Chook farm approved, but at a cost

Debate over construction of two free range chicken farms near Toongabbie appears likely to be taken to the state’s dispute resolution tribunal.

Wellington Shire Council’s planning department has approved the farms with a range of conditions, after some residents raised fears the development would result in odour pollution and increased traffic on roads.

However, the imposed conditions do not appear to have eased resident concerns, with neighbouring landowner Dawn Luscombe saying the community had “no option” but to appeal the matter to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

“Our properties are horrendously de-valued,” Ms Luscombe said.

“It’s intensive chicken manufacturing, it’s not agricultural farming, it’s a factory.

“They don’t suit areas near little country towns, they destroy them.”

Among conditions placed on the applicant by council were the funding and construction of upgrades to the intersection of Traralgon-Maffra and Sale-Toongabbie roads; repositioning of some of the sheds within the property to increase the separation distance from surrounding dwellings; and complying with an Environmental Management Plan on an ongoing basis which will be “reviewed and audited by accredited professionals on a regular basis”.

Council has also reduced the capacity of the second farm from 400,000 to 320,000 birds.

In a statement, Wellington Shire said council officers had carefully reviewed and considered all issues raised and both applications were fully compliant with the State Government’s Victorian Code for Broiler Farms and were supported by the Environment Protection Authority.

“We have sought to strike the right balance for the proposed farms,” Wellington Shire’s manager land use planning Josh Clydesdale said.

“Given that the permit applications fulfil all relevant planning requirements, but recognising the community angst with this matter, we have included rigorous conditions, in order to seek the most appropriate outcome.”

Gill Payne, who lives 2.5 kilometres north of the proposed farm said her main concern was the health of Fells Creek as the result of stormwater runoff, despite the proposal including stormwater retention ponds.

“When those dams are full, where does the water go?,” Ms Payne said.

“And if it comes out of the grazing area, where does that manure go? It will get washed into the retarding basin, the land slopes towards Fells Creek.”

She also raised concerns about safety on the Sale-Toongabbie Road – where the proposed farmland is located – fearing it is not suitable for the large vehicles going back and forth from the broiler farm.

“Currently, two cars cannot pass on that road without both having one set of wheels going into gravel,” she said.

“I know they are going to upgrade where (the road) goes into the farm but that still leaves a couple of kilometres (of narrow road).”

Mr Clydesdale said VicRoads’ main interest was with the intersection of Sale-Toongabbie and Traralgon-Maffra roads and it recommended the upgrade, which has been included in the conditions of the project.

He said the council-managed Sale-Toongabbie Road entry to both farms was deemed to be appropriate for the proposed increase in traffic.

“The Fells Creek cultural heritage overlay covered a small portion of the north-east part of the eastern farm, but did not affect any of the area proposed to be used or developed for the farming operation,” Mr Clydesdale said.

The Express has attempted to contact the broiler farm applicant for comment.