literature review on peri-urban horticulture and land use planning and a ‘tool-kit’ made up of practical guidelines to help growers navigate through land use planning jargon and the system itself.

HAL project manager Ravi Hegde says the planning system can be a minefield and the report, Peri-urban horticulture and land use planning: Literature Review & Tool-kit, would help people to understand how Federal, state and local governments work to put the whole planning system in place.

“It has a glossary of terms which gives people an everyday English understanding of jargon,” Mr Hegde says.

“It also provides some practical information about buffers. Having buffers in place will reduce the potential for conflict with those neighbours.”

The tool kit provides a series of fact sheets designed to help users understand the planning process and equip them to become involved in the land use debate at a local level.

The following topics are featured:

• Understanding the land use planning system – a quick guide to the Australian planning system which outlines the various levels of legislation and how it affects peri-urban stakeholders.

• Zoning – helps those seeking to develop their land or preserve it for agricultural use to understand how governments use zoning controls and the limitations of the current system.

• Land use conflict –an outline of some of the sources of disputes between neighbours in peri-urban areas and some possible practical approaches to address them.

• Buffers – examines the pros and cons of using land buffers between neighbours to reduce conflict.

• Urban growth boundaries – looks at the urban containment policy designed to protect peri-urban horticulture.

• Transfer of development rights – examines the system by which landowners can transfer the right to develop one parcel of land to another parcel of land in order to protect both investment opportunities and horticultural production.

• ‘Right to farm’ – outlines a legislative approach that’s used in the US and Tasmania to deal with land use conflicts.

The report and tool kit can be accessed by clicking here.

This across industry project was funded by HAL using industry levies and voluntary contributions with matched funds from the Federal Government.