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Resident Attitudes to Farmland Protection Measures in the Northern Rivers Region, New South Wales

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In-migration to popular ‘sea change' and ‘tree change' regions has produced conflicts between rural land users. In the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales, new residential developments have been built on much of what was previously prime agricultural land, while farmers (in particular, those negatively affected by the deregulation of the dairy industry) have sought to secure retirement incomes by subdividing land for sale. Although developers, local councils and individual farmers sometimes see eye to eye on the mutual benefits of in-migration and population growth, land use has none the less become the subject of a hotly contested local political battle. Conflicts occur at the interface of growing urban developments and surrounding farmland, with new residents finding the sights, sounds and smells of rural production intrusive. More generally, there is considerable concern that the best farmland in the region may be lost to urbanisation and rural residential subdivision. This paper discusses the results of a survey that collected opinions from local residents about the pressures on the region's land uses by in-migration, the future role of farmland as both an economic and cultural landscape, and views on proposed measures to protect prime farmland in the region. Results highlighted a strong and consistent ‘pro-farmland' and ‘pro-protection' attitude throughout the region, and across social groups. Yet, variations emerged when respondents were asked about why they attribute value to agricultural landscapes. For some, ‘economic' values dominated, while for others, value was attributed in ways that reflected an emerging ethos of ‘localism' and village lifestyle. Although values differed, a clear message from this study is that the population of Australia's pre-eminent ‘sea change' region strongly support measures to curb urban development and the more destructive consequences of a dynamic property market.
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Keywords: Land-use conflict; Northern Rivers region; farmland protection; migration impacts; residential attitudes; rural landscape values

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of New South Wales, Australia

Publication date: November 1, 2005

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