The Sunraysia region is a nationally important centre for production of wine grapes, wine, dried vine fruit, table grapes, and citrus. The Mildura Older Irrigation Areas (MOIA) cover almost 14,000 ha of horticultural land within this region and are comprised by the three irrigation (or pump) districts of Mildura, Merbein and Red Cliffs. The MOIA's long term viability as a horticultural region has been threatened by factors including drought, commodity prices and encroaching residential development. Until recently, land in the MOIA had tied with it a degree of ‘flexibility' regarding the potential for residential use, resulting in housing and resident serving infrastructure through the area, and land values inflated well beyond their horticultural use value. Both of these results have acted to constrain land consolidation for horticultural purposes, and therefore limit the economies that can be derived from scale - a key prerequisite for efficient horticultural production.
Mildura Rural City Council commissioned SGS in association with Regional Valuation Services (RVS) to assess the economic implications of a number of future planning control scenarios designed to constrain residential development in the MOIA. The study was to pay particular attention to the implications of future planning scenarios on land values and on overall economic activity levels in the MOIA and the broader region. SGS consulted with horticultural producers and industry experts and undertook a rigorous impact assessment process. This drew on local property valuation expertise to quantify land value impacts of the planning scenarios by lot size. SGS developed a tailored regional economic model to assess the economic implications of altered levels of horticultural production on the economy.
The study highlighted the strategic importance of horticultural activity in the MOIA and the negative impacts of ad hoc residential development. The Planning Minister later placed an interim ban on future residential development within the MOIA while Council considered a strategy for managing residential growth. The Mildura Older Irrigation Area: Study into Land Values received the Award for Rural and Regional Planning Achievement, PIA Awards for Planning Excellence (Victoria).