Do you see what I see? Rural land use

Rural land use planners and policy-makers often face claims and counter claims regarding the impacts of land use change. For example, some residents claim wind turbines have crippling health impacts, while others see only a community asset and environmental gain. Some people suggest plantations decimate rural communities, while others see them as harmless and “just another crop”. How do we go about identifying the true impacts in these situations?

Our recently published study sought to untangle social change and impact in the context of complex land use shifts occurring in southwest Victoria and southeast South Australia. We focused on increases in cropping, dairying, grazing and plantations that occurred between 1991 and 2006, and examined the impact of these changes on rural population and employment. Where many changes occur at once in a region, sorting out the impacts of any one land-use change is not a simple matter.

We used independent data from a range of sources to understand what kinds of social changes were associated with increases in these land uses. We explored whether changes resulted in fewer people living in an area, or an ageing population, or changes in the percentage of the adult population in full-time employment.

We used interviews and surveys to understand how people living in the region viewed and experienced these changes. For example, we asked whether they believed increased plantations or cropping had a negative impact on population, and what any changes meant for them and their neighbours.

A comparison of independently observed social changes with impacts reported by residents revealed some surprising patterns. Increased cropping was the largest and most widespread change in land use across this region, yet very few residents were aware of this change.

Where cropping had increased, analysis of independent data showed it was almost always linked to negative social changes including an ageing population and fewer jobs available. Despite this, the majority of residents did not report experiencing negative impacts of increased cropping.

This contrasted sharply with patterns related to increased plantations. Plantation forestry in rural areas has received a great deal of media attention over the past two decades and the majority of residents were well aware of increases in this land use.

Social changes associated with increased plantations depend somewhat on the previous land use. Where the land was previously used for dairying, analysis of independent data suggested that a shift to plantations was linked to decreased population and employment. However, the more common shift from grazing to plantation was not always linked to population loss or decreased employment.

In some districts outcomes were relatively positive, in some negative, and in others there was little change at all. Despite this, the most common perception was that plantations have negative social impacts, decreasing the number of residents and the jobs available in these communities.

The conflict between actual and perceived changes makes more sense when viewed in the light of another finding. Independent data revealed that increased plantations were consistently linked with higher levels of population turnover. In other words, where plantations increased, it was more likely that former residents would move out of district and new residents move in. This pattern of change fits with a common practice in which whole farms were sold and redeveloped by plantation companies, with farm houses leased or sold to new owners.

When people described the impact of population-loss attributed to plantations, this undoubtedly reflected very real loss of longstanding friends, family and neighbours. Where new residents moved into the area, they could not simply replace the vital social networks within this community.

The impacts of these population changes are real and important. Land-use planners and policy-makers have a responsibility to consider how land-use change can be planned to minimise negative effects for rural communities.

This work reveals some of the complexities of both understanding and addressing impacts of rural land-use change. It suggests that people are not always aware of land-use changes. It also shows that perceived social change and impact are not always consistent with independently available evidence regarding that change.

Where a land use is less visible, we may be unaware of quite significant social changes. On the other hand, we may sometimes incorrectly attribute impacts to more visible land-use changes.

The research suggests that what we might think of as the “real” impacts of land-use change – the points at which independent evidence and experience agree – are not necessarily those we most commonly hear in public forums or media reports.

If land-use planners are to adequately address public concern about land-use change, they must understand both the change and the experienced impact of that change, and dig below the surface to understand the nature of that experience.

Kathryn Williams was a key researcher in the CRC Forestry. The following organisations contributed cash and/or in-kind funding to the project (in alphabetical order): Central Victorian Farm Plantations, Cooperative Research Centre for Forestry, Corangamite Catchment Management Authority, Forest and Wood Products Australia, Glenelg Hopkins Catchment Management Authority, Glenelg Shire Council, Green Triangle Regional Plantation Committee, Moyne Shire Council, Southern Grampians Shire Council, Victorian Government Department of Primary Industries, and Wattle Range Council.

Jacki Schirmer receives funding from the Cooperative Research Centre for Forestry.

The ConversationBy Kathryn Williams, University of Melbourne and Jacki Schirmer, University of Canberra

This article was originally published at The Conversation.
Read the original article.

Rural Land use plans

RDA ConferenceAustralian Regional Development Conference

15-16 October 2014, The Commercial Club Albury
Secretariat (T) 61 7 5502 2068 (F) 07 5527 3298
Email: secretariat@regionaldevelopment.org.au URL: www.regionaldevelopment.org.au

Healthcare and roads: what will happen to Wannon

Healthcare and roads: What will happen in Wannon under a federal Coalition government? By SEAN McCOMISH, The Standard 

On the face of campaign promises, the Coalition’s victory at the polls will see money pumped into roads and healthcare across the electorate.

Key campaigns such as Peter’s Project’s push for $10 million from Canberra and $2.5 million for the crumbling Condah-Hotspur road near Portland are now guaranteed.

Labor’s two biggest announcements this year — about $4.2 million for trade training centres in Cobden and Timboon — were matched by Liberal MP Dan Tehan during his campaign and will still go ahead.

The Coalition has also pledged to fill south-west potholes with cash. Around $25 million will be spent upgrading the Great Ocean Road shared by both Wannon and Corangamite electorates.

Regional Development Australia: The Conference will feature discussions on Rural Healthcare delivery and regional infrastructure. It will be held in Albury NSW on the 15 – 16 October 2014 with a focus on the broad issues of economic, planning, environment and community development.

The Regional Development Australia: Innovation Awards are being held in conjunction to the conference with an aim to recognise and showcase individuals and organisations in four categories: economic development, planning and building, environment and resilience and community development.

Call for papers  is now open.

Authors or organisations interested in submitting a paper or presenting a workshop are invited to submit an abstract of no more than 300 words outlining the aims, contents and conclusions of their paper or presentation; or about their intended role in a workshop.

All proposals will be reviewed by the Conference Program Committee. Presentations will be selected to provide a program that offers a comprehensive and diverse treatment of issues related to the conference theme.

Australian Regional Development Conference

15-16 October 2014, The Commercial Club Albury
Secretariat: (T) 61 7 5502 2068 (F) 07 5527 3298
Email: secretariat@regionaldevelopment.org.au URL: www.regionaldevelopment.org.au

Food Bowl protection and residential development

Food Bowl protection is an issue that is generating a lot of discussion, whether Australia is to become Asia’s food bowl or securing Australia’s own  food supply

A FREEZE on residential development beyond what is outlined in the State Government’s 30 Year Plan for Adelaide’s northern food bowl is needed to help farmers, according to a report released last week.

The report, commissioned by Playford, Mallala and Barossa councils, the State Government and farming organisations, makes about 100 recommendations to help support the growth of the horticulture industry in the Virginia and Northern Adelaide Plains horticultural region.

Among the recommendations are a dedicated zone for greenhouse production, a study of water delivery and re-use options, better waste disposal practices and the establishment of a regional brand.

Read more Holly Petersen    Northern Messenger August 27, 2013 10:47AM

Regional Development Australia: The Conference will feature discussions on Food Bowl protection and residential development . It will be held in Albury NSW on the 15 – 16 October 2014 with a focus on the broad issues of economic, planning, environment and community development.

The Regional Development Australia: Innovation Awards are being held in conjunction to the conference with an aim to recognise and showcase individuals and organisations in four categories: economic development, planning and building, environment and resilience and community development.

Australian Regional Development Conference

15-16 October 2014, The Commercial Club Albury
Secretariat: (T) 61 7 5502 2068 (F) 07 5527 3298
Email: secretariat@regionaldevelopment.org.au URL: www.regionaldevelopment.org.au