Australian rural landscapes: terminology, issues, new directions

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AUSTRALIAN RURAL LANDSCAPES: Terminology Issues New Directions

Jane Lennon World Rural Landscapes project ICOMOS ISCCL, Milan, Nov 2014

Aboriginal Australia Australia is a continent whose vegetation has been forged by fire.

First inhabitants used fire for 60,000 years to ‘care for country’ by firing a mosaic of small areas for • ensuring supplies of food resources, • clearing pathways, • signalling •, ceremonial activities and • marking boundaries. 20 % of Australia is owned by Indigenous Australians

Agricultural landscapes as continuing living landscapes – a subset of wider rural landscape Includes horticulture, viticulture and agroforestry -supplanting abandoned dairying and grazing landscapes along SW and SE coastal Australia.

What is meant by the term ‘traditional’ as in practice or activities? • Traditional fish trapping and hunting

landscapes of Indigenous Australia.

•Immigrants in 19th and 20th centuries who created today’s settler society also practised ‘traditional’ European farming. •SEE WRL dropbox for Australian Glossary

Mt Roland, Tasmania - maintaining ‘traditional’ agricultural patterns of Europeans using Indigenous fired lands, 1840s-2000


Cultural landscapes are those where human interaction with the natural systems over a long time has formed a distinctive landscape and cultural values develop resulting in deep social attachments to the place.

Woodlands, 1843, Tullamarine, VIC A heritage listed place in a National Park unit

Average annual rainfall –arid zone; outback >300mm; rain forests and coastal zone

National scale land use map 2005-6 (ABARE-BRS 2010)

Grazing (55.8%) Conservation and natural environments (36.7%) Cropping (3.5%) Forestry (1.8%) Water (1.6%) Intensive uses (0.4) Horticulture (0.1%)

Over 90 % of Australia’s rural landscape is either grazed rangelands or nature conservation reserves- in great contrast to European style modified pastures, cropping and horticulture.

Australian Alps National Parks 1.2million ha relict features in national park landscape devoid of pastoral activity or farming, with natural regeneration

Flinders Ranges National Park arid zone conservation

Cropping and pasture patterns, 1992–93 to 2005–06 cropping dominant pasture dominant cropping/pasture no/rarely crop or pasture

2011-12 Australian agricultural land uses worth $42.6 billion in production; Employed 478,000 people; 26million ha sown to crops; provided a range of benefits for biodiversity, soil and water management.


Irrigated crops, 2012 - less than 1% of all agricultural land; gross value of production was $11.5 billion, 29% of the total gross value of agricultural production; uses 75% of Australia’s harvested water

Number of farm holdings in Australia, 1997-98 and 2010-11

Farm size (ha) 50 ha and below 50 to 2 500 ha Greater than 2 500 ha Total

Number of holdings 1997-98 2010-11 30 043

33 571

% change 1998 to 2011 11.7

101 112

88 048


13 705

13 828


144 860

135 447


Farming trends –contrary movements: small scale high value organic horticulture; cropping aggregations and grain type dependent on global markets; open range grazing

ISSUES • Rural planning schemes value significant biodiversity and native vegetation; some soil zoning for cropping • Heritage protection –only small percentage of colonial estates. • Little discussion of what is a ‘traditional farm’ and how much change is acceptable

Heritage Listing and protection • Built components identified • Designed colonial farms and estates, many convict built, protected; many now relict landscape features.

• Associated agricultural landscapes protected under Rural Use zone in planning schemes to keep it rural; native vegetation clearing controls but contested • Local Environment Plans [LEPs] identify heritage items, mostly buildings; aim to protect visual character of distinctive farming areas with controls on windfarms, power lines etc • Rural landscapes are key images in Australian Impressionism art and much admired.

Landscape changes and threats • Urban expansion into fertile farmlands • More abandoned buildings due to property amalgamations. • Fire breaks and GPS guided controlled track farming demolish ephemeral tracks, features and links to the wider landscape. • Decreasing sheep numbers and an increase in cattle raising resulting in unused farm buildings. • Change in grazed landscapes to increasing vegetation regrowth in conservation reserves and unmanaged rural lands - changing the appearance of rural areas.

Major peri-urban land parcel subdivision, February 2007 to February 2008 -identifies 2007 land parcels subdivided into 10 or more new land parcels sized between 4000 and 80 000 square metres and excludes any non-residential developments (such as industrial).

Changes and threats • New technologies changing landscapes - plastic sheeting instead of glass houses for horticulture, plastic covered grass hay bales. Larger machinery means less paddock trees

• Mining is a major threat to rural landscapes –both open cut coal mining in Queensland and parts of NSW and coal seam gas • Infrastructure -wind farms, power lines, gas pipelines, road upgrading, communication towers, irrigation channels • Climate change and water supply variability

Agricultural areas by value of production with coal and coal seam gas extraction

Climate effects on landscape

Issues in change management • Sustainable management of resources- 2.5 million ha, or 5 % of cultivated land affected by dryland salinity; 33% of rivers degraded; 90% ‘no tillage’ production

• Biodiversity – Landcare established 1989; 4000 groups covering 40% farmers; a ‘good farmer’ -one practising agricultural production and restoration of native vegetation, a major environmental transformation.

• Climate change adaptations –’a land of drought and flooding rains’ • Demographic change - decline in remote pastoral and dryland farming areas; increase in peri-urban and rural commuting zone • Community perceptions of farming-‘social licence to farm’, live animal export trade, protection of aquifers from mining, and contests over rural carbon emissions.

SUMMARY • All of these drivers of change impact on the morphology of rural landscapes. • Innovation will continue to be a major influence in shaping rural landscapes – Australian farming has a history of innovation.

How much change is acceptable in Australian rural landscapes, and to whom? • Heritage landscapes are those special ones we want to protect, where historic evidence of use gives a distinctive character providing memories and associations.

• Rather than viewing the colonial estate or the selection block as an historical product, emphasise rural landscapes as a process showing farmers’ cultural practices and the relationship with an evolving agricultural landscape with its resilient features such as soil type, vegetation cover and water supply.

Suggested WRL Management Principles and Policies Guiding Principles (from World Heritage Papers 26) • People associated with the cultural landscape are the primary stakeholders for stewardship. • Successful management is inclusive and transparent, and governance is shaped through dialogues and agreement among key stakeholders. • The value of the cultural landscape is based on the interaction between people and their environment; and the focus of management is on this relationship. • Management of a cultural landscape should guide change to retain the values of the cultural landscape • Management of cultural landscapes is integrated into a larger landscape context. • Successful management contributes to a sustainable society.

Management Policies Management policies an achievable and feasible program covering: • 1 Opportunities and constraints arising from significance: • 2 Owners, manager's and stakeholder's views and needs: Consideration use and needs, including future commercial activity impacting on significance. • 3 Legislative and Planning context: Relevant legislation and regulations and existing policies • 4 Use: Past and current landowners use and visitor use. • 5 Interpretative Potential: Derived from an understanding of the history, community use and connections to the landscape • 6 Condition and possible threats: environmental, management and use threats • 7 Limitations to Management: Funding, labour etc. • 8 Disaster Preparedness • 9 Monitoring and review: Monitoring measure, monitoring period agency responsible and recipient of the monitoring data • 10 Conservation Policy includes the extant features but also the landscape traces, historic views, layers of history and meaning, the associated objects, history and the memories.


If we are to survive, let alone feel at home, we must begin to understand our country. If we succeed, one day we might become Australian. [Gammage 2011]

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