Rural Planning

Rural planning is the process of improving the quality of life and economic well-being of communities living in relatively unpopulated areas rich in natural resources.

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Rural development has traditionally focused on the exploitation of natural resources such as agriculture, forestry and mining. However, changes in economic drivers and increased urbanization have changed the character of rural areas in recent times. The need for rural communities to approach development from a wider perspective has created more focus on a broad range of development goals rather than merely creating incentive for agricultural or resource based businesses.

Increasingly tourism, niche manufacturers and recreation have competed with agriculture, forestry and resource extraction as dominant economic drivers. In addition, the encroachment of mining for coal and gas into traditional productive agricultural lands has caused conflict between these sectors. Planning in rural areas aims to allow the establishment and operation of productive agricultural industries while conserving important natural areas and allowing urban activities in appropriate areas.

Planning for agriculture is necessary to ensure the best agricultural land remains available for food, fibre and foliage production. Land suitable for agriculture is a finite resource that cannot be created or replaced. Once converted to another use, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to rehabilitate agricultural land to a productive state.

With a few exceptions, agricultural production can only occur on land suitable for cropping or animal production where there is adequate water supplies or rainfall and in locations where other (sensitive) land uses are scarce.

The agricultural sector comprises production activities, but also includes the transport and processing of food, fibre, timber and foliage. Hence planning must also provide access to water infrastructure and transport infrastructure for the efficient movement of commodities from farms to processing facilities and markets.

What is Rural Planning?

Rural planning promotes the sustainable development of natural resources, the protection of ecosystems and the prosperity of rural communities.
  • What is Agriculture

    Agriculture is the production of food, fibre, timber and foliage. A more holistic description would include the use of natural resources to produce food, industrial raw materials and energy sources.  However, agriculture is more than merely production – it includes the inputs into production, the social and environmental setting of farms and people, and the downstream transport and processing of commodities to prepare them for consumption as food, clothing, building materials and energy.

    Traditional agricultural practices have included cropping, the management of pasture for livestock, and market gardening. These practices are evolving to embrace new technologies, operational innovation, different crops and new purposes such as energy and carbon sequestration.

    The following definition of agriculture has been adopted by QFF:

    Agriculture  – Any activity connected with the growing of food, fibre, timber and foliage  including, but not limited to, cropping*, intensive horticulture*, animal husbandry*, intensive animal industry*, animal keeping*, aquaculture*, permanent plantation* wholesale nursery*, production nursery, roadside stall*, winery* and rural industry*; and also including ancillary activities concerned with accommodation of farm workers, visitors and tourists; the storage of water; irrigation and drainage works; the storage of equipment for the production and transport of agricultural products; and the on-farm processing, packaging, storage and sale of agricultural products.

    The uses marked with an asterisk in this definition are drawn from definitions in the Queensland Planning Provisions.

  • Planning Principles

    Local government planners, state regional planners, farmers or policy makers, should consider the following eight principles to achieve a healthy agricultural sector at the regional and local level.

    1. Recognise the importance of agriculture to a sustainable regional economy and urban communities by including references to agriculture in the vision and objectives of planning documents.
    2. Identify and protect the natural resource base for agriculture by defining areas of suitable land and excluding incompatible land uses, particularly urban or rural-residential uses, mining and petroleum extraction, permanent plantations and infrastructure corridors, from these and other areas important for local or specialised agricultural production.
    3. Avoid fragmentation of agricultural land and other pressures of urban growth by setting appropriate lot sizes in agricultural areas consistent with the economics of local and regional production systems.
    4. Land use conflict
      1. Avoid land use conflict and provide for compatible rural uses by defining areas for compatible agricultural production, particularly intensive animal industry* and intensive horticulture*, preventing the location of incompatible uses in and adjacent to agricultural production areas and where necessary requiring buffer areas between incompatible uses. Manage existing land use conflict by giving preference to pre-existing lawful and lawfully operating agricultural land uses when dealing with complaints.
      2. Encourage sustainable land and water use and practices by promoting agricultural production on suitable land and promoting sustainable land and water use practices.
    5. Encourage value-adding and diversification in agriculture by recognising the complexity and diversity of modern agricultural enterprises and providing for efficient development approval processes for small scale tourism activities and on-farm handling, processing and sale of agricultural produce.
    6. Provide and maintain needed and efficient transport, energy and water infrastructure to support agriculture by identifying and planning for critical and strategic rural infrastructure that supports primary production and access to processing or supply chain services.
    7. Provide economic, employment and social support services for agriculture in compact, self-contained rural towns and villages by providing for the growth of these settlements within clearly defined urban boundaries.
    8. Protect the multiple values of agricultural land by recognising the ecosystem services provided by and attractiveness of agricultural production areas for tourism and avoid land use elements that would reduce these values.
  • Legislation affecting primary producers

    Farmers and land managers are affected by a wide range of regulations and legislation that affect their operations or development proposals. QFF has produced a guide to the environmental management and planning legislation and how these affect primary producers.

    Information is available for farmers and others involved in the agricultural sector on environment and planning legislation, and regulations and policies that affect the way they carry out their businesses. It does NOT include legal requirements affecting animal welfare, workplace health and safety or food safety.

    Legislation needs to be understood in the light of common law rights and obligations of landholders. The basic right of a landholder at common law is to use their property as they wish as long as they do not interfere with their neighbours and comply with the requirements of legislation. Landholders have a duty of care not to cause foreseeable harm to their neighbours. This duty applies to the activities that landholders undertake of their own choice but also applies in respect to taking action to manage the hazard from such things as pest plants and animals or fire that come naturally to the property. In addition to the common law duty of care, there are also statutory duties such as the duty of care to the land in the Land Act 1994 for occupiers of State land, the general environmental duty in the Environment Protection Act 1994 and the duty to not harm Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander cultural heritage under the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act 2003 and the Torres Strait Islander Cultural Heritage Act 2003.

  • Information for Local Government

    As the level of government responsible for the preparation and implementation of local planning schemes and strategic land use plans, local governments are the most important player in the planning for agriculture in rural areas. QFF has prepared a comprehensive set of data on agricultural production in each Queensland local government area to assist in the understanding of local agricultural industries and their contribution to local economies and employment.

    Data collected in the Australian Bureau of Statistics 2009-10 Agricultural Resource Management survey showed that approximately 52 per cent of Australia’s total land area was managed by agricultural businesses. Queensland had the largest land area managed by agriculture business, approximately 83 percent of the state.

    A regional breakdown of agricultural businesses and land use is available based on data from Australian Bureau of Statistics, Land Management and Farming in Australia, 2009-10, cat. no. 4627.0.

    The most detailed information on agricultural land use and land use potential was produced by the Queensland Agricultural Land Audit in 2014. This project, completed by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, used data from the Queensland Land Use Monitoring Program (QLUMP) and available land resource mapping to document, for each region, the current and potential land suitable for a range of agricultural production systems.

    The State of Queensland Agriculture report, released in June 2014 by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, is a comprehensive statement of the trends in agriculture production and an analysis of the economic, resource, infrastructure and social factors influencing the future growth of agriculture.

Planning for Agriculture Toolkit
The Planning Toolkit provides a comprehensive guide to implementing the nine planning principles for agriculture through the use of case studies and best practice examples.
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Planning Guides

QFF has produced a series of publications on planning for agriculture to assist farmers, planners and policy makers to implement these principles for a healthy agricultural sector.