140-plus gather to discuss blueberry farming implications in the Nambucca Valley

Benita Shuh and Raewyn Macky from the Nambucca Environment Network, the group which organised Wednesday night’s meeting about blueberry farming.

MORE than 140 people gathered at the Macksville Ex-services Club last Wednesday night to discuss problems associated with blueberry farms in the Nambucca Valley.

The meeting was attended by two Nambucca Valley Council members – Susan Jenvey and David Jones – and was organised by the newly formed Nambucca Environment Network (NEN).

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The meeting was chaired by administrators for the NEN group and was largely held in the form of a public debate with audience members putting forth opinions, experiences and concerns they held regarding the practice of non-organic blueberry farming.

Many of the community held concerns about health, property values, and the ecology of soils and waterways in the Nambucca Valley.

When one speaker proposed that blueberry farmers go “organic” the room erupted in cheers, indicating that one of the main problems perceived by this group was the use of non-organic pesticides and chemical fertilisers by some intensive farming operations.

Some attendees raised concerns that industrial style blueberry farming destroyed land for future use and that patches of land used in this way now sit sterile and empty in the Woolgoolga area north of Coffs Harbour.

Councillors Jenvey and Jones each took a turn to address the crowd, attempting to explain problems Council faces in trying to limit or control blueberry farming in the area.

“I’m very passionate about sustainable agriculture,” said Councillor Jenvey.

“Who wants to see a paddock of black plastic?” she added rhetorically.

While admitting there was not much that could be done by Council about blueberry farms which are already in existence, Councillor Jenvey said “going forward, we can do better in future”.

She also reminded attendees that councils were limited by state legislation on horticulture in agricultural zones.

Ms Jenvey encouraged the audience to write to State Government ministers concerned with agricultural and planning matters.

Public frustrations with perceived legislative inaction on the issue boiled over into shouting or uncontrolled emotions several times, prompting calls for calm from within the audience.

News Of The Area contacted one real estate agent from the Woolgoolga area, who did not wish to be identified, to confirm some of the details raised regarding land values and the unsaleability of land previously used for blueberry farming.

In more than a dozen years of selling real estate and working in the Woolgoolga area, the agent had never heard of land that was unsaleable and ‘dead’ after blueberry farming.

He said the area had previously held a lot of banana plantations and these had now been converted to blueberries only over the last ten to fifteen years.

None of these properties usually came up for sale, being still in use as blueberry farms.

For those who wish to participate in discussions on blueberry farming, a Facebook page has been established and can be found through a search of Nambucca Environment Network or at www.facebook.com/groups/24524666243813967/.


Nambucca Valley Councillors Susan Jenvey and David Jones addressed the crowd at Macksville Ex-Services Club.

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