Hunter Valley food bowl plan faces urban development pressures

According to a federal funded report, up to 20 percent of the Hunter Valley’s prime farming land could be lost.

Reasons cited for the bleak forecast include an increase in financial pressures, a generational gap which has resulted in young people leaving the land and searching for careers elsewhere, and an increase in property development in the area, the Newcastle Herald reports.

In spite of the challenges, Hunter labor MP, Joel Fitzgibbon believes that agriculture is of “critical importance to the Hunter”, and that the region has a valuable opportunity to export quality food and beverage products to Asia as part of the 'coming Asian dining boom.'

‘‘To do that, we’ll need to protect our quality, fertile, high-yielding agricultural land,’’ said Fitzgibbon.

‘By 2050, world food consumption is likely to increase by 70 per cent and much of that additional demand will be in Asia.

‘‘Australia is well placed to provide a large slice of that food,’’ he said.

The report was commissioned to provide a map of ‘important agricultural land’ as part of the federal government’s Sustainable Population Strategy which includes state planning in the Lower Hunter and will be used to shape planning strategies in the region.

The report defined ‘important agricultural land’ as that which is the most fertile, capable and productive land in the region which holds the ability to respond to a changing climate, market forces and socio-economic conditions in the future.

Extensive development within the Newcastle and Lake Macquarie regions has further heightened the importance of preserving fertile farm land.

Chris Johnson, CEO of Urban Taskforce said that the government must be clear in what land can and cannot be developed.

‘‘We understand it’s important to get a balance,’’ Mr Johnson said.

‘‘What gets confusing is if land definitions change too much and we’re not exactly sure what is prime agricultural land.’’


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