A VISITING Greens MP has accused Tamworth Regional Council of treating Manilla residents like “roadkill” over its handling of Baiada’s proposed $80 million chicken farm.
Speaking during a tour of the site earmarked for Australia’s largest broiler operation, David Shoebridge said the council was putting economic gain ahead of residents’ pain.
The Sydney-based politician travelled to the region yesterday after learning of long-held concerns from members of the Namoi River Community Group (NRCG).
Baiada Poultry has lodged plans with council to construct a 70-shed broiler operation housing up to three million birds across five farms outside of Manilla.
If the development is approved, the company said it could lead to construction of a new $100 million processing plant in Tamworth, employing about 600 people.
But the development applications received a total of 80 objections from residents raising a host of concerns relating to water, traffic, noise, dust and health impacts.
Mr Shoebridge said Tamworth mayor Col Murray had made comments in support of the project which were dismissive of the genuine concerns landowners had about the development.
“The mayor has deliberately tried to downplay the strength of concerns that I think the community rightly has,” he said.
“It’s almost as though we’ve got the Tamworth council willing to cause this damage out in Manilla because it’s good for Tamworth.
“We need the council to be ensuring that it’s good not just for Tamworth, but it’s got to be good for Manilla and it’s got to be good for the beautiful Namoi River that’s going to run so close to this development.”
Mr Shoebridge said he shared residents’ cynicism that Baiada had deliberately split the project across five farms to avoid it going before the Joint Regional Planning Panel.
“I’ve had many locals very concerned about the scale of this development, but also the way the approval process is happening,” he said.
“Rather than being considered as a single development – in fact, the largest broiler development in the country – it’s been chopped up into five separate developments.
“It’s really not looking at the overall cumulative impact on the river, on the local environment and on the
Councillor Murray said any suggestion that either himself or his colleagues were not taking the concerns of residents seriously was completely wrong. “I agonise over these sorts of developments and I think you would have to be almost inhuman as a councillor if you didn’t get concerned,” he said.
Cr Murray also said he would have been “much happier” if Baiada had submitted its plans in a single development to go before the Joint Regional Planning Panel, but “that’s not our choice to make”.
Baiada Poultry declined the opportunity to respond to the concerns raised by Mr Shoebridge and the NRCG.