The Rural Planning Wheel
The presence of agriculture and non-rural land use in the one location can often generate conflict due to their potential incompatibility. Agriculture can affect adjoining small rural lots which are used essentially for residential purposes. Similarly, the presence of small rural lots creates an adverse influence on the continued operation of the agricultural enterprise. The issue of rural-urban conflict can arise when there is no separation between incompatible uses, let alone the misunderstanding which may exist about the purpose and character of a district. Land use conflicts may arise in such situations through noise, odour, farm chemicals, light, visual amenity, dogs, stock damage and weed infestation, lack of understanding and lack of communication to name just a few.
When considering these conflict issues it is important to remember that agriculture is a dynamic activity utilising a range of practices and equipment commonly unfamiliar to non-rural people. The notion of a rural lifestyle is engendered by an association with the pleasant character of the landscape rather than the potentially offensive noises, odours an operations which are the reality in the agricultural areas of a rural Shire. Increasing competition for the available land tends to intensify the agricultural practices at a particular site thereby increasing the potential for conflict with non-rural residents.
It is such a picture which characterises rural areas and specificaly the metropolitan fringe. Much of the agriculture is intensive by nature given the typically small property size in preferred agricultural areas. Market gardening, turf farming and poultry production are important along with horses, cattle grazing, dairying and orcharding.
There are a large number of rural small holdings offering rural residential living or hobby farming scattered throughout the rural areas of fringe shire's and other parts of Rural Australia. Many are "concessional lots" which are generally 2 hectare allotments which have been excised from the larger adjacent holding with no thought of the implications of this on the future conflict that will occur. Given their historical connection with the adjacent farm and the commonly polarised nature of their respective use, the potential for conflict is great. There is also a significant proportion of lot sizes up to 10 ha that are used predominantly for rural residential use. The intensive nature of the agricultural enterprise may exacerbate the magnitude of the unfavourable reaction by non-rural residents. Yet the farmer may only be carrying out activities, which for the purposes of making an agricultural living are perfectly reasonable and legitimate. It is therefore important to make allowances when assessing the magnitude and nature of the conflict.
The resolution of this conflict in use, attitude and perception of the rural zone is difficult to reach because of its complexity. It will not be easy especially since each "player" (farmer and rural-resident) possesses such contrary expectations about the use of their land. Neither lives in a vacuum, they live within a community which interacts, they have the opportunity to exercise their rights and responsibilities, as well as the ability to influence future decisions about their local area. It must be remembered that people need to eat. The resources to provide this food and fibre are not unlimited and the longevity of the resources depends upon the sustainable use. Similarly, people have a right to live, but in a manner which does not compromise the existing, and possibly necessary, use of the land, whilst remembering that they have certain obligations as responsible community members.
Certainly education at all levels is fundamental to the resolution of the conflict over land use. How many residents whether rural or urban know that the Sydney region, for example, produces a high percentage of NSW' perishable vegetables, poultry, nurseries, cultivated turf and cut flowers? Do they wish to compromise this essential component of their local economy through unfounded attitudes on the future use of the rural land in their Council area ? The dissemination of information on where, why and what is agriculture, combined with growing awareness of the scarcity of sustainable land resources will enable all residents to make more informed decisions about the desirability of one land use compared to another in a particular location.
There is a need to separate incompatible land uses whilst recognising the efficiencies which can be achieved through the integration of many of these land uses. This may be achieved, for example, through physical separation or a simple vegetative buffer designed to screen one land use from another. Land use zoning can also be used. Such practical strategies require potentially conflicting land uses to acknowledge their impact and then design their operations to account for this impact. A community approach utilising physical solutions, planning strategies and a long term vision for the land use of the shire will enable sustainable coexistence of agriculture and non-rural land use.
Local Government can play a further role in the overall education process. Many NSW Councils place a special notation on all Section 149 Certificates (these are required to be part of a contract to sell land and stipulate the zoning and other planning issues associated with a parcel of land) so as all future purchases of rural land, especially rural residential purchasers, are advised of the surrounding agricultural uses and thereby the potential for conflict. This can be combined with media releases and other methods of disseminating the agricultural message to inform this diverse audience such as articles in Council newsletters and the Annual Report. Other government departments can also assist. NSW Agriculture for example, produces farmer publications (Agfacts, Producer Newsletters) that can aid in educating the public. Departmental extension staff provide advice on sustainable land management practices.
|| Rural Planning Wheel ||
launched March, 1999