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This website aims to develop case studies of the development of farming practices and attendant transformations of local ecologies of defined blocks of land. Through these biographies of particular plots of land we are developing localised analyses of the wider historical trends in the political economy/ecology of the Northern Rivers.

Go to: Arriving in the Northern Rivers | Moving in | Changing land-use | Dairying | Farm work | Markets | Off-farm income | Expansion | Succession | Organic farming | Bush Regeneration

Changing land-use

With that demise of dairying and viability of cattle properties and the introduction of new crops there was tropical fruit research station just the other side of Alstonville which started up in the early 1970s and it was looking at the capacity for growing weird and different crops like avocados and macadamias and the like. So in the 1980s there was actually a growing demand for new people moving into that new type of production and also some of, a few of the existing farmers saying “well maybe I could do that with my land as there’s no money in cattle”. So both of those, but particularly from… there was a real growth in the populations during the 1980s in this region and a lot of these farmers looking to more and more sell because of the demise in the cattle so a lot more land became available particularly when the word got out amongst the farmers that these people would actually pay more and more money to secure the land for blocks that they couldn’t sell 10 – 15 years earlier.

They couldn’t sell the whole farm for $20,000 and 10 years later they could sell it for 10 or 15 times as much.

There was a lot of separate development. The majority of the people that moved there were dissimilar to myself in that they wanted to move somewhere in the beautiful country with views and that was the main thing. Not to actually develop any productive capacity of the land which basically I was interested in and so we had things in common and we had things were not in common and some of those may have had a bit of a go at something but it was all too hard and let’s do something else or they were there for a couple of years and gee what are we going to do now. These land prices are high actually we can sell for a lot more than what we bought for. So they’d just buy and sell.

All of those things conspired to for the district to become more and more residential and with the development of Lismore and Byron Bay and Bangalow and even Mullumbimby to a point there was a lot either working in businesses in town or being a tradesman and working in the district or in town for all of these new developments that were going on. So very much a sort of a development that they tried to ignore. I actually didn’t like it, the way it was going myself. A lot of the productive capacity of the region was being cut out by people that came there for other reasons and weren’t doing anything or if they did something they were stopping farming and planting trees so the farming capacity is actually lost or breaking the land up into blocks that were very unlikely to be viable ever again and trying to turn the district into the city or suburbs where they came from.

A lot of those things actually had some positive outcomes but in terms of agriculture we currently have those negative outcomes now. For instance when I got to a position where I wanted to expand to be able to get the kids through uni and build a real house and those sorts of things and had to pay tourist prices for any land in the district. So it became very expensive to be able to do that and very hard to be able to pay for farming to actually pay those blocks off by itself. So those sort of difficulties, you could see them coming ,but not really wanting to buy land in terms of speculation and just be part of that whole thing, I just developed our own farm and in 1984 in conjunction, still dairying, but in conjunction with developing the property, planted the first macadamias.

In terms of these new settlers weren’t coming from a farming background and weren’t looking to change the face of farming and to redevelop a rural economy. They were actually looking at other things and more and more becoming town-centric and we’ve got our haven in the hills to hide away from everything but we go to town as much as we can for fun. So that area basically it’s still current in our community.

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