Agriculture industry mapping: Pilot mapping project

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Important Agricultural land maps (Maps) identify the most productive & highly suitable land for agricultural industries at the local government scale. They can also inform regional planning.

The Maps complement the broader mapping of state/nationally significant agricultural lands developed for Strategic Regional Land Use Plans and regionally significant farmlands on the north coast of NSW.

Pilot Mapping Project

In 2011- 2012, in consultation with government, industry and community stakeholders, the NSW Department of Primary Industries (NSW DPI) investigated a new process for mapping agricultural lands in a pilot mapping project.

This was necessary as previous Agricultural Suitability maps were outdated and largely unsuitable for digitising. For information on the former Agricultural Suitability mapping process see Agricultural Land Classification.

The pilot project mapped highly suitable lands for each leading agricultural industry in six case study local government areas (LGA's). Orange, Blayney Cabonne and Forbes in the Central West, and Singleton and Muswellbrook in the Upper Hunter were selected because of their diverse agricultural landscapes and industries.

The Maps were developed using currently available spatial data sets and were verified at stakeholder workshops. They are supported by agricultural industry profiles that provide the context for the Maps. Information in the profiles includes:

  • critical features of the agricultural industry sector
  • agricultural development potential,
  • important resources for that Agricultural industry sector, and
  • land use planning implications for agricultural investment

Agricultural industry maps and associated profiles can inform:

  • local government strategic land use planning, in particular the development of Local Environmental Plans and accompanying strategies
  • strategies for local / regional economic development strategies and industry development strategies, and
  • strategies for natural resource investment and catchment management

The following Maps and profiles are available for each of the pilot mapping areas:

The methodology for the pilot project has been documented in the report titled "A Pilot Project to Map Important Agricultural Lands: Methodology, Review and Recommendations" prepared in 2012 by the NSW DPI.

Constraints when using the maps

Regardless of the scale at which a map is viewed, its precision is determined by the quality of the data used to create the maps. Expressed as a ratio, the map scale indicates the relationship between a unit of length on a map and the length it represents on the ground.

The scale of the most critical data sets used to map agricultural land is 1:250,000. This means that 1 cm on the map corresponds to 250,000cm or 2.5 km on the ground and 1 square centimetre on the map corresponds to 6.25 square kilometres (625 ha) on the ground.

The smallest area able to be accurately identified from the data is 250 ha. The maps are suitable for strategic planning purposes at the local government or regional scale. They are not suitable for property specific planning such as assessing development proposals or spot rezoning proposals. Such proposals may require a far greater level of accuracy and detail on soil, water, vegetation and infrastructure or marketing studies etc that is not available from this mapping data.

The factsheet interpreting important agricultural land maps provides further information on the mapping constraints and application.

A series of development assessment guidelines are available on the Departmental website to help consent authorities assess the merits of property specific development applications.

Land Use Planning Applications

The Maps and the associated profiles can inform the development of local strategic plans by helping planning authorities identify land that is most suitable for the Shire's leading agriculture industries.

In particular the Maps can help councils to support sustainable agricultural development and minimise land use conflicts by;

  • zoning important agricultural lands for Primary Production (RU1 or RU4),
  • zoning lands for other (non agricultural) purposes such as rural small holdings or environmental protection
  • adopting supportive planning criteria including; permissible land uses, minimum lot sizes and development control plans.

Locations that are not identified as 'Important agricultural lands' on the Maps may still be used for commercial agriculture. This may include important agricultural lands for another agricultural industry or agriculture at a lower intensity or with lower margins.