Farmer Matt Ryan, “Bonoak”, Harden feels the relief of two years of uncertainty now that the Hilltops Council has formally rejected an intensive piggery planned on his neighbour’s property “Eulie”.
It’s been a hard road for the Ryan family not knowing if their Angus herd faced a biosecurity risk from the pig effluent that was to be sprayed on paddocks on Eulie, that drain into Bonoak, where his cattle drink.
Also the Ryans have had to “hold their tongue” in the Harden community so as not to lose long-standing friendships. Bron, his wife, runs a music room for local children, and she too has learned not to mention the Eulie piggery fight to keep the peace.
Matt says some in town give him a frosty reception, knowing he was one of the most prominent objectors to the $12m project. Those people can’t understand why he doesn’t want new business and jobs for Harden. Mr Ryan says he can’t understand how they don’t understand the science of the issue, and why the plan posed a threat to the bore and dam water he uses for his stock on his property. He is among a majority of farmers, some of whom are NSW Farmers members, who surround Eulie, opposed to the piggery on environmental risks posed to their farming businesses.
Matt runs Angus cattle, Merino ewes and does cropping. Last year in July you could have “bogged a duck” on Bonoak. Now it’s so dry, the cattle are already raising dust in winter.
But the Ryans say they are relieved and now hope they can get on with investments they put on hold because of the piggery proposal. The pressure valve has come off a little.
“I’m only now starting to feel it is finally over,” says Matt.
“For the last 18 months it has put a big drain on our lives. We didn’t want it because it was something that could ruin our business. We are not greenies, we are just farmers and it put our livelihood at risk.”
He said if he tried to talk to people in town they just saw him as being against development. Normally friendly business people had become frosty. “Often they didn’t know the science of the impacts and we’ve had three government departments and now the council back it up. I’m very upset at the way the council has been targeted. They have done nothing wrong and followed due process.”
It was all about our farm. We trade, it’s our life
His biggest concern, given that cattle producers now are required to fill in biosecurity plans, was that his cattle would fail to get a Livestock Production Assurance certification, given that he believed leakage of antibiotics was possible from the fertiliser spread on paddocks from the planned intensive piggery.
“Some of their (Eulie) country drains through our country so we were worried about quality assurance from the fertiliser used.”
Matt has friends who have told him they don’t want to talk to him about the issue of the piggery. “We were never attacking the proponent personally,” he says. “It was all about our farm. We trade, it’s our life.”
Meanwhile, at the Hilltops Council public forum on Tuesday, the McFadyen family who also are close to Eulie, gave an impassioned speech on why the project was a threat to their farm. Judy McFadyen is also a local teacher and she and her husband Don run “Lochbuie”.
She told the forum:
“Yes. We are proud NIMBIES who live on the east side of Nimby Hill, and it is important that today we, along with our neighbours are given a chance to tell our story. This is our personal impact statement,” Mrs Fadyen told the meeting.
“We are very glad Hilltops Council inherited this complex and obviously contentious application. Their professional staff have, at all times, treated this application with integrity and procedural fairness.
“Our fear, had our previous local councillors been left to make the final decision was that it ‘was a done deal’ as stated by the proponent in a Chamber of Commerce meeting in March 2016.
“What really worried us, when we invited previous councillors to visit our farm were words to the effect of, “Would it make any difference to the decision if I visited you?”, and “This is worrying as it’ll end up in court if there is opposition and it costs a fortune”.
“In July 2015, we received a phone call from Blantyre Farms to let us know that they were proposing a piggery and would keep us informed. No information other than we would get smells four or five times a year was given. An email showing the site of the piggery, which, as it turned out wasn’t the site at all, and in November – a brief ‘Information for Neighbours’ document was received. This was the full extent of consultation!!
“On December 18, 2015, we received a letter from Harden Shire that began our nightmare journey.
“Since that phone call, our lives and those of our neighbours have changed forever because we have stood up for what has proven to be a right and just cause – protecting the Valley and its surrounds from a proposed development on an unsuitable site.
“We submitted our personal objections three times as required.” based on lack of consultation, lack of substantive verified data, the environmental impact on our farm and the Cunningham Valley landscape and community, protection of Aboriginal and others’ cultural heritage in the Valley.
“It was just the wrong place.
“In the past two years, we have been ostracised, vilified and ridiculed by members of our community.
“The personal toll has been awful – losing so much time with our family, personal financial cost, not feeling welcome in our own town, and not understanding why people we have known for years didn’t ask why we opposed the proposal.
“Since 1947, ‘Lochbuie’ has been home to the McFadyen family and we are fortunate that it is also our workplace and that four generations have been able to enjoy life on the edge of a beautiful and historic valley. Lochbuie contains some of the only remaining remnant vegetation in the district and is home to diverse and rare flora and fauna. We don’t take our good fortune for granted. We were not born to privilege or money.
“Don’s father was a soldier settler after World War 2 and his parents built our home and the infrastructure themselves. Our family has been active and committed members of this community since.
“Connie, (Don’s mother) was a school teacher and until recently, remained an involved and active citizen. Don is a fourth-generation farmer who uses sustainable practices that reflect his love of farming and respect for our land.
“Since 1981 I have worked and been involved in the community and in 1993, I built Minbalup Child Care Centre (at that time the second largest private employer in the town) and I continue to teach in the area.
“I know what education and employment mean to this community as I live it every day.
“We have always recognised that should this development be approved, all that we have worked for would be lost. We were also deeply concerned for the future of the Cunningham Valley and Harden as a community.
“We are all custodians of this land and we must be responsible for what we pass on to the next generation.”