Being a good neighbour and being a proactive, forward thinking and innovative farmer will lessen the number of misunderstandings between neighbours and reduce the risk of disagreements developing.
When people buy land and move into rural areas, problems may arise for one or more of the following reasons:
- They have expectations of a certain type of lifestyle that may be unrealistic.
- They have not done enough local research.
- They may not understand rural life.
- They may not understand their responsibilities as landowners.
Established landowners can take a leading role in helping their new neighbours settle in. Providing advice and knowledge of the local area and giving a hand are important for any members of Victoria's rural communities.
There are many things farmers can do to help their neighbours, from simply being aware that the neighbours are likely to have different values and expectations to taking an active involvement in the management of their neighbour's land. Cooperation on a whole range of neighbourly matters can quickly lead to better understanding and a greater appreciation of each other's lifestyles. This means that disagreements are less likely.
Jim and Jackie Bonython were not impressed when their neighbour's farm was sold and subdivided into small rural residential blocks. They had been farmers in the district for many years and liked the peace and quiet of their local area.
New homes were built, the traffic along their road increased and Jim was sure roaming dogs worried his sheep. He wasn't impressed either that a couple of his neighbours allowed weeds to proliferate and spread onto his land. They didn't know what to do, so they quietly suffered the changed lifestyle.
Two and a half years later, when Jim was spraying some blackberries near his boundary, his neighbour spoke to him for the first time. It became clear that the neighbour knew nothing about their responsibilities for weed control and had no equipment to do it. In fact, they had been looking forward to picking the blackberries once they ripened.
Jim told them what he knew and also gave them the name of the local council weeds officer. Later that week the neighbour called over again to ask Jim whether he would spray their weeds, and they struck a deal.
Soon, another neighbour approached him with the same request, and they came to an arrangement. In an effort to be proactive, Jim went around to the remaining six neighbours and suggested he spray their blackberries. Four out of the six agreed, and he completed the job that day. Together, they made a significant impact on the weeds.
Three years later, the 'locals' were an organised Landcare group, with 'coordinated weed control' as a high priority. Jackie was the secretary of the group while Jim did blackberry spraying and fencing, as well as teaching the newcomers about farming. They regularly graze their cattle on a neighbour's property to keep the grass under control.
In five years, Jim and Jackie haven't had a single complaint, and when a property changes hands, they now have an active policy to welcome the new owners into the district.
Follow these recommendations and be the sort of neighbour you would want to live next to:
- Be aware your neighbours may have different values and expectations.
- Be aware that what you take for granted in your farming operations might be completely unexpected for others.
- Be aware that some of your farming activities might impact upon your neighbours.
- Be aware that your land may add to the amenity that others enjoy, and that if you change your land management, you are likely to affect that amenity.
- Be as proactive as you can to inform your neighbours in advance of activities that might affect them, such as weaning, harvesting, shearing, sowing and cultivating. They may be able to arrange to be elsewhere during these times.
- Be aware that your new neighbours may simply not know their responsibilities for land, pest and weed management, so tell them.
- Be a proactive, innovative farmer and set an example for your neighbours.
- Offer to help with small tasks - these may seem huge to your neighbour.
- Welcome new neighbours into the district and invite them to join the local clubs, Landcare and other groups.
Who to contact
For advice on fire prevention and control, contact the Country Fire Authority.