APPROVAL for a contentious cluster of intensive chicken farms could unlock a $100 million investment and hundreds of new jobs in Tamworth.
Councillors are tonight expected to grant Baiada Poultry permission to proceed with plans for its $82 million broiler operation at Manilla.
The company is seeking to build up to 70 sheds housing almost three million birds across five farms purchased for $3.6 million in 2012.
Such an operation would be the largest of its kind in Australia and give the poultry giant sufficient scale to invest further in the city.
Land near the Tamworth Airport has been earmarked as a possible site for a new abattoir to process the millions of extra chickens grown in the region each year.
Baiada Poultry managing director John Camilleri was tight-lipped when contacted by The Leader in the lead-up to tonight’s decision.
“The only comment I can make is we’re simply happy to leave it in the hands of the councillors to vote on the project,” he said.
But residents living in the vicinity of the Strathfield site, who have spent the best part of a year fighting the proposal, will make a final pitch to councillors tonight.
Namoi River Community Group president Matthew Fletcher said the group’s members were confident they had a strong case for the project to be rejected.
“All the speakers will be pointing out that we have actually given (the council) all the information that they need to not approve these developments,” he said.
“We have highlighted all the issues that they can refuse these developments on ... but they have chosen not to use these instruments, such as best practice (guidelines).”
Tamworth mayor Col Murray said he and his colleagues would make their decision based on the information before them and with the interest of the community at heart.
“We shouldn’t predetermine until we’ve heard all the facts, and the last round of facts will be presented to us by the community (tonight) by those who choose to make representations to council,” he said.
Tamworth’s Rob McIlveen, who has been lobbying Baiada for years to close its Out St processing plant, said residents should be sceptical of the company’s future plans.
He said Baiada had made promises back in the early 2000s to build a new abattoir in Tamworth but it had never eventuated.
“My experience with Baiada is you can’t necessarily believe everything they say,” he said.