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 54, March 2003
Sustainable Growth Management for Sydney's Fringe
In the last article I dealt with the issues that need to be addressed for sustainable growth management for Sydney. This article provides a discussion of some of the mechanisms that are available to achieve sustainable growth management. It is a broad overview, as the space available does not allow an in-depth discussion. The article is looking at growth management from the perspective of the rural land and its future. You could say that it is from the outside looking in rather than the inside looking out.
There is a large amount of rural land on the fringe of Sydney and this can be described as having three broad and different components. The first is productive agricultural land (including other businesses) second is a place for people to live (rural residential holdings and villages) and the third is large interlinked and isolated areas of native vegetation which provides for biodiversity habitat.
There is also a desire for people to live on the fringe. Some live in the new urban release areas (mostly because of the relative cheapness of the land as well as other reasons) and others in the existing villages scattered throughout the area. Some will want to have a rural lifestyle (on lots ranging from 1 ha to 10 ha and above and also includes home businesses) whilst others will live there to farm the land and operate other businesses. Everyone who lives on the fringe talks about the openness, bushland and general landscape quality of the area as well as the lifestyle this affords. They also talk about not wanting to have more urban sprawl.
From the last article it can be seen that the issues to be dealt with to provide sustainable growth management with in the Sydney region are complex. It needs to find the balance between the potentially competing values of living, biodiversity and agriculture. (It is recognised that other businesses exist in the area but a major one that contributes to the rural landscape is agriculture).
The mechanisms that are available can be broken into two broad headings of statutory and non-statutory.
The Statutory mechanisms include land use controls such as zoning and other regulatory methods. This includes SEPPs, REPs, LEPs and DCPs as well as the various Acts and Regulations.
The non-statutory mechanisms include incentives and educational programs. Incentives can be broken into financial and non-financial. Financial incentives include cash payments and grants as well as rate rebates and purchase and transfer of development rights. Non-financial incentives include development bonuses, awards schemes, provision of support and extension activities as well as provision of materials. The educational programs can include training, and general information about the environment and land uses in an area.
If financial incentives are proposed, it should not be left to Local Government to provide the funds. Preservation of the rural land - both farmland and biodiversity habitat - is a Sydney, NSW and Australia wide issue and should be funded by the State and Federal Governments.
These mechanism need to consider the social, economic and environmental aspects in a balanced manner. It is fair to say that we do the controls well but don't do the incentives at all well. But, to achieve sustainable growth management we need both the carrot as well as the stick! People will do things if they are encouraged to do so by incentives. These don't have to be huge, but an acknowledgement that the rest of the community is willing to contribute to the conservation of the farmland and bushland of the region.
An overall strategy needs to be prepared which considers these and makes provision for the range of mechanisms outlined above. This strategy needs to be inclusive in its preparation. Implementation just as important as the preparation. A similar or greater budget should be allocated to the implementation as was allocated to the preparation of the strategy. The strategy also needs to have links to the other areas outside the region. PlanFirst provides the platform for these interlinked and overarching strategies to be prepared and we wait with anticipation.
There should be complimentary strategies prepared for each Local Government Area, which are based on a detailed review of the existing situation which includes a land use survey and lot size analysis. These latter two are needed to identify the juxtaposition of land uses to each other including those that are likely to cause rural land use conflict - intensive agriculture, rural residential and natural areas.
So it can be seen that the preparation of sustainable growth management strategies for Sydney needs to consider controls as well as incentives for the social, economic and environmental aspects of the region. It must be recognised that a suite of mechanisms is needed, not one alone. It also has to balance the three components of living, agriculture and biodiversity. In this way we can grow food and grow houses with an acceptable landscape outcome.
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