TAMWORTH’S councillors have voted unanimously in favour of Baiada Poultry’s controversial $82 million broiler development, despite claims its approval would make Manilla the “chicken poo capital of the world”.
In front of a packed public gallery last night, all eight councillors present gave their support for the poultry giant to construct up to 70 sheds across five farms to house almost three million birds during peak production.
The decision came despite the proposal receiving 80 objections during the public consultation phase and after nine Manilla residents rose and issued impassioned pleas to the councillors to reject the development.
Many of the speakers prefaced their comments with the disclaimer that they were not against the poultry industry’s growth in the region, but that the “massive” development was simply in the “wrong place”.
Concerns over the impact of the water-intensive operation on the Namoi River, its proximity to Manilla’s water supply, the health effects of the transportation of chickens and chicken manure through town and road safety were among the issues raised.
An emotional Jamie Wrench, aged just 13, told councillors he held grave fears about sharing the already “dangerous” Namoi River Rd with the estimated 12,000 heavy vehicles each year needed to service the chicken farms.
“The Namoi River Rd is dangerous already. How dangerous will it be when there’s 33 heavy vehicles travelling on it (each day), plus many other smaller vehicles,” he said.
“I have already experienced a head-on collision on Namoi River Rd with another car. It was very scary. I’m now frightened to travel this road, and others, because of this crash.
“My uncle also had a car accident on this road. He didn’t survive. How can you let huge B-doubles drive up and down day and night?”
Fellow resident Robyn Skelton said approval would condemn Manilla to becoming the “chicken poo capital of the world”.
“Mr Mayor and councillors, if you decide to vote yes to this atrocity I hope that you can
go home tonight completely
satisfied knowing that your families will be safe and that my family, my neighbours and my friends will never feel that way again because of your decision,” she said.
Veteran councillor Warren Woodley described Baiada’s proposal as “probably the biggest (development application) that I’ve ever had in front of me” during his council career, before voting in favour in the hope that it would create much-needed jobs for the community.
Cr Helen Tickle said while it was a difficult decision, the broiler development represented a substantial investment in the region.
“This project presents immediate and long-term benefits to Manilla, Tamworth and surrounding areas,” she said.
“The development is in accordance with best practice guidelines and I will be supporting this application and I thank the proponent for having the confidence to make an investment of this magnitude in the Tamworth Regional Council area.”
Matthew Fletcher, president of the Namoi River Community Group that campaigned strongly against the development, refused to rule out challenging the decision in the NSW Land and Environment Court
“We’ll be stepping back, having a look at things and seeing where we go from there,” he said.