Allan Windust is the author of Buying Your Bush Block published by Landlinks Press and distributed by CSIRO Publishing (www.publish.csiro.au). Farm and Land Auctions Australia, the creator of the www.farmrealestate.com.au website has permission to publish advice from Allan’s book (see his advice below). Allan was Victoria’s last District Surveyor with the Crown Lands Department He spent 40 years in rural areas performing land surveying and environmental planning duties before retirement. He now spends his time between tending his farmlet and writing and educating people about buying land and living in the country.Allan is a past president of the Small Farm’s Association and has managed Bendigo’s Landcare Centre that encourages sensible environmental land practises. Allan has owned four small blocks and currently lives near Bendigo in central Victoria
Where Do I Live?
MOST LIKELY you will spend many years living on the block you buy so it is worth taking time to select the right one. The location is determined by what you want to do on the land as well as climate, soil type, relation to markets and other factors. First you must decide what district you want to settle in, a specific location will follow. If you are going to farm part-time then the block needs to be close to your work place. I remember people saying to me, “you were lucky getting your block so close to work”. Luck did play a part but I also spent two years searching. If you are retiring or making a living on the land the range of choice is wider. Factors determining your general location include family network, soil types, climate, transport, services, education, water storage, recreation facilities and markets.
Business In The Bush
IF TAKING a business to a new rural location ideally the business will be established before you move. Council zoning will be important to any business relocation. Your local council will help with zoning advice. If you do not have many visitors to your business disturbing the local amenity of the area, then you can operate in just about any zoning. For instance, a nursery that does not sell direct to the public and only has occasional visitors will probably have a wider choice of zones to locate in compared to a direct to public sales nursery. Most local government town planners will assist with the present and future implications of zoning for your business. Main road sites should be investigated with relevant authorities for future access implications. For instance, in Victoria the road governing department is called VicRoads.
YOU SHOULD CONSIDER how much of your property will remain in its natural state. Ask yourself if you are prepared to leave the natural bush untouched. It is becoming popular to purchase bush land to conserve it. Many people have the idea to camp on their block and restore it on weekends. Regardless of this, check to see if a building permit can be issued. Permit potential increases the land sale value. When looking for such a block consider whether there is a suitable house site free from fire risk and a natural catchment area. You may want to create a wetland environment. Look at a potential property purchase during spring to see what weeds are growing and check the neighbour’s property. Avoid property with noxious weeds. Walk the property in spring to see what animals and insects are rife. Sand flies and mosquitoes, and other venomous creatures like snakes and scorpions, are not everyone’s idea of nice pets.
Get Down to Earth
PROBABLY the most important question you can ask yourself and family before going out to look for a bush property is what do we want? What makes you and the family happy? Where do you want to be and what do you want to be doing in 10 years time? Are you looking for a property where you can make it into a working farm, a business site, a pony farm for the kids, a self-sufficient existence or maybe a rural retreat? Research your intended farming practise. Of course there is the question of your resources. Ask yourself what can you afford to buy? Do I have the resources to buy both land and a house or do I build on the land? Can I fund the ongoing costs of rates, loan repayments and so on. Do your sums. List your assets, finances and salary. Approach buying a small farm as if it is a business. It is far better to come down to earth before you buy than to try to follow an unrealistic dream.
IT MAY come as a surprise that the first matter to consider when buying a bush block is yourself. You, by the way, includes the whole family. If you have not been on the land before and are not interested in gardening seriously question whether you want to become a part-time farmer. Farmers are a blend of gardener, mechanic, soil scientist, veterinarian, parent, husband and/or wife, financial planner and fortune teller. It would be presumptuous to think you can pick all this up quickly when it takes a farming family a life time to learn their skills. One factor that struck home forcefully as we searched for a bush block was the amount of properties on the market because of marriage break-ups. There are many reasons why marriages dissolve but we observed several major factors. A main one was that couples had not realised the full implications of living away from main towns and their social networks. Bush life calls for new skills and behaviour and can put relationships under stress. For instance, many parents will spend much more time as their children’s taxi drivers in a rural environment. The other main reason for the marriage break-up was a lack of original shared objectives. One partner had a strong desire for a bush life while the other just went along. The decision as to where to live must be shared.