Prime agricultural land is rare and irreplaceable. It must be protected, particularly in a continent like Australia where only 10 per cent of the land is arable, and only 3pc can genuinely be classified as ‘prime’.
While its scarcity and fundamental need is generally accepted by leaders and government, progress on providing better protections for it is stagnant, despite increasing urban sprawl, infrastructure and resource developments, rezoning and large-scale solar energy facilities that are ultimately being driven by population growth. Concerningly, these threats result in negative and often irreversible impacts for the future of farming.
The current state planning framework has become convoluted and unnecessarily complicated, and where agriculture is concerned, is not delivering the best outcomes for land use. An uncoordinated approach to planning across government has resulted in at least 113,690 hectares of the best agricultural land in Queensland being lost to alternative uses. Thousands more hectares have recently been lost to clean energy through the rush to large-scale solar power. Government certainly shouldn’t be looking to make legislative changes that restrict clearing prime agricultural land until it can be demonstrated that the current protections for this irreplaceable asset are adequate.
The Queensland Farmers’ Federation (QFF) is serious about developing a state-based approach to properly address planning and better protect Queensland’s prime agricultural land. The current inconsistent approach to agricultural land classifications should be simplified, and a single hierarchy system implemented through the existing legislation to ensure the future of the farming in the state.
As the population increases and demands on agriculture and production grow, we need to improve the way we manage and protect Queensland’s prime agricultural land. Some highly respected research institutions claim the planet will need to produce more food in the next four decades than all farmers in history have harvested over the past 8,000 years. This somewhat apocalyptic comment is sobering but should at least prompt some longer term thinking in politicians and planners. – Stuart Armitage, QFF President