There is a concerning disconnect in the general public and government’s understanding (and even acceptance) of the role that agriculture has in supplying food, fibre and foliage to meet critical human needs. Farmers are experiencing encroachment by commercial and residential land uses and attrition of existing buffer zones because of poor urban planning. One significant area of concern for farmers pertains to the operation of irrigation pumps, vehicles and other equipment while being held to an unrealistic noise standard. This lack of information about the agriculture sector is threatening its social licence to operate and the inherent ‘right to farm’.
At a government level, the Bundaberg Regional Council has sought to minimise the conflicts between agricultural operations and urban development and reduce these complaints by incorporating agricultural buffer zones in its planning scheme. The adoption of a planning scheme policy on agricultural land buffers to minimise land use conflict in rural areas is something that the Queensland Farmers’ Federation has strongly supported. Other local government are encouraged to utilise this policy as a template and follow Bundaberg’s lead.
Mutual respect and an agreement to coexist must come at the farm level though. People who want to live in rural and agriculture areas are attracted by the open green space, fresher air, pleasant scenery and often the views of agricultural activities. However, the desire to enjoy these landscapes should be accompanied by an understanding that rural land is used for productive purposes. And the reality is that normal farming practices can involve out of (considered) working hours, noise, light, dust, odour and other environmental nuisances. Farmers must also be good neighbours though. This means complying with the relevant legislation and regulations. However, some of the current state regulations reflect conditions in an urban environment and not a rural setting.
As land use changes for rural properties result in more encroachment, and increasing restrictions relating to the use of critical farm machinery, the sector in some areas is feeling it is becoming shoehorned. Therefore, planning for agriculture by governments at state and local level is necessary to ensure the best agricultural land remains available for food, fibre, foliage production for the benefit of all Queenslanders.