Agricultural Land Study and Enterprise Scale

Agricultural Land Study

Understanding the inherent value of agriculture to the economy and the nature and distribution of agricultural activities across a municipality is crucial for strategic planning purposes. Assessment of the main enterprises and their resource needs and the potential impacts of non-agricultural developments on the agricultural resource base has been a growing area of consulting for AK Consultants in recent years. This combined with the requirements of the State Policy on the Protection of Agricultural Land 2009, has led to an increasing interaction between municipal planners and AK Consultants and development of a methodology that identifies the important agricultural activities in a municipality and areas in the Rural Zone that are already constrained as far as potential agricultural use.

This method was initially developed for the Meander Valley Council (in conjunction with GHD) in 2006 and then improved substantially to incorporate a GIS model in conjunction with the Launceston City Council. The methodology is comprised of three sequential developed products; Agricultural Profile of the Municipality, Constraints Analysis and GIS model. In Dec 2010 an Agricultural profile was undertaken for the eight municipalities in the Northern Region and a Regional Summary was completed for Northern Tasmania Development. This provides a valuable reference document for strategic planning purposes.

The Constraints Analysis is an automated GIS based procedure which assesses each title in the Rural Zone, and rates the extent to which its’ value for agriculture has been constrained. The constraints analysis considers the characteristics of each title, including the size and presence of a house on the title, the potential for a proposed development to fetter agricultural use and development on the title, and “connectivity” with adjacent titles. Connectivity refers to the extent to which a title can be farmed in conjunction with adjacent titles.

This assessment procedure has practical value in the assessment of land in the “peri-urban” zone where there is strong demand for agricultural land for use as “life style” or low density residential uses. The procedures provide a consistent, transparent and repeatable procedure for the assessment of the degree of constraint on the title to conduct agricultural activities. A constraints analysis of titles in the Rural Zone has been undertaken for Meander Valley, Launceston and West Tamar Municipalities.

As part of this work and to assist in developing a common understanding of the requirements the State policy on the Protection of Agricultural Land 2009, AKC has developed standard definitions for commonly used terms such viability, connectivity, integral and subservient.

Enterprise Scale

Client: Various municipalities

Project: Enterprise scale analysis provides the next level of assessment after the Constraints Analysis and should target those areas that Councils or land owners think require closer scrutiny, to ascertain whether they should be included in the Agricultural Zone or not.

The following characteristics need to be considered: Title size, land capability, current and potential water available for irrigation, current and potential land use, non-agricultural development on the title and surrounding the title and limitations to agricultural use, connectivity (titles farmed in conjunction, physical barriers, etc) and regional context (distance to markets, labour hire, contractors, etc). The analysis, determines what scale of operation the characteristics of the title most closely align with: Commercial, hobby, lifestyle or residential. These terms have been previously defined in Ketelaar, A and Armstrong, D. 2012, Discussions paper – Clarification of the Tools and Methodologies and Their Limitations for Understanding the Use of Agricultural Land in the Northern Region, which was a paper written for Northern Tasmania Development.

Recommendations can then be provided on where the boundary for the Agricultural Zone should lie. From this analysis, Local Government Planners can then make better informed decisions on titles that should be included in the Agricultural Zone or better justify areas that should be excluded from the Agricultural Zone.

Hillwood Structure Plan

In 2015, AK Consultants undertook a Strategic Rezoning Agricultural Assessment of Hillwood for George Town Council. This report provided a strategic assessment of the existing and potential primary industry activity on the subject titles, and the impact of the proposal on the future use of the land. The assessment included consideration of natural values and the area’s ability to comply with Bushfire Hazard Management requirements.

This report was used to inform the Hillwood Structure Plan (view Hillwood Structure Plan) a primary tool utilised by George Town Council to determine appropriate local planning, policy and zoning of land within the region. The Hillwood Structure Plan was commended in the Hard Won Victory category at the Planning Institute of Australia awards (view article on award).