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Ensuring the continued viability of rural and regional communities in Australia has become a high priority politically. Economic and environmental forces are perceived as threats to viability. Declining terms of trade for agricultural commodities along with decreased relative prices for transportation and communication services have led to fewer and more concentrated regional centres. Environmental threats such as dryland salinity are perceived as potential future causes of diminished settlement densities. In Europe and the United States of America, similar political pressures to keep rural communities viable are also apparent, often as a component of the “multi-functionality” of agriculture. Given that these pressures are manifest in the form of demands for public resources, the question is whether or not the tax paying public enjoy benefits from any resultant improvement in country community viability. As an integral component of a number of recent non-market, environmental valuation exercises, the value of these benefits have been estimated. The results demonstrate a positive “existence value” held primarily by urban dwellers for country communities.


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