GUNNEDAH landholders continue to face an uphill battle fighting for better protection of their farmland that is under threat due to environmental land zoning restrictions.
Rangari farmer Carol Ward, just one of a very long list of farmers within the Gunnedah shire who have been directly affected by the zoning rules, is fighting for extensive back zoning of privately owned agricultural land.
Currently, the property she owns with her husband Greg is zoned E3 Environmental Management, which is restricting their ability to develop and manage the property.
It's been a long road for farmers, but Gunnedah Shire Council has joined them in the battle, unanimously passing a motion at last week's meeting to take a proposal to the Department of Planning which seeks to allow all privately owned agricultural land currently zoned E3 Environmental Management, and located more than five kilometres from Gunnedah, to be zoned RU1 Primary Production.
It would revert back to the original rules that were put in place in the Gunnedah Local Environmental Plan (GLEP), 1998 before the land was rezoned to E3 Environmental Management in 2012 under the GLEP, 2012.
That would give Mrs Ward, and many others, the freedom they have been fighting for.
"There are currently 52 things in the E3 zone that we can not do now, that we could do when we were in RU1," she said.
"The government is making grants available to drought proof properties, but we can't put in a silo or build a hay shed.
"If we abide by the letter of the law, we can't even offer a kurrajong tree to feed hungry stock, or save the trees from mistletoe which is currently killing them."
Mrs Ward said issues such as not being allowed to manage vegetation, amend fences, or control the build-up of feral animals such as pigs and goats and soon to be deer, is having a significant negative impact not just on their financial wellbeing but on their futures.
"We acknowledge that there has been an application by shire to amend the LEP for E3 zone but after almost three years of campaigns and discussions with state departments we have absolutely zero faith that any significant changes will be made to correct this injustice," she said.
"For five years now we have tried every avenue in a hope to revise the E3 zone and this is our final avenue to work with council to effect change."
Gunnedah mayor Jamie Chaffey said he will take the fight all the way to the department.
"I give my commitment that the first thing I will do is ask the minister to come in," he said.
"I think it will take all of our support as a peak body."
Councillor Murray O'Keefe said it was "quite ludicrous" and "sad and shameful" that property rights of landholders are being hinged more than anything in the name of a good result for the environment.
"That same blunt instrument is preventing landholders from achieving well recognised results for the environment," he added