River stress no paltry matter

RESIDENTS opposed to Baiada Poultry’s plan to build an $82 million broiler farm at Manilla have expressed grave concerns over “inaccuracies” they claim are littered throughout the five development applications.

The Namoi River Community Group (NRCG), formed last year by citizens concerned at the project’s impact on the town, has spent weeks wading through thousands of pages of documentation to formulate its response.

Of most alarm is the question of how Baiada intends to meet the estimated average demand of 1.37 megalitres of water a day to hydrate the birds and, when the temperature tops 30C, to run evaporate cooling systems.

The development applications indicate the company intends to primarily extract water directly from the Namoi River under two licences and supplement it with groundwater from bore sites on the Strathfield property in dry times.

It also proposes constructing 50-megalitre storage dams on each of the five farms to be filled with rainwater and “topped up with water from the Namoi River via the existing pump system during high-flow periods”. 

But Manilla resident and NRCG spokesman Bob Wales said the group doubted whether the river could handle the increased demand of an operation housing up to three million birds.

“The river system is already stretched to the limit without adding further industry that requires significant water allocations,” he said.

“Some of the bores aren’t even established and they certainly haven’t been tested. From local knowledge, they won’t get anywhere near the rates required to support the operation of 70 sheds.

“The people of Tamworth and Manilla who enjoy the river (for) fishing and associated activities are in for some disappointment.” Namoi Water, the peak industry group for irrigated agriculture in the area, also intends to make a submission to Tamworth Regional Council.

Executive officer Jon-Maree Baker said it too had concerns about how Baiada planned to source its water for the project which, if approved, will be the largest broiler farm in Australia.

“Namoi Water is concerned that the water budget proposed has assumed very moderate water consumption,” she said.

“The experience of the recent hot summer highlights the possibility that water consumption by the birds in the shed is significantly higher than estimated in the water budget proposed.

“How will the farms meet this increase in water requirements? Submissions to council regarding the development must be lodged before 5pm on Monday, March 3.

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