The brief internal paper Determining Land Use was written in 1984 as a guide for staff of the Metropolitan Parks Branch of the Melbourne Metropolitan Board of Works. During that era (1980s), the Branch was taking occupation of numerous properties zoned Proposed Public Open Space, many of them worn out or run down (given that sale to the Board was more or less inevitable). Field staff were required to assess properties and decide whether to manage them for environmental conservation or develop for some form of public recreation, or something else. The paper is signed by Tony Whitham, but is marked in Trevor Arthur’s handwriting as by Geoff Edwards.

Roll on two decades, and the same Geoff Edwards in the Department of Natural Resources and Mines in Queensland, wrote a more sophisticated and comprehensive paper with a similar purpose. However, the scope of the land uses that departmental officers (who were the target audience of this Resource Planning Guideline) were from time to time required to evaluate were much broader, covering virtually all the land uses for which various parcels of Crown land could be allocated. This Guideline F9 Determining Most Appropriate Use was published in 2005 and appeared briefly on the Department’s website.

There is a subtext implied by the term “most appropriate use”. This concept is one grounded in public interest, and not in economic profit. It is in tension with the term “highest and best use” that is widely used as the basis of planning in planning schemes and water allocation. “Highest and best” implies the most intensive or economically profitable use (as determined by the market) that can be permitted under the regulations in force; “most appropriate” implies the use that maximises the benefit to the community, deriving from the intrinsic attributes of the land nestled in its locality; with economic potential, being only one criterion. The difference between these two concepts is explained in other papers in this series of Resource Planning Guidelines, obtainable by request to PaRC or from Trove.