Pressures on the Hinterland
Melbourne’s population continues to grow rapidly. On current trends the city will have a population of 5.52 million by 2036, requiring 600,000 new dwellings over the next 20 years. However, this population growth is, in itself, not the major pressure on the Hinterland; rather it is the expansion of the urban area which derives from the recurring pattern of settlement that sees five people moving to the City’s fringe for every one person that settles in the inner suburbs.
Various State Governments have intervened in the cycle of ‘hinterland conversion’ principally through planning tools including the establishment of an Urban Growth Boundary (UGB). When introduced in 2002 in the ‘Melbourne 2030 Strategy’, the UGB was described as representing the long-term limits of urban developments, where non-urban values and land-uses should prevail. However, by 2008 an audit of Melbourne 2030 expressed support for changing the boundary should a range of ‘compelling circumstances’ arise. These included: ‘…the need to maintain a 15 year supply of land’; and ‘in exceptional cases where development was fully-funded outside government budgets, and could provide identifiable benefits to the metropolitan area overall’.
Subsequent policy reviews – ‘Melbourne @ 5 million’ and ‘Delivering Melbourne’s newest sustainable communities’ have responded to Melbourne’s growth being faster than expected by arguing for and accommodating further expansion of the UGB.
Changes to the UGB, (either currently proposed or likely in the future), undermine the certainty for the farming sector and encourage ‘land-banking’ and speculative investment which in turn generate lobbying for further urban expansion.
- Climate change is expected to expose the Hinterland’s land, soil and water resources to:
- Lower and more erratic rainfall
- Declining and more erratic waterway flows
- Higher evaporation
- Lower soil moisture
- Increased fire-weather frequency and intensity.
For more information about potential climate change effects, go to the Downloads section of this website to consult:
- PPWCMA summary of climate change predictions for the Port Phillip and Western Port region June 2016
- Southern Slopes Cluster Report, Climate Change in Australia Projections for Australia’s NRM Regions
- The Victorian Government’s Climate-Ready Victoria brochure for the Greater Melbourne region.
Climate change effects on the region’s farming and horticulture industries could include*:
- Faster plant growth as a result of the increased CO2
- Changes in the suitability of land for particular crops
- Increased extreme event impacts on productivity and production costs
- Increased production volatility in response to extreme weather
- Rising water costs and declining water security
- Risks of increased pests and diseases
Declining rainfall and water shortages are expected to end the viability of some irrigated horticulture in the region. Dryland farming could be similarly pressured. The amenity and economic values of ‘hobby’ farming and ‘rural living’ may decline. A warmer and drier climate with more sporadic and intense rainfall will increase soil erosion.