The choice between rural living and agriculture: Implications for land use and subdivision policy

Anstey, Geoff (2004). The choice between rural living and agriculture: Implications for land use and subdivision policy PhD Thesis, School of Geography, Planning and Architecture, The University of Queensland.

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Author Anstey, Geoff
Thesis Title The choice between rural living and agriculture: Implications for land use and subdivision policy
School, Centre or Institute School of Geography, Planning and Architecture
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2004
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor McDonald, Geoffrey
Wegener, Malcolm
Total pages 390
Collection year 2004
Language eng
Subjects L
300804 Environmental Impact Assessment
770905 Integrated (ecosystem) assessment and management
Abstract/Summary In much of Australia and the United States, the almost universal right to have a house on rural allotments has resulted in rural living settlement in areas intended, by land use planning policy, to be used for agriculture. Such ‘unplanned’ rural living has a range of potential adverse impacts, including, among other things, loss of agricultural production, land use conflicts with agriculture, land value constraints on farm restructuring, and changes to the rural landscape character. Given the strongly held community perception of a house as a development right, this research was motivated by the need to understand the effects of that right, in order to assess the potential value of any change in policy. An integral consideration was the influence of the size of allotments with any such right. The research was also driven by an interest in explaining the pattern of unplanned rural living settlement, i.e. why are particular allotments converted and others not? Largely in the absence of previous studies of unplanned rural living as a distinct phenomenon, there was scope for this thesis to make a contribution to knowledge in these respects. The research involved three stages of empirical analysis. Firstly, a Queensland-wide survey of land use conversion from sugarcane production supported the choice of the Bundaberg region as the study area. Contingency table analyses were then conducted into the current land use and other attributes of land in the study area that, in 1980, was used for sugarcane. Those analyses identified distinguishing attributes of the different land use sub-sets of allotments, and informed the selection of observation units for the third stage. The third stage provided the principal basis for fulfilling the research objectives. It focused on logit models of the choice, at the time of sale, between using a particular allotment for unplanned rural living or sugarcane production. Those analyses provided an indication of the role of individual land attributes while controlling for the effects of other attributes. It was found there had been limited conversion of suitable, productive sugarcane land to unplanned rural living. Compared to those allotments that remained in sugarcane production, allotments converted to rural living were, on average, much smaller, of less value, had lower agricultural production potential, and were situated in more undulating and forested landscapes further from Bundaberg. These clear distinctions between rural living and sugarcane allotments contributed to logit models with high explanatory power. The expected productive income of allotments had overwhelming weight and was highly statistically significant in explaining the land use choice between unplanned rural living and sugarcane. This is a notable finding, because some other studies have not shown such a strong relationship between land use and measures such as soil productivity. There was a degree of natural coincidence between more undulating and forested landscapes and lower productive potential. Notably, landscape attributes appeared to be of secondary importance in determining land use. The presence of a house at the time of sale was not a statistically significant explanatory factor for land use. This finding, together with that of limited conversion of suitable, productive land to unplanned rural living, meant there was a lack of evidence to support a change to the right to have a house on rural allotments. The findings did indicate that the allotment area required to avoid conversion to unplanned rural living was different to the area required for agricultural viability. In the circumstances of this study area and period, 20 ha would have been an acceptable minimum to retain suitable cropping land in productive use. This is compared to the 60 ha suggested as necessary for farm viability. However, the potential for changed economic conditions to reduce the productive value of agricultural land, and increase demand for rural living, makes it appropriate to be cautious about permitted allotment sizes. A detailed conceptual framework informed the selection of observation units and variables for the third stage of analyses. The framework helped to confirm allotment sales as the observation units, and provided the rationale for excluding the difficult to measure influences of a landowner’s attachment to the land, and inertia, as explanatory variables. The high explanatory power of the logit models provides support for the approach, which may be useful in future studies.

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Created: Fri, 21 Nov 2008, 15:29:13 EST