Researchers say without an Australia-wide strategy linking government, agricultural industry and the community the result will be loss of farmland– a figure that currently sits at 14% decline over the last four decades.
Michael Beer, AgriFutures Australia General Manager, Business Development said best practice land use planning was essential to balancing a growing population and its food and fibre needs, with housing and infrastructure requirements.
“Australia as a whole is significantly urbanised, with around 81% of the population living within 50 kilometres of the coast and 66% in capital cities,” said Mr Beer.
“Interestingly, Australia has a unique population distribution, where 90% of people live on a mere 0.22% of the country’s land mass and this means there is significant pressure on productive farmland.”
Researchers Dr Amy Cosby and Dr Tanya Howard, Australian Centre for Agriculture and Law, University of New England (UNE) carried out a series of interviews with key stakeholders involved in land use planning to develop five recommendations.
Mr Beer said the recommendations included developing an overarching strategic plan for how agricultural land can be preserved.
“For greatest effect, the plan must be legally binding and ensure farmers have adequate infrastructure, such as transport, to access growing markets – this is essential for the viability of the agricultural sector,” he said.
“The difference between urban and rural land must be recognised. This AgriFutures Australia research shows we must develop an innovative land use planning framework which prioritises the need for agricultural enterprises to be co-located within the community, while balancing the needs of a growing population and the environment.”
Key among the recommendations are interactive tools which provide current, accurate and high-resolution data of current land uses across regions, including future predictions of the impacts of land use change.
Mr Beer said this data, coupled with education programs to increase community knowledge and appreciation of agricultural businesses and economic contribution, would lead to greater cohesion between urban and farming communities.
“We’d also like to see economic models that help farmers plan for a financially secure retirement while enabling their land to remain agriculturally productive,” he said.
The research was funded under the AgriFutures National Rural Issues Program.
For more information and to read the full report visit agrifutures.com.au/product/best-practice-land-use-planning/.
Lauren Sharkey, AgriFutures Australia, Manager Communications & Capacity Building
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