Valla man’s eight-year battle for right to farm

Murray Greenaway in the orchard of his macadamia farm in Valla.

FOR Murray Greenaway and his young family, the beautiful macadamia nut farm he purchased in Valla should have been a dream come true.

“My partner flew down from the Territory to look at the property in 2016 and it was perfect; 1500 established macadamia trees surrounded by cattle pastures,” he told News Of The Area.

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But, before he arrived with the rest of the family, blueberry growers from the Coffs Harbour region had purchased the adjoining property.

Quickly the growers allegedly installed a large dam which prevented overflow into a creek on Murray’s property and bulldozed any remaining vegetation before planting out the area with blueberries.

Due to the lack of requirement for buffer zones or development approvals, Murray and his family found the netting and posts had been installed in some places just 30 cm from their boundary.

The dam wall, a steep pile of dirt around 2.5 metres high, had been built within a couple of metres of an old fence line between the properties.

The creek on Murray’s property, which he says had never previously run dry, now does when there is dry weather.

Over the years since, Murray has contacted Nambucca Valley Council, the NSW Department of Natural Resources Regulator (NRAR) and the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) on multiple occasions.

“NRAR told me the dam was too big and he (the blueberry farmer) needed to reduce the overflow by a few metres,” Murray said.

The blueberry farmers then allegedly offered a high price to buy another neighbouring property, making a dam this large possible under current regulations.

The situation also has impacts on Murray’s own farming operation.

The lack of ‘buffer zones’ means Murray worries that next year, when three years of farming macadamias without chemicals is up, he may be refused organic farmer status.

This could mean the price of his produce would be 50c a kilogram rather than $4.50 – $5.50 a kilogram.

The blueberry plants next door are so close that Murray says he and his family often smell chemicals that are being sprayed on the fruit trees even inside the house.

He says he has contacted the owner about this issue many times with little effect and has since taken his complaints directly to the EPA.

In April of last year, a new grower leased the property.

In November 2023, Murray claims two old sheds on the property were pushed to the ground and disposed of into a gully, which was then covered in dirt and a banana grove planted on top of it.

The EPA appears to have found evidence to support this in a document seen by NOTA.

“Evidence of burn piles and burnt waste mechanically pushed into the ground and gully was observed and EPA is supporting the Council personnel to take regulatory action,” the EPA told Murray in a letter last December.

“It is very disappointing to see this poor practice from the same property owner who has received multiple clean-up notices from EPA recently,” the letter said.

When Murray contacted Nambucca Valley Council, he was told that no regulatory action was being taken.

“The waste identified on site in November 2023 was a small amount of metal and timber waste.

“There was no evidence of asbestos or chemicals and the waste was clear of the watercourse.

“As such, a clean-up notice was not issued as it is not considered that the waste is going to have any significant impacts on the site or impact surrounding properties,” Daniel Walsh of Nambucca Valley Council told Murray in an email last week.

When Murray asked if he was allowed to bury rubbish on his farm too, Mr Walsh replied, “It isn’t permissible to bury rubbish on the farm.

“The EPA and I both inspected the property and there was no suggestion that landfilling had occurred as you suggest.

“Council hasn’t done any excavations and does not have the capacity to do any.”

Murray has a litany of other complaints in regard to living next door to an unfenced blueberry farm for seven years.

On countless occasions, he says he has found toilet paper and human faeces under his macadamia trees and believes the 50 or so workers, who reside next door during picking season, rather than travel to far-away amenities, have entered his property and found a closer location to relieve themselves.

A spokesperson for the blueberry farm disputes this is even possible.

“There is netting around the farm and nobody could get through,” he told News Of The Area.

Murray claims neighbourhood children regularly enter the farm through the holes in the nets and pick blueberries when they are in season.

The spokesperson for the farm also said that Murray has never contacted him in regard to spray drift but has gone directly to the EPA with complaints.

Text messages between the two from last year appear to contradict this.

As for the dam wall, the grower told NOTA that he believes Murray has been making holes into it, which Mr Greenaway disputes.

When asked about the buried construction materials, the spokesperson said that “nothing was buried”.

“All of the materials, just one big shed, are still in a pile.”

Since moving back to the Valley in 2016 with big plans, a young family and many dreams to produce organic and high-quality macadamia nuts, Murray finds himself wondering these days if it is worth it.

From Murray’s perspective, it seems there is one rule for the farm beside him and another for farmers like him.
Authorities seem unable or unwilling to ensure others follow the rules, meaning that he and his family lose out continually to the large industrial-style farm that has sprung up beside them.

“When I smell the chemicals in the house and your kids live there, I start to wonder if it’s my own fault for making the decision to move everyone here,” he admitted to NOTA.


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