‘Protecting’ agriculture may cost farmers their retirement

17 May 2010

Increased ‘protection’ for agriculture in the revised Metropolitan Strategy may come at the cost of a dignified retirement for Sydney basin farmers, according to the Urban Taskforce.

The NSW Minister for Primary Industries, Steven Whan, today said that he wanted to see “a greater focus on the protection of agriculture” in a revised Metropolitan Strategy for Sydney, due out later this year.


Mr Whan today said that a team of government officials working with Wollondilly, Penrith and Hawkesbury councils are considering designating areas for agriculture within the Sydney Basin. This might involve “a new mix of planning tools such as agri-business parks or farming clusters”.


The Urban Taskforce’s chief executive, Aaron Gadiel, said that Sydney vegetable farms were struggling because it was hard for them to compete with larger, more efficient operations.


Sydney’s farms are small – an average of 2 hectares – compared with the national average of 33 hectares,” Mr Gadiel said.


The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics says that for every dollar invested, a large farm gives five times the financial return of a small farm.


“That’s why food production on the urban fringe is less important for NSW, than any other state, bar Western Australia.


Mr Gadiel said that more than 93 per cent of Sydneys fruit needs and 85 per cent of Sydneys vegetable consumption is supplied from outside the Sydney region.


“Most vegetables produced in NSW come from the Murray and the Murrumbidgee regions, not Sydney,” he said.


“If Sydney farmers are denied the opportunity to sell their land for urban re-development, they may not be able to exit from an unviable business.


“They may lose the chance to have a dignified retirement.


“New town planning controls cannot turn an unviable business into a viable one.”


Mr Gadiel said the Urban Taskforce’s submission on the review of the Metropolitan Strategy would be making these points.


The Urban Taskforce is a property development industry group, representing Australias most prominent property developers and equity financiers.


The construction activity made possible by property developers contributes $78 billion to the national economy each year and creates 849,000 direct jobs.



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