Green light for broiler farms

The proponent of two Toongabbie broiler farms that would house up to 400,000 birds each hopes there will be no ‘bad blood’ in the community after Victoria’s planning umpire ruled in his favour.

Last Friday the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal handed down its approval of two adjacent broiler farms in Toongabbie despite the objection of residents.

The approval followed more than a year of debate among the community, Wellington Shire Council and the proponent based on concerns about traffic safety, amenity and environmental impact.

Johnson Poultry Farms owner and operator Daniel Johnson yesterday told The Express the decision had been a long time coming.

“It always has ticked all of the boxes,” Mr Johnson said.

Mr Johnson lodged two planning permit applications with Wellington Shire Council to develop and operate the adjacent broiler farms.

In August last year council announced it would grant the permits on the grounds a number of conditions were met, including a reduced capacity of 320,000 birds at one of the sites.

Wellington Shire mayor Darren McCubbin welcomed VCAT’s approval of both permits, but cited his disappointment several of council’s initial conditions were relaxed.

“Once you take something to VCAT all bets are off and they’re likely to relax some of the conditions council placed upon it, and I think that is disappointing,” Cr McCubbin said.

“The outcome as worked out by the planning department would have given a better community outcome.

“At the end of the day they agreed with council’s position that with a code of conduct in place and the fact it was in a rural zone, it could go ahead.”

As well as approving a 400,000-bird capacity at each of the farms, VCAT decided council’s requirement for the facilities to be audited 12 months after commencement wasn’t necessary.

Rather, routine audits must be undertaken at each farm every two years, at the permit holder’s cost, in accordance with the Victorian Code for Broiler Farms 2009.

Toongabbie resident Tracey Anton said while the outcome was not surprising, her concerns about biosecurity risks, vermin, flies and odour remained.

She said she and other objectors would consider their options and discuss the decision with local politicians. Mr Johnson said once operating, an obvious benefit would be the farms’ poultry food supply to the Victorian community.

He also highlighted the required widening of the Sale-Toongabbie and Traralgon-Maffra roads intersection at no cost to ratepayers.

Mr Johnson said at least five people would be employed at each farm, which he hoped would be up and running in “the near future”.

Once established he hopes the community’s concerns will be allayed.

“We’re going to be living there, I will be managing the farm, so I want to get along and have a relationship with the community,” Mr Johnson said.

“Hopefully we can all get along now.”