RESIDENTS united against Baiada Poultry’s plans to build the country’s largest broiler farms at Manilla have declared they will do whatever it takes to prevent the development going ahead.
The Namoi River Community Group (NRCG) is preparing for a “David and Goliath” battle in the new year against the poultry giant over its proposal to construct a 70-shed facility housing up to three million birds.
Baiada lodged five separate development applications with Tamworth Regional Council on Christmas Eve for the $80 million project, which the company’s managing director Simon Camilleri said would create more than 20 direct jobs.
Mr Camilleri reaffirmed to The Leader yesterday that if the project is approved, Baiada could invest a further $100 million to build a chicken processing plant in Tamworth, potentially creating hundreds of new jobs.
But members of the community group, including paramedic Bob Wales, said the development’s proximity to the Namoi River would pose a risk to the town’s water supply, underground aquifers and endangered species such as platypuses.
He said residents were deeply concerned that pollutants – either from effluent or chemicals used in the intensive farming operation – could leak into the environment and cause catastrophic damage.
“We’re not against the development, just against the location,” Mr Wales said. “We’re talking about the biggest development of this nature in Australia, if not the world.
“To put such an intensive operation in such a small area near, not just a pristine river, but the town’s water supply, would be negligent.”
Mr Wales said he did not believe the Manilla community would accept enduring all the environmental impacts of the farm simply so Tamworth could reap all the social and economic benefits of the processing plant.
“This community will bear the cost for Tamworth’s benefit,” he said. “I think it’s because Manilla doesn’t have adequate representation (on Tamworth Regional Council) that we’re seen as a soft target.”
Tamworth mayor Col Murray moved to assure concerned Manilla residents that the development applications would go through a thorough assessment process before any decision was reached.
However, he said council “must have very good reasons” for opposing a development application or it would just wind up fighting an expensive and futile battle in the Land and Environment Court.
“In my experience, it’s probably tougher now than ever to get these sensitive DAs approved,” he said.
“But providing all the zoning and assessments from the agencies come back with a tick, it can be very difficult for council not to approve.
“Council can put different sorts of conditions on them and I guess that’s where there is some scope for councils to consider the impact on residents.”