The fight between farmers and developers could be a thing of the past, thanks to a new mapping project that will shape future regional planning decisions, NSW Farmers says.
With agriculture, urban development, renewable energy infrastructure and other land use interests competing for space in our increasingly busy regional areas, NSW Farmers is urging landholders to have their say on State Significant Agricultural Land mapping.
NSW Farmers vice president Xavier Martin said it was an important process that would help protect farmers from conflicting land uses into the future.
"Farmers are being given a direct opportunity to have their say on the important issue of land use planning, and this could set the course for years to come as land use interests in regional areas grow," Mr Martin said.
"Unfortunately, agricultural land can be viewed as a default zone when it comes to matters such as urban expansion, energy infrastructure and mining.
"There's a finite amount of land suitable for agriculture and at the moment, we are losing it in a very fragmented way, but the state government's mapping exercise is an opportunity to resolve that poor outcome."
Mr Martin said the NSW government's understanding of the regional and state significance of agricultural areas would go a long way to minimising future conflict.
"The understanding of high value agricultural land must be multi-faceted, taking into consideration soil quality, yield, adaptability, proximity to export hubs and regional importance," Mr Martin said.
"If the government is to identify and protect agricultural land on a tiered basis, then they need to understand what makes land strategically important - and farmers will be the repository of that knowledge.
"The goal of NSW Farmers advocacy in the land use space is to ensure agriculture is being considered in land use decisions. We need to start somewhere, and this mapping is the starting point."
While the first iteration of the government's mapping is not perfect, Mr Martin said consultation and refinement would help produce a planning tool that benefits landholders.
Consultation on the first State Significant Agricultural Land mapping is open until late January 2022 and the NSW Department of Primary Industries is welcoming input from farmers.