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Australian Rural Planning
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 28, September - October, 1996
Rural Land Use Conflict
Conflict occurs all around us. As planners, we deal with a number of conflicts in our working days. These can range from minor issues like the time it takes for a DA to be determined to major issues like the location of Sydney's second airport. Like all issues in planning there are two sides to every conflict - both of which believe they are in the right. As planners, we are often in the middle of the conflict and we are often asked to mediate the conflicting parties.
In urban situations, the conflict mainly revolves around noisy neighbours (including industry), smell from factories and visual pollution. Urban dwellers are also made aware of these potential conflicts when they purchase homes and businesses because they are easily visible and common urban occurrences. We know about the likely impact of living near a railway line, main road or factory - there will be noise and probably smells.
Rural land use conflict deals with the same issues - noise, smells, visual pollution and so on. The major difference is, however, that the urban situation has (supposedly) been planned to eliminate, as much as possible, the conflicting uses. In the rural areas there has not been the same attention paid to the location of housing and rural pursuits. This is especially true for rural residential uses.
Rural housing can be broken into two parts - farm housing and rural residential. Rural residential can be further categorised into:
  • rural urban fringe - on the edge of a town with a lot size of 4000 sq. m to 2 hectares and which has the same types of facilities as the town (kerb and guttering, water, etc).
  • rural living - housing in a rural area which is relatively large ( 2 to 4 hectares and above) and not adjacent to a town.
Rural Urban fringe uses have mostly had some form of planning associated with them as they are usually "released" in one or a number of stages. They have also usually totally obliterated the farming use that was there before them. Therefore they cause less land use conflict. Rural Living uses, however, have not generally been planned. People who live on such a lot do so mainly because they wish to live on a larger than usual lot which is in a rural or bushland setting.
A large number of Rural Living lots were subdivided as concessional lots off larger productive farms. When the farmer excised the consessional lot there was not usually any concept of the problems that would be caused for the future. They were usually cut off the corner of the paddock and near to the road so that the provision of services would not be expensive.
The person who purchases the lot is not interested in the farming activity next door and wants "to get away form the hustle and bustle of the city". They see the poultry farm as a source of manure for their roses or the market garden as a source of fresh, cheap vegetables. It is not until they move in that they realise that farming is a seven day a week activity. The pump will start to irrigate the crops in the early hours of the day, the farmer will need to apply fertiliser to the crops which usually has some component of smell associated with it and the poultry farm next door will emit an odour. They then complain to the Council and it is the planner's job to try to resolve the conflict which, from experience, is no easy task !
As pointed out above, both parties believe they have rights - the farmer to farm and the rural resident to enjoy the amenity of living with out odours or noise. I do not want to get into the psychological issues here suffice to say that to some extent, both parties are right.
Is there any solution to this, you ask ? Yes, good Strategic Planning so that we do not allow the subdivision to occur in the future. This involves segregating the uses and prohibiting intensive agricultural uses in rural residential zones and vice versa. It also involves eliminating the concessional lot provisions from the LEPs, or at least ensure that when assessing a DA you take into consideration the impact of the residential use will have on the adjoining agricultural use. Put conditions of development consent so that the new use takes into consideration the existing one, not the other way around as we have done in the past. Such conditions can involve landscape screening and setbacks for dwellings.
The existing situation is, however, more difficult. One thing that has worked has been to educate both parties about each other's desires and aspirations. This requires the planner to use mediation and conflict resolution skills which is time consuming and frustrating, but, in the end rewarding.
Another part of rural land use conflict that I have not dealt with is environmental - land degradation and water quality. This will be discussed in the next issue.
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