TAMWORTH Regional Council has been urged to put people before profits when it convenes next week to decide the fate of a proposed $82 million chicken meat farm.
Baiada Poultry’s bid to build Australia’s largest broiler operation at Manilla has hit resistance from a group of locals with a swag of health, safety and environmental concerns.
Council received 80 written objections to the proposal during the public consultation phase earlier in the year and just seven submissions in favour of the development.
But council’s staff have recommended the five-farm operation, which would be capable of housing up to three million birds, be approved “subject to a range of conditions”.
Among those conditions is that Baiada initially constructs only 49 of its proposed sheds, with the remainder to be built “in the future” subject to additional regulatory requirements.
Baiada has said council’s approval of the broiler farm, which will employ 15 people, could pave the way for a new $100 million processing plant in Tamworth, creating about 600 jobs.
Namoi River Community Group president Matthew Fletcher said many Manilla residents were worried about the massive operation’s potential impact on the town.
He said there was genuine concern that disease-producing pathogens could be transmitted from the mountains of manure that three million birds would produce.
Mr Fletcher implored the council not to be seduced by the purported economic benefits stemming from the broiler farm at the expense of residents’ wellbeing.
“This is not a case of ‘not in my backyard’. We don’t want it in anyone’s backyard,” he said.
Council’s development and approvals manager David Lewis said the project’s assessment reports would be released today ahead of next Tuesday night’s meeting.
He said the documents would not normally be made public until the Friday before the meeting, but intense interest in the project dictated their early release.
“As is expected with a large development of this type, there is a high level of community interest in Baiada Poultry’s proposal and the early release of the reports is considered appropriate,” Mr Lewis said.
“Council held three community engagement sessions in addition to the required public exhibition of the proposal and there was also an information session organised for those who lodged written submissions.”