A View From The Edge
Issues in Rural and Metropolitan Fringe Planning

Ian Sinclair,
Principal Consultant, Edge Land Planning
Rural and Environmental Planning Consultants

As published in New Planner, The Magazine of the Planning Profession in NSW
Number 49, December 2001
Lifestyle Living
In a recently released book on the changing patterns of settlement in Australia (The Big Shift), Bernard Salt makes the observation that Australians are pursuing a lifestyle pattern of living which he says is luring people to the coast. Whilst I agree with this, experience from studying rural and fringe metropolitan areas like Penrith, Camden, Baulkham Hills, Bellingen, Great Lakes and Shoalhaven has shown that this shift is not just to the beach but also to the rural hinterland of the Metropolitan and coastal areas. So, I believe it is more accurate to call it a move to 'lifestyle living'
This has been a trend that has increased in the last 20 years of the 20th century. "The thing that most drives Australians to a particular location is the values that are held by the community. And of course, in the later decades of the 20th century, Australian values changed to embrace a beach lifestyle." (Salt, 2001, p 5)
People are now retiring or moving to towns for lifestyle reasons rather than purely for work. "And with the advent of telecommuting many will continue to spread out from the city in search of a sea change in places very much like Victoria's Barwon Heads." (Salt, 2001b p 27) "As if pushed and pulled around the continent by the land itself, Australians have more recently advanced along the length of the eastern seaboard, creating settlements based on new concepts of leisure, lifestyle and retirement." (Salt, 2001b p 21) 19% or nearly 1 in 5 Australians now live in a provincial coastal town.
The rural hinterland basically extends to a 2 to 2.5 hour driving time from the outskirts of the Newcastle - Sydney - Wollongong Metropolitan area. This means that it extends from Nowra and Jervis Bay in the south to Bathurst and Mudgee in the west and to as far north as the coastal settlements in Great Lakes such as Hawks Nest - Tea Gardens and Foster - Tuncurry. These people are moving to the towns as well as to small to medium sized rural holdings. These range in size from 2 ha to 40 ha and they will also usually have some cattle and maybe a few horses or live in a bushland setting.
The people are moving to these areas because they are either retiring or work for themselves or have negotiated flexible working arrangements with their employers. In short, they choose to be where they like the rural peace and quite or coastal serenity rather than being close to work.
In the last 20 to 30 years, the highest actual growth rates have been achieved by these fringe LGAs. The latest Population Growth Database 2001 prepared by KPMG shows that the coastal and fringe metropolitan areas are growing at relatively high rates and that most of the top 60 LGAs are on the coast or fringe metropolitan areas.
This desire for lifestyle living is also having an impact on the way we plan for the future of Sydney. There are a number of areas that are currently subdivided into 2 ha lots such as Leppington - Catherine Field, Llandilo - Londonderry and Annangrove - Kenthurst - Dural. In these areas there is a large amount of rural residential usage of the land (land use surveys have shown that this is 70 to 80% of the total uses). The houses are also large and in some cases opulent to the extent that they could be called 'start-up castles' to borrow a phrase being used in the USA. The traditional mindset of the residents and some planners has been that these areas will eventually become residential.
I believe, however, that this may not be the case. Community consultation carried out in these areas has shown that the people move there to 'get away from the city' and 'escape the rat race' and to have 'a large block amongst the bush'. They are moving there for lifestyle reasons. They also say that they do not want to see any more urban subdivision in the area. Add to this the price of the land - 2 ha in Kenthurst sells for approximately $750,000 and it makes it difficult for developers to land pool, as well as Council and Government purchasing it for community and recreation facilities. Lastly, there are not many of these areas left, so I believe that they may stay as 2 ha blocks.
This move to lifestyle living is having an impact on the other uses of rural land - agriculture and biodiversity conservation. As I have said before, growth management is about finding the balance between these and this highlights the need to look more critically at our rural land and not take it for granted. Because if we don't be careful we run the risk of tipping the balance and loosing the thing that draws people to the rural and coastal areas in the first place and it will not be lifestyle living anymore.
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