Metropolitan plans were prepared in Australia from 1948 to 1962 for four of its five biggest cities - the state capitals of Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide. They contain the first analyses and proposals for their rural-urban fringes. The earliest, that for Sydney, is the most visionary and radical and defined a Green Belt to contain and shape a slowly growing city; to provide amenities and recreation for citydwellers; and to reconstructa countryside ravaged by 'promiscuous urbanisation'. The next two plans for Melbourne and Perth are much more pragmatic, dealing with the organisation of headlong metropolitan expansion with surrounding rural areas seen as suburbs-in-waiting within servicing and topographical constraints. The last, that for Adelaide is a mixture of trend planning with strong design themes partly expressed in the fringe. These are forthright exercises in the master-plan mould. Developments since the 1950s regarding the fringe are briefly reviewed in the case of Sydney. These show much more complex issues and perceptions arising, particularly regarding natural resource management. There is consequently an absorbing challenge in describing these dynamic images, and also in shaping a policy-making process to reflect and handle them. There is also a possibility, apparent in the metropolitan plans of the 1950s, of cultural differences between the cities in this regard.