Tips before purchasing rural land
Rural and regional Victoria offers a quality of life that many people find hard to resist. But it is important to understand life in a rural zone before buying a property and living on it. Remember, although it may look peaceful, rural Victoria can be busy, noisy and odorous at certain times and in certain areas.
Have realistic expectations of life in rural Victoria and do your research about the use of land surrounding your intended property. Much of rural Victoria is busy with industry, where the industry is agriculture. Many agricultural land uses can impact on neighbouring properties and affect residential amenity.
Agriculture is continually developing to encompass much more than traditional notions of picturesque pastures of livestock and crops. Odours, noise, dust and smoke are common outputs of legitimate agricultural and other land management activities and you should be prepared to experience them.
Before you buy, make sure you consider the industries in the area and understand the farming practices that are part of those industries. Think about how they may affect you and your property.
It is important for new residents to be aware that farmers are doing these things to produce high quality food and remain viable and competitive, and the trend towards intensifying agricultural activities will undoubtedly continue.
Living together in rural Victoria comes down to having reasonable expectations of how the land in your neighbourhood is used, and exercising a little give and take.
New rural residents, existing rural residents and commercial producers all have an equal right to live, work and enjoy rural Victoria, but equally, everybody needs to understand the rules governing land use in rural areas, and be prepared for the reality of rural life.
With a realistic set of expectations, a little goodwill and some creative solutions, there are few disagreements that can't be mutually resolved. And while some disagreements may ultimately end up in court, building relationships, mutual resolution and third party mediation are far more effective methods.
Understand the options for managing amenity impacts
When you have identified the impacts from surrounding land uses, consider whether you can take any actions on your own property. Planting wind breaks and vegetative buffers can often reduce noise, dust, visual impacts, and sometimes odours, but be realistic about what you can achieve and don't necessarily rely on action from your neighbours.
There are not many formal requirements for farmers to minimise the normal impacts arising from the legitimate agricultural enterprises they may run, and there are few requirements for them to formally notify you of what they intend to do.
Landholders looking to better understand their rights and obligations and those of their neighbours can find out more by contacting the following government authorities:
Local council – local governments typically deal with matters relating to what type of land uses are permitted to operate in a given area, and whether landholders are complying with any restrictions imposed by zoning and land use overlays.
Environment Protection Authority (EPA) – responsible for regulating activities which pose a threat to the environment, including waste disposal, noise and emissions.
Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (DEDJTR) - manages biosecurity risks, including the obligations of landholders to manage pests, diseases and weeds.
How secure are your landscape views?
Many people move to rural Victoria for the picturesque landscape. But remember, the land you look out on may be owned by someone else who has rights to dramatically alter how it is used and how it looks.
Be prepared for your landscape views to change if you live next to a commercial farming enterprise and understand the alternative land uses that could be developed on neighbouring land. Commercial farming operations can change dramatically as production practices change.
Be prepared for your land management responsibilities
Be prepared to meet the legal obligations that come with owning land in rural Victoria.
For example, weed management and rabbit and fox control can be expensive and time-consuming, but your rural neighbours or community groups such as Landcare may be able to provide you with advice and assistance regarding pest control. Do your research before you buy to fully understand the extent of weed and pest infestations.
Fire control is also your responsibility—understand that you will have to take actions including reducing the amount of fire fuel around your home, and possibly establishing fire breaks around your boundary. Advice on managing fire risks is available from the Country Fire Authority.
Landowners also have a responsibility to keep their boundary fences well-maintained. The cost of maintaining a shared fence is typically shared between neighbours, but where the fence borders on government-owned land (such as Crown land), the private landholder may be liable for the full costs of maintaining the fence. Talk to your local council to find out more.
There are a number of steps you should take before purchasing a property in rural Victoria:
- Do your research about the industries and land uses surrounding your intended property.
- Investigate local planning provisions that govern land use in your area and understand the sort of rural industries that can legitimately 'move in next door'.
- Understand that the nature of the rural industries that exist in your area are likely to intensify over time, and that production practices will change.
- Consider the potential impacts this might have on the future enjoyment you gain from your rural property.
- Be prepared to spend time and money on your land management responsibilities, especially weeds and pest animals.
- Get information, advice and assistance from the department, the local council and other government and non-government sources to ensure you make an informed choice about living in rural Victoria.