The NSW Department of Primary Industries has started mapping agricultural land in Maitland

FARMING: Tony Milburn working on a farm in East Maitland. Picture: Jonothan Carroll.
FARMING: Tony Milburn working on a farm in East Maitland. Picture: Jonothan Carroll.

The Hunter’s agricultural land is going under the microscope. 

The NSW Department of Primary Industries has started mapping farming land in Maitland and across the region as part of a state government initiative to cement a future for farming in the Hunter.

The move, which was one of the directions outlined in the Hunter Regional Plan 2036, will identify land types and earmark parcels with high-quality soil and water resources that are capable of sustaining high levels of productivity. 

With more than 3500 agricultural businesses in the region, which deliver more than $946 million in wholesale value, Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter Scot Macdonald said the plan was a vital step to ensure farming had a place in the Hunter’s future. 

“This work will identify the high-agricultural-value land in the region and then guide land use planning and the development of a strategic approach to the use of this land,” Mr Macdonald said.

“That will feed into what we expect councils to be identifying and putting aside for agriculture.”

Read more: Feeding the future: selling off the farm

Read more: Maitland’s fresh food revolution

Mr Macdonald has taken an interest in the need to balance Maitland’s growing population with the need for agriculture.

He said councils couldn’t keep depending on greenfield development sites to cater for population growth. 

“We have to provide the direction for council - don’t put all your eggs in the basket of yet another housing estate; it costs a lot of money with the roads, power, all those things, and a lot of the time they come to the state government to get the sewerage out there 20 years before the demand would justify it,” Mr Macdonald said.

“The character of an area should, at least, try to be preserved. You can really see it in places like Maitland; every time you drive past you see another 20 or 30 houses being built and you sit back and wonder where is this going to end?”

Mr Macdonald noted land owners on the peri-urban fringe may want to sell to developers in the future as part of their retirement plan. 

He also flagged the need for councils to focus on more medium density development within town centres to help cater for some of the population.

“Instead of people focusing on three bedroom houses on 800sqm we would have more terrace housing in town, that might look like low rise development. That is where you will accommodate some of them,” he said.

Why is this important?

Much of the Hunter’s best farmland is being engulfed by development as the demand for housing soars. 

Fairfax Media’s Feeding the Future series looked at the need to balance the need to eat with the need for shelter.

Click on the picture to read the initial article.

The Maitland community answered the call to our series and out of that a fresh food revolution was born.

The growing Slow Food Earth Markets Maitland, which operates on the first and third Thursday of the month in The Levee, is evidence of the city’s commitment to its farmers and the desire to eat local.

Click on the picture to learn more about the earth market movement.