Healthy Spaces & Places Healthy Spaces & Places

Development Types

Rural and Regional Development - Full Text


Rural and regional Australia is made up of a large number of communities of varying sizes. There are large regional cities like Ballarat, country towns including Albany in Wesern Australia to small country towns and villages like Maleny in Queensland and Millthorpe in NSW. They all have an individual character which is based on their history, location and development pattern.

Wingham, New South Wales
Source: Edge Land Planning


Like metropolitan areas, urban areas in rural Australia offer a wide range of services and facilities to the people who live and work there and to the residents and workers in the town’s hinterland. Access to many of the services required for daily living is easier in these towns than in larger metropolitan areas, because of the towns’ smaller size and development patterns.

However, a number of towns and villages are experiencing population decline and this has impacted on their self sufficiency due to diminishing viability of commercial and public services.  Residents may no longer be able to access all the necessary daily services in their town and need to travel to larger towns and regional centres which have been experiencing growth. This has the effect of expanding the physical area of their daily life (Bertram and Neustupny, 2005). 

Larger towns and regional centres provide for a wider range of services and facilities and are generally self sufficient for the majority of the community’s needs, as opposed to smaller towns and villages, which rely on the larger towns and regional centres for a variety of their needs. 

Lake Forbes
Lake Forbes, New South Wales
Source: Edge Land Plannin

For regional centres public transport in the form of regular bus services can provide alternative transport options for the population to access services and facilities. However, in towns and villages public transport is limited to taxis and community transport providers. There are also limited bus services between the towns and villages and regional centres and limited rail transport available to most of these people.

Roads are often not sealed and do not have kerb and guttering which makes it difficult to have on-road cycle paths. In addition the surface of the roads is not as smooth as in metropolitan areas and this too is a challenge. Pedestrian and cycle routes in regional and rural towns are important transport options for residents that need to be planned and maintained.

Health & Planning Fact
The importance of encouraging active lifestyles such as walking, cycling and public transport has the same importance for communities living in rural and regional Australia as for those living in metropolitan areas.  From a public health perspective, a recent study found that those living in high walkable neighbourhoods spent almost twice as much time weekly (137 minutes) walking for local errands compared with those living in low walkable neighbourhoods, and about half as many residents were overweight (Saelens, Sallis, Black and Chen 2003Íž and Saelens, Sallis and Frank, 2003).


The following sets out advice for practitioners on good practice or minimum standards and optimum practice for this development type.

Good Practice

Where new, infill or redevelopment is proposed within or adjoining an existing country town, retain and enhance development patterns that demonstrate development principles which encourage healthy lifestyles, such as:

  • Compact town centres with a range of shops and professional services, civic functions and cultural facilities
  • Mixed densities and land use appropriate to the nature of development in the town
  • Highly interconnected street and pedestrian and bike networks offering a choice of convenient and safe routes.  
  • Comfortable and attractive streets where buildings frame the street and large canopied trees provide shade on residential streets (where shade is appropriate) and wide awnings provide weather protection in the town centre (Burden)
  • Public spaces, parks and community facilities that form a focal point for community life and are comfortable and welcoming places, e.g. central town parks providing a venue for festivals, performances and social gatherings, and that are easily accessible by walking or cycling (Bowe, 2004)
  • Neighborhood schools and parks that are easily accessible by walking or cycling
  • Design community facilities that can be shared between multiple user groups.

Gerringong Town Hall, NSW
Public facilities for meeting places and recreation are important for smaller communities
Gerringong, NSW
Source: SGS Economics and Planning

It is also important, where relevant, to ensure that new development is sympathetic to the town’s historic or development character.

In all communities, the maintenance of public facilities such as parks, community buildings, footpaths and bicycle paths is important, so all residents have the opportunity to lead active lives and be involved in their local community.


  • New development that does support active living lifestyles especially residential subdivisions that do not provide or  integrate with surrounding pedestrian and bike networks.


Bertram, N and Neustupny, M, July 2005, Sparse Urban Environments: design strategies for possible futures, paper presented to the 2nd National Conference on the Future of Australia's Country Towns, Centre for Sustainable Regional Communities, La Trobe University, viewed 7 April 2009,

Bowe, C, 2004, Streets that work, Adelaide review, 2004.11.26 viewed 1 April 2009,

Burden, D, Ten Keys to Walkable Communities, viewed 1 April 2009,

Echberg B, 2008, Getting it all together in country towns, Urban Design Forum, viewed 1 april, 2009

Giles-Corti B, 2006, The impact of urban form on public health, paper prepared for the 2006 Australian State of the Environment Committee, Department of the Environment and Heritage, Canberra, viewed 1 April 2009,

Saelens, B.E., Sallis, J.F., Black, J., & Chen, D. 2003, Neighborhood-based differences in physical activity: An environment scale evaluation. American Journal of Public Health, 93, 1552-1558.

Saelens, Brian E.; Sallis, James F.; Frank, Lawrence D. 2003. "Environmental Correlates of Walking and Cycling: Findings from the Transportation, Urban Design, and Planning Literatures". Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 25 (2): 80-91

Last updated on 17th August, 2009

Sponsors This project was funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing.