Buying a Rural Property

This section, in conjunction with “Information when Buying or Selling a Property”, provides:
  • an introduction to rural living
  • matters of considerations when buying a rural property
  • introduction to sustainable land management, and
  • an outline of weed management in the Yass Valley LGA.
Yass Valley Council thanks Goulburn Mulwaree Council and the Upper Murrumbidgee Catchment Coordinating Committee for the use of the following information.
 

Introduction – Rural Living

‘Getting away from it all’ is an Australian dream. In our area, getting away from it all often involves buying a rural block. Rural blocks can be productive farmland, a bush block or a combination of both.
 
For some, getting away from it all means finding a healthy environment to raise children, or a place to retire away from the stress of the city. Others want to commune with nature or find a weekend escape.
 
The environment is under pressure from our collective lifestyles. All levels of government are pursuing sustainable development to protect our environment for the future.
 
Local activities have a significant effect on water quality and catchment health. We have a responsibility to ensure that we care for and maintain healthy rivers, streams and bushland. We also need to get along well with our neighbours so that we can all achieve our individual goals without affecting the pleasure of others. However, the rural landscape is a productive farming and resource area, and some of the legitimate activities carried out in the area may have unavoidable impacts.
 
Rural lands also help protect native vegetation which is home to wildlife, including many threatened species. These flora and fauna are not only important parts of the ecosystem, but provide amenity to landholders and visitors.
 
Be aware that some rural activities might affect you, and the level of services such as waste collection or water supply here may not be the same as in more built up areas. Various levels of government have management requirements and information available to help landowners and managers.
 
Different people will want to manage their land in different ways. Some will want to keep and enhance the existing bush. Others will want to run stock and cultivate crops. Whatever your goals as a landowner or manager, you need to be aware of your rights and responsibilities.

 

Buying A Rural Property – Things to Consider

Before you decide to buy a rural property, take a few moments to answer the following questions. You should also get legal advice before buying any property.
  • Do you know the history of the property? Request a property search from the South East Local Lands Service (LLS) to ensure there are no outstanding LLS rates, levies, known chemical residues or animal health issues on the property. What stock did the previous owner have?  Did they sow pastures and use fertilisers?  Are there any rubbish dumps on the property that you will need to remediate? Are there pest animals (e.g. rabbits, foxes) on the property?
  • Is the activity that you plan for the property suited to the landscape and capability of the land?
  • Is there enough water to carry out the activity that you have in mind and is it of suitable quality?
  • Are all required services provided to the property?  If not, can they be provided economically? Or is it an area that will always have limited services? Services include phone, gas, water, sewer and electricity. (Note: Yass Valley Council can advise on water and wastewater services)
  • Do you know what the regulations and conditions are for building dams or that you may need approval for sinking bores? Do you know that digging near a watercourse may require a permit?
  • Are you aware that in most instances you require approval to remove native vegetation? How might this affect your activities?
  • Does the zoning of the land allow your proposed use, or will you need to apply for a change of land use or any other permit? (Note: Yass Valley Council can advise on planning matters)
  • Are there good quality pastures? Are they dominated by native or introduced species?
  • What weeds are on the property? Are any of them declared as noxious weeds? Is there a Noxious Weed Notice (Section 18 or 64) on the property? (See below for further information on weed management in the Yass Valley LGA)
  • Is there soil erosion on the property that will be time consuming and expensive to fix?
  • Is the soil fertile and the pH appropriate for growing pasture, crops and any other produce that you want to grow?
  • Are the fences in good repair and suitable for confining stock and the grazing management of the property?
  • Are there any derelict mine shafts on the property? If so, are they fenced to ensure your safety?
  • Are there existing mining leases or exploration licences on the property?
  • Are there any commercial wind farms planned for the area?
  • Is there forestry land near the property that may be harvested in the future?
  • If there is no existing dwelling and you want one, does the land have a building entitlement? (Note: Yass Valley Council can advise on planning matters)
  • Are there existing or proposed adjacent land uses that will affect your enjoyment of the property? For example, are there legitimate rural uses nearby such as agriculture, quarries, mines and forestry that produce dust, odours or noise? (Note: Yass Valley Council can advise on planning matters)
  • Is there a Property Vegetation Plan (PVP) agreement, management plan or condition of consent over part of the property that requires you to undertake specified management actions, or limits the land uses on part of the property? (Note: Local Land Services can advise on PVP matters)
  • Are any threatened species of flora and fauna known to live on the property?
  • Will the amount of time and money required to control weeds, erosion and pest animals be excessive?

 

Ask Council if there are:

  • Any development applications current for the nearby area
  • Other developments that have been approved but not commenced
  • Any restrictions on developing certain desired land uses.
  • Have you examined the Section 149 planning certificate from Council closely and discussed any potential constraints with Council and your conveyancer or solicitor?
  • Is the land prone to flood or bushfire? Will you need to undertake any management activities to minimise these impacts?
  • Are there any rights-of-carriageway or other easements on the property that need to be maintained and/or which may allow neighbours access? (Note: Yass Valley Council can advise on operational matters)
  • Are there any covenants, management plans or agreements on the property that protect certain areas?
  • Is there enough shade and water for stock?

After considering all these questions, will the property provide the rural lifestyle that you are looking for?

 
Additional information:

 

Sustainable Land Management

Sustainable land management means managing land without damaging ecological processes or reducing biological diversity. It also means caring for the land so your property continues to meet your needs for production and amenity. It requires the maintenance of the following key components of the environment:
  • biodiversity: the variety of species, populations, habitats and ecosystems;
  • ecological integrity: the general health and resilience of natural life-support systems, including their ability to assimilate wastes and withstand stresses such as climate change and ozone depletion; and
  • natural capital: the stock of productive soil, fresh water, forests, clean air, ocean, and other renewable resources that underpin the survival, health and prosperity of human communities.
 
Land is often managed for multiple benefits, such as agricultural production, biodiversity conservation, water quality, soil health and supporting human life. To ensure long-term sustainability, land managers need to consider economic, social and environmental factors.
 
The following publications are an example of information available regarding sustainable land management practices relevant to the Yass Valley.

 

Look after your Natural Assets

The Upper Murrumbidgee Catchment Management Committee (UMCCC) produced a booklet in 2010 providing the basics on a wide range of landcare topics for the bush block and small farms in the Upper Murrumbidgee catchment, which includes the Yass Valley. The UMCCC and Yass Valley Council hope it helps you make the most of your block and work in harmony with your natural and social environments. Hardcopies are available from Yass Valley Council or can be download from UMCCC.
 

Biodiversity in the Paddock

CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems published a handbook in 2008 on the sustainability of native pastures. “Biodiversity in the Paddock” is a practical field guide to help graziers and land managers achieve biodiversity outcomes alongside the utilisation of native pastures. Download Biodiversity in the paddock: A Land Manager's Guide.
 

Sustainable land management practices for graziers

The sustainable land management practices for graziers are a collection of best management practices to support sustainable grazing and land management. They aim to help graziers develop whole farm practices for healthy and productive pasture systems and landscapes. These practices will also benefit the wider community through cleaner water runoff and better catchment health.

 

Weed Management

Land owners or occupiers of land are required under the Biosecurity Act to control any declared noxious weed which may be present on their property. Hilltops Council Weeds Officers are contracted by Yass Valley Council to be responsible for ensuring this occurs in the Yass Valley. For more information, visit http://www.yassvalley.nsw.gov.au/environment/public-health/noxious-weed-management 
 

When Buying Land

The purchase of land, be it a suburban building block or large property, is a major decision and can be emotive. Noxious weeds are often not considered in the decision making process.
 
Before signing a contract, prospective purchases should take the following considerations into account:
  • Are there noxious weeds on the land?
  • Are noxious weed infestations being effectively managed?
  • What are the costs of ongoing weed control? If the land is to used for farming, will weed infestation lead to production losses?
Privacy laws prevent Council from disclosing weed infestation information to prospective buyers without the owner’s consent.
 
A Weed Control Notice is a notice issued by a Local Control Authority (Hilltops Council Weed Officers issue these notices in the Yass Valley LGA) to an owner/occupier of land that has unmanaged noxious weeds growing upon it. A Weed Control Notice is issued in accordance with the Biosecurity Act 2015 if an occupier fails to meet their obligations to control noxious weeds as directed by Council.
 
There are two actions you can take before you purchase a property to minimise the risk of unknowingly inheriting a noxious weed problem:
  • seek independent advice
  • request certification under Schedule 7 Clause 28 of the Biosecurity Act 2015
Then you can make a planned decision, rather than inherit a potential mental and financial burden that can last for years.
 

Seek Independent Advice

Not all properties affected by declared noxious weeds have Weed Control Notices on them. Because of the number of properties in the Yass Valley LGA, it is not possible to inspect every property as often as desired. Unless Council is notified of an existing problem, some properties severely infested with declared noxious weeds may go undetected for many years and be subsequently sold along with the weed problem. During your initial inspection of the property, you should arrange to have a reputable Weed Control Operator accompany you. They will be able to advise you on likely costs and outcomes of noxious weeds present on the property. Contact details of Weed control Operators experienced in this matter are available from Hilltops Council Weeds Officers.
 

Certification under Schedule 7 Clause 28 of the Biosecurity Act 2015

Your Solicitor should request a Schedule 7 Clause 28 Certificate (under the Biosecurity Act 2015) from a certified Weeds Officer, which details if there are any weed control notices in force over a particular parcel of land and as to any outstanding expenses payable or any resulting charges on the land. These debts and outstanding notices remain with the property on sale and become the responsibility of the buyer.
 
The small cost of an independent inspection and the certificates may save you thousands of dollars in weed control costs.
 

Considerations before you choose your rural property

  • Is it a high maintenance piece of land?
Think about what time you are willing to commit to the maintenance. Do you like to mow? Would you be better with a low maintenance bush block that has no or low carrying capacity? After purchase can you afford the equipment you will need to look after the property such as slasher, spray gear, tractor?
  • Are the surrounding properties in the area cared for in a manner you will accept?
What weeds are growing in the surrounding area? If you intend to be weed free and the adjoining valley is infested with blackberry there will be more for you to do!
  • How much do you really know about the area?
Does it flood and if so, what weeds are brought on to the property from upstream? What is above you in the catchment is a factor, as that will be shared with you.
  • Do you know the weeds on the property and can they be eradicated?
Buy a serrated tussock infested property because it is cheap and you may regret it. It will cost more in time, labour, chemical, and loss of productivity than the property is worth.
  • Have you had a Weeds Officer advise you prior to purchase?
The weeds that are there now tell the story of the property, so before you commit to buying have a chat with the local Weeds Officer.
  • Are there any easements or right of ways through the property?
If there are, will weeds be transported on to your property by vehicle traffic or stock movement? Consider general security of the property.
 

Additional Information