Nambucca Valley farmers support more regulation of intensive horticulture

The Nambucca River Branch of NSW Farmers group has spent months collecting reports and assessing blueberry farming in the Valley.

THE Nambucca River Branch of NSW Farmers has issued a plea to State Ministers for Agriculture and Environment, local councillors and MPs for help in addressing and resolving issues around blueberry farming in the Nambucca Valley.

“There is a huge amount of angst and community unrest,” Branch Chairman Greg Desmond told the Minister for Water, Housing and Homelessness in a letter on 11 March 2024.

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Mr Desmond is concerned that resources have been stripped from the Department of Primary Industries (DPI), and that bodies like the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) and the Natural Resources Access Regulator(NRAR) rely on neighbours policing each other, which he says is extremely harmful for the cohesion of a community.

“I’ve been a dairy farmer for many years in the past, and in farming you learn that your neighbour is your best friend,” Mr Desmond told News Of The Area.

“That’s who you call when you have a problem with a cow birthing, or when there is a bushfire.

“They are your best friend and you help each other out often but they way things are now, it’s up to neighbours to report each other and that is extremely damaging to relationships,” he said.

Mr Desmond made three key recommendations to the Minister.

He advocated for local councils to create a “one stop shop” where “new farmers, landholders or existing farmers who wish to start up an enterprise can go to resource themselves with the correct information and advice or be directed to the right agency”.

“This may also be used for complaints as one of the big issues has been where to go or which Department to speak to get an outcome quickly,” he said.

Secondly, he called for better resourcing and more transparency from key agencies such as the EPA, DPI and Local Land Services (LLS) and suggested they work more closely with councils to resolve local issues.

“There was a report released in 2020 called ‘Managing farm-related land use conflicts in NSW’ by NSW Primary Industries.

“We should be resourcing departments like DPI, EPA, as well as the front line of Local Government to implement the key recommendations of this report,” Mr Desmond told NOTA.

Finally, Mr Desmond highlighted the need for newcomers to the rural-zoned areas and current landholders who wish to change their activities, to respect existing enterprises and to consider what environmental issues may arise with the introduction of new activities to an area.

“There is a need for legislation to enforce landholders to do due diligence.

“Current government bodies’ methods are too reactive, not proactive and a lot of the time the damage may have already been done,” he explained.

“The lead agency should be DPI and they should be resourced adequately to meet this role.”

Mr Desmond believes the current approach towards requiring Development Applications from councils will overwhelm planning departments and should be avoided.

“Councils have their own resourcing problems and they need to spend their scant resources in many other areas,” he said.

Highlighting the need for the State Government to recognise recent community unrest in the Nambucca Valley, Mr Desmond believes Ministers should act now in anticipation of an ever-growing escalation in land-use conflicts as more people move into rural areas.


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