Bid to keep farms viable in Wollondilly

Wollondilly Council’s innovative scheme to balance the future of the agricultural industry and the population growth in the shire is one step closer.

In a world first, the Agricultural Enterprise Credit Scheme will allow food producers to earn saleable credits that will be held in a ‘bank’ which can then be purchased by developers to increase the density of their proposed residential developments.

The scheme will also encourage owners of land to start producing food.

Councillor Matt Gould and Oakdale stone fruit farmer Ed Biel floated the concept last year.

Now the council has teamed up with the University of Technology Sydney to research how to turn the scheme’s theory into a practical model.

Council’s community services and corporate support executive director Ally Dench said the research by UTS’ Institute for Sustainable Futures was designed to determine the rules and regulations for accessing the scheme.

“The research will work out which farmers can access the scheme, how much food they have to produce to get the credits, how they access the credits,” she said.

“It will also work out how developers buy the credits, the rules around how high developments can be and how the scheme fits into the council’s current planning rules.”

The research results are expected to be finalised in May,

Mrs Dench said the scheme was one way the council could support farmers.

“The scheme is designed to reward farmers for producing food and will help keep farming practices viable in the shire,” she said.

“The scheme will tell the community that we value agriculture and farmers and that we want to keep Wollondilly rural by keeping agriculture in the shire. 

“If we want to keep agriculture in the Sydney Basin then we have got to do something to keep it here.”

Mrs Dench said the council needed to plan for future housing but wanted to do that in a way that kept farming operations viable.

“We hear from the community that there is too much urban sprawl,” she said.

“So we may need to densify developments or make blocks smaller because at the end of the day people have got to have somewhere to live.

“So we need to make it fair for all.”

The scheme is modelled on Sydney City's heritage floor space scheme, which provided an incentive for conservation by allowing owners of heritage buildings to sell unused development potential from their site.

For more information on the credit scheme, contact the council on 4677 1100.