Chook farm fears remain

Toongabbie residents objecting to a proposed free range poultry farm are not confident their concerns will be addressed after a meeting on Tuesday night failed to allay fears.

About 30 residents voiced their objections to the two 400,000-chicken farms to be located on the outskirts of Toongabbie, at a mediation session organised by Wellington Shire Council.

Objector Dawn Luscombe, whose property falls, in part, into one of the proposed farm’s buffer zone, said there were several outstanding issues that had not been addressed by council or the applicant, Daniel Johnson, and his lawyer.

Concerns include the technicalities of the buffer zone and where it should start, the impact of increased traffic on the town’s roads and the lack of an Odour Environmental Risk Assessment.

Each broiler farm is deemed as Class B (equal to or less than 400,000 chickens and meets the minimum separation distance requirement) and therefore the applicant is not required by law to undertake the odour ERA.

“I believe an odour risk assessment should be a prerequisite given that if there were 400,001 chickens an odour risk assessment would be required,” Ms Luscombe said at the meeting.

“By undertaking an odour risk assessment it would at least provide information on how the odour will directly affect not only my property, but all the surrounding properties including the township of Toongabbie.”

The mediation session came after a public consultation period was extended twice, the second time to give residents a chance to read and respond to changes Mr Johnson made to his application.

Ms Luscombe said the alterations did not influence any of her objections and other attendees said the meeting only raised questions.

Wellington Shire Council general manager of development John Websdale said the meeting would assist council officers with the decision making process.

“Council officers will carefully review all written submissions and issues raised at the consultation meeting, undertake further site inspections and assess the applications against the State Government’s Victorian Code for Broiler Farms 2009 prior to making a decision,” Mr Websdale said.

Mr Websdale anticipated a decision would be made by the end of this month.

He reiterated that an odour ERA was not required.

“However, prior to making a decision, odour impacts will be carefully considered in accordance with the relevant requirements of the code and council will also take into consideration referral advice from the Environmental Protection Authority,” he said.

He said council was also compelled to consider the two farms as separate entities.

“Council has received two planning permit applications from Johnson Poultry Farms Pty Ltd and is legally required to assess each application on its merits.”

Shire Mayor Carolyn Crossley said while councillors were paying close attention to this issue, they would not make the decision.

“This decision must be a technical one based around the Victorian Code for Broiler Farms, 2009, which councillors believe is best left to our expert planning team,” Cr Crossley said.

“Officers making these sorts of decisions is fully compliant with Wellington Shire’s rules of delegation.  

“Following announcement of the decision, either party may decide to pursue the matter through VCAT, should they be unsatisfied with the outcome.”